Mothballs in a Garden to Keep Animals Away

Written by kelli fuqua
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Mothballs in a Garden to Keep Animals Away
Finding unwanted surprises in your garden space is no excuse to use mothballs. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Having your plants chewed up or defecated on after much expense and many hours of hard labour is enough to make any gardener homicidal. Though your plight is understandable, don't resort to using mothballs in your garden. Mothballs are unsafe for pets and children.


Mothballs are meant to be kept in airtight containers safely away from pets and children who could be harmed if they touched, ate or breathed in the fumes. Mothballs (or flakes, crystals and bars) are nothing more than insecticides. They come as solids and turn into toxic gas. As almost 100 per cent active ingredient, they come in high concentrations of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Derived from crude oil and coal tar, these are the same chemicals found in cigarette smoke and car exhaust.

Children and Mothballs

Mothballs resemble bouncy balls, toys many children enjoy. If they were to handle, ingest or even breathe the fumes from mothballs, they could develop hemolytic anaemia. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, this is when red blood cells break apart and no longer carry oxygen. Children have also been known to develop diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain and painful, discoloured urination.

Mothballs in a Garden to Keep Animals Away
Seek medical treatment immediately if you think a child has been near mothballs. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Pets and Mothballs

Naphthalene, the active ingredient in mothballs, is toxic to dogs, cats and other animals. Even if just one is ingested, it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, swelling of the brain tissue, seizures, damage to the liver, kidneys and blood cells, coma and even death. If a pet ingests a mothball, seek medical help immediately to minimise the effects.

Alternative Methods

Other options are available to a concerned gardener. Use an option that works best against the size of the invading animal. Bigger animals are easier to control than smaller ones. Netting or fencing is one way to keep animals from invading, though small animals will require a well-fortified garden space. If cats are the problem, allow a neighbour's dog to come and leave his mark on your yard. This can keep cats away for months at a time. Products such as Critter Ridder are designed to keep animals away from your garden without harming the animal. It comes in liquid and granular forms and is effective against different species.

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