If there’s one thing that will heat up a meal, it’s hot peppers! Whether raw, cooked, chopped, seeds in or out, the variety of hot peppers and the heat and spice they add to foods and drinks is extensive.
Some peppers are so hot they can literally burn your skin while others impart just a little warmth. And some people just can’t get enough of them! But there is one little critter that just doesn’t understand our affinity for spicy-hot peppers — the squirrel!
Hot pepper can be a very persuasive product when it comes to keeping squirrels away from bird seed. While birds don’t really have a sense of smell or taste, squirrels absolutely do! The taste and smell of hot peppers can be just as irritating to their noses and taste buds as it is to those of us that don’t appreciate hot, peppery foods.
There are many squirrel-deterring bird foods — seeds, suets, and seed additives that contain hot pepper products. These are usually chili peppers, powders, flakes or derivatives and combinations of all of the above. And unless your squirrels are extremely hungry, having hot pepper mixed with the foods they’re after can really put a damper on how good those black oil seeds can taste!
If you’re a do-it-yourselver, you may ask, “Why can’t I just mix cayenne pepper with my seed?” Well, you can. Except that cayenne isn’t very strong when it comes to hot pepper and the Scoville scale. The Scoville scale is the method used to rate the strength of hot peppers. Cayenne measures about 30,000 – 50,000 Scoville units, while pure pepper extracts (capsaicins) can measure between 15,000,000 and 16,000,000 units. And that’s closer to the strength you’ll find in bird foods and additives made specifically to deter squirrels. Wow!
Kick it up a notch with cajun spices: Coles Cajun Cardinal Bird Seed. Photograph courtesy of Duncraft.
That should be enough to send them packing! So, although mixing up your own hot pepper seeds and suets might seem like a good idea, if you really have a squirrel problem, why not just try the "good stuff"? It just might be the solution you’re looking for.
Speaking of the "good stuff," you'll want to give Cole's a chance in your bird feeder(s) first. They have several blends of bird seed with hot peppers already in them, so all you have to do is refill your feeder with their seed and the squirrels will stop visiting.
Or you can use their sauce. Add three tablespoons for every five pounds of bird seed you have at home and you'll be pleased to see you just made squirrel-proof bird seed. This liquid is just as effective as our hot bird seed.
An alarmingly hot bird seed made with red-hot cayenne pepper: Duncraft Hot Pepper Chips Bird Seed. Photograph courtesy of Duncraft.
But no matter if you try lacing your own seed with hot pepper, buy an additive or buy seeds or suets with hot pepper in them, always use caution!
Wash your hands well after handling any hot pepper products. And always read the handling instructions on the label. And keep all hot pepper products away from children. Happy Birding!
By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
It’s hot outside. It makes more sense now to plant drought tolerant plants. Consider sedums, they are a hardy succulent, a late summer bloomer and an amazing pollinator plant. To learn more click here for an informative video.
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