Will Mothballs Keep Groundhogs Away

Will mothballs keep groundhogs away from your garden?

If you’ve been trying to find ways to keep groundhogs out of your garden, you won’t be short of tips and strategies from well-meaning neighbors. And online, chances are, you’ll come across several articles showing how to use mothballs to handle your groundhog problem.

Using mothballs to keep groundhogs away might sound like an easy way to resolve the issue. After all, it doesn’t cost much to buy as many as you want, and using them is just a matter of placing them anywhere you choose in your garden. This, essentially, is a very simple solution to a terrible garden pest problem.

To be clear, no matter how cute they look and what some movies say, groundhogs are a pestilence to gardens.

They only need a sniff of a chance to completely eat all the plants in a garden. And being excellent diggers, they easily create intricate tunnels under the harden or lawn inevitably weakening the ground. This can lead to other types of accidents such as structures or people collapsing onto the underground tunnels.

So it’s clear why people go to extra lengths to make sure the rodents don’t get entrenched. But will mothballs keep groundhogs away? Better yet, are mothballs efficient pest repellents? These and many more issues including the best alternatives to using mothballs as a repellent against groundhogs would be discussed in this article.

Will Mothballs Keep Groundhogs Away?

Straightaway, the simple answer is no. Mothballs, no matter what some people might say, won’t cut it when it comes to repelling groundhogs.

Sure, mothballs’ odor work against some moths and other insects; but the smell and whatever repelling attributes they have are just not strong enough to effectively repel groundhogs.

So what are all the fuss around mothballs if they can’t keep groundhogs and other animal pests away from gardens?

What Mothballs do?

Mothballs, by definition and chemical composition, are designated as pesticides. Generally, they contain naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene (or similar compounds) as the active ingredients. Though they are sold in solid crystal form, their mode of action is all about the gradual volatility that releases the gas deadly to common household insects.

For most people, their first contact with mothballs is of parents placing some inside boxes of clothes. The smells they leave on clothes have become iconic and remind people of their childhood.

But mothballs are harmful to humans especially children when they are used indiscriminately. Misuse of the balls includes placing them around the garden as a pest control measure.

Harmful effects of Mothballs

As pesticides, the use of mothballs is strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In essence, it is illegal to use them in ways not prescribed on the packaging or by the EPA. This is simply to protect humans from the harmful effects of the chemicals.

Humans can absorb the harmful chemicals through the skin, inhaling the gases, or even accidentally ingesting bits of the crystals. The level of harm it causes varies according to how long one is exposed to them and the concentration.

Some symptoms of mothballs exposure include dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Some of the chemicals are also known to:

  • Damage the kidney and liver
  • Cause neurological problems
  • Lead to hemolytic anemia
  • Cause eye problems such as cataract or damage to the retina
  • In extreme cases, death.

Dangers of Using Mothballs in the Garden

Considering the health implications of mothballs’ exposure to humans, it becomes foolhardy to use them in the garden for any reason. Even allowing for their dubious effectiveness as groundhog repellents, children and pets might become exposed to them.

Kids love exploring their surroundings and are as likely to put things in their mouths as break stuff out of curiosity. For children, ingesting even minute amounts of the pesticide can be dangerous to their health in ways that’d require medical attention immediately.

If you have pets too, you’ll likely have to deal with similar health issues at the nearest veterinary.

Apart from being harmful to humans, mothballs are bad news to the environment and garden soil. The chemicals are very toxic and if they get into the soil, the plants you are trying to protect against groundhogs would be harmed.

And there is a wider issue of groundwater contamination. The implication is that the ill-advised act of using mothballs in your garden can affect the wider community when chemical seeps into the soil and contaminates the groundwater.

So if it isn’t advisable to use mothballs to keep groundhogs away from the garden, what are the best options?

8 Best Mothballs Alternatives To Keep Groundhogs Away

Fortunately, you don’t have to look too far to get workable solutions to a groundhog problem. Sometimes, the solution could be waiting in your basement or kitchen pantry.

Before choosing any strategy though, you’d have to take some preliminary steps. The steps should help in determining the best way to go about tackling the problem.

First, find out where the groundhog(s) spend most of their time. The best way is to seek out the entrance/exit of their burrows on your property. Normally, groundhogs have more than one hole they use to enter or exit their tunnels.

The holes might not be obvious as groundhogs hide them cleverly by digging under the vegetation; sometimes they even cover the holes with sticks and leaves. So you have to be patient and careful while seeking the holes.

After identifying the target exits/entrances, you can go on to the next stage.

Below are some of the safe alternatives to mothballs as control measures against groundhogs and other garden pests:

Use Epsom salts – That Epsom salt used for nourishing plants can also be used to chase groundhogs. Liberally sprinkling the salt crystals in and around their burrows will keep them away.

You could also place the salt around the plants to prevent the groundhogs from eating them. Put the salt crystals in a plate near the plant to avoid the Epsom salt coming into direct contact with the soil. This could damage your soil if it happens. You would have to replace the salt if rains though.

Use castor oil –  Using Castor oil is another safe and natural method to keep away groundhogs. The smell chases them away. Pour it onto their burrows when they are out and this would force them to go elsewhere.

If the oil is poured when they are inside, they’d simply remain there or burrow deeper or further away to other areas of the garden. You don’t want that to happen

Use human hair clippings – Groundhogs dislike the smell of humans. Get hair clippings from your favorite hair salon and sprinkle them around the places they frequent including in and around the burrows.

Place the clippings in a mesh bag and hold it down with a stake to avoid the wind blowing everything away.

Cat litter and cat/dog urine/fur – Cat is a natural groundhog predator. Pour your cat’s litter in their holes while leaving at least one hole free. That should be their escape route out of your garden after smelling the litter and thinking a predator is close.

The same instinct to run away from predators works with either cat or dog urine if you can lay your hands on some. The smell of the furs of these pets also works similarly.

Use Cayenne pepper, garlic, or lavender – All these have smells that are very offensive to groundhogs. Having the smells around the garden or in their burrows may send them packing.

For garlic, simply crush some cloves and smear the paste in parts of the garden you don’t want them to go. Groundhogs’ sensitive noses can’t handle the garlic’s pungent smell.

The combination of the smell and heat that Cayenne pepper produce is enough to chase groundhogs away. Sprinkle the pepper around and in the burrows. You should have lots of the pepper in reserve, though, as you’d have to re-apply it after a windy or rainy day.

And in the case of lavender, simply plant them around the garden. While humans love the smell, groundhogs find them offensive. Other plants they hate include rosemary, mint, basil, chives, oregano, thyme, and sage.

Fences – You could use a fence around the garden as a preventive measure. Ensure the fence is buried at least two feet into the ground so they don’t dig under it.

Traps – Consistently trapping and capturing them is a good way to get rid of groundhogs. There are different types of effective traps you could use against them. A little research online would reveal many of the options available to you. You can then take the captured rodent far away  and release them into the wilds if you don’t have the stomach to kill them or it’s illegal to do so

First, though, you need to ensure local regulations allow the trapping of groundhogs. In some areas, it is illegal to use traps against them.

Use animal repellents – Many garden/farm shops sell different types of animal repellents. Since products differ, you’ll likely have to test a few before settling on the one that does the job for you.

You could also ask experienced hands to recommend a good one if trial and error is something you’d rather avoid.


While some people claim mothballs are very effective in keeping groundhogs away, the downsides are too much to ignore. As pesticides containing toxic compounds, mothballs can be harmful to the health of children and pets. Fatalities have been known to occur after significant exposure to mothballs.

Apart from the associated health risks, the environment too is not spared by the misuse of mothballs in gardens. Groundwater supply can be contaminated and the garden plants are harmed when they absorb the chemicals.

Keeping groundhogs away can be done using several safe and natural methods. Some of these methods are very cost-effective and very simple to implement.