It has probably taken lots of time and effort, but you've found the ideal pumpkin, honed your carving skills and proudly set a masterpiece of a jack-o'-lantern on your front porch. It's spooky, it's fun and it's worthy of all your neighbors’ admiration (and maybe their envy, too). But even as your jack-o'-lantern is getting everyone into the spirit of the season, is it a magnet for pests? Which insects are pumpkin-eaters, and how can you keep your jack-o'-lantern both fresh and free from buggy trick-or-treaters?
What Kinds of Bugs Are Attracted To Pumpkins?
It’s pretty much inevitable that once you leave your pumpkin outside, wildlife will take notice — particularly if you've already cut into the pumpkin and made it easier for nibblers like squirrels, rats and mice to sample it. Common pests like fruit flies and ants may also take the opportunity to infest your pumpkin.
However, there’s another more uncommon pest that pumpkin owners may need to worry about. If you live in certain parts of the United States, you might want to look out for the squash bug as well. While this insect prefers to dine on the leaves and vines of squash plants, it can and will feed on the fruit itself if given the opportunity. Be on the lookout for any grayish, flat-bodied, six-legged insects resembling a stink bug that measure about 0.75 inches long
How to Help Keep Carved Pumpkins From Rotting
Since jack-o'-lanterns are biodegradable, they won't last forever, even if you successfully fend off every insect pest. However, these helpful tips from New York Botanical Garden researcher, Thomas Andres, can help you prevent your pumpkin from meeting an untimely demise.
According to Andres, finding a jack-o'-lantern that won’t rot as easily starts all the way back at the pumpkin patch or grocery store. When choosing your pumpkin, make sure you look for one that feels hard when given a good thump. And avoid pumpkins that are blemished. If you see dark spots, it can be a sign of frost damage, meaning the decaying process has already begun.
When it comes to carving, wait. Once sliced open and gutted, pumpkins can start rotting within a week.
Keep your jack-o'-lantern from sitting out in the sun. Warm temperatures accelerate the rotting process. That means breaking with tradition, too. Forgo lighting your jack-o'-lantern with a candle, and use a glow stick or battery-powered light instead.
Colder temperatures can also be a problem. Pumpkins freeze overnight and then thaw during the day, which can cause them to rot. If October nights in your neck of the woods hover in the low 60s and high 50s, you can claim perfect jack-o'-lantern weather.
Have fun this Halloween decorating and showing off your pumpkin, but follow the above tips to help keep your pumpkin longer and reduce pest activity.