How many times have you heard of people using mothballs to repel wildlife? I wish I got a dollar for every time I heard someone tell me that mothballs helped him/her or their neighbor resolve a wildlife complaint. Why do so many people think that these round white balls actually work?
Do Mothballs Repel Wildlife?
Well, people think mothballs work to repel wildlife for a few reasons. First, sometimes they actually do work. Yes, you heard it from me. The fact is mothballs do, in certain situations repel wildlife. Mothballs, whether they are made from naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, give off an odor that is noxious to animals. But they only repel animals if the gas concentration is high enough. Typically, gas concentrations can only get high when used in amazing quantities and within a closed space. That’s the rub. Tossing a handful of mothballs into the attic will not drive your squirrels out. If you pile mothballs every few feet in the attic, then you will likely drive the squirrels out. But in doing that, you will have not only violated the law (i.e. mothballs are pesticides and using them in a manner that goes beyond the label instructions violates EPA regulations) but you will likely be creating conditions that drive you and your loved ones out of the house to get away from the noxious fumes.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Mothballs
You shouldn’t use mothballs to repel wildlife because not only is it illegal to use pesticides in a manner that violates the label (mentioned above), but mothballs can harm your health and those you love. If your exposure to mothballs (naphthalene version) is high enough, such as through inhalation or ingestion, you can suffer from acute intravascular haemolysis. Acute intravascular haemolysis is a fancy term for, your red blood cells break down. If your exposure to mothballs (paradichlorobenzene version) is high enough you can suffer from anemia.
What about the effects of long-term exposure? This is a difficult question to answer but researchers believe that long-term exposure to mothballs (regardless of version) could cause cancer. Nevertheless, you never want to be in a situation where you are exposing yourself to a chemical unnecessarily. And to be blunt, you should never need to be using mothballs to manage wildlife.
There are plenty of effective alternatives available as contained in my book, The Wildlife Removal Handbook, 3rd ed. or through consultation.