Did squirrels chew on your holiday lights?

Not quite off topic, but peripheral to the garden. This year for the first time the squirrels chewed through the wires on two of my LED light strands, thereby extinguishing the display.

I did a google search for squirrels chewing on Christmas lights and found that this is a fairly common occurrence, although new to me. Some solutions were proposed, such as:

1. Spray the wires with a pepper spray. I don't want to spray something that I will have to handle when I put it away until next year.

2. Someone claimed that squirrels chew all LED lights except red lights. If so, I'm not sure I want to have the whole yard glowing red.

3. Use the LED rope lights, which are encased in thick plastic and supposedly not fun to chew. I haven't really looked into these, but suspect they may be very commercial looking and not so good for a residential application.

4. My own thought for why I haven't had this problem before is because previously I used the "pre-lit" faux evergreen garlands. Last year the "pre-lights" finally failed and I dismantled them so I could reuse the garlands. I bought separate LED light strands and loosely wrapped the naked wires around the garlands. Worked fine for 2 or 3 weeks, but it eventually occurred to the squirrels to chew on the exposed wires. Maybe I could more carefully wrap the new light strands so the wires are hidden by the faux evergreens.

Does anybody have any thoughts or experience with this problem?


Comments (78)

  • claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

    There's another reference,
    Are squirrels a bigger threat to the power grid than hackers?

    that says:

    "The creator declined to reveal his or her identity but claimed to be a
    somewhat well-known information security professional fed up with the
    conversation about alleged hacks against the power grid.

    is tons of hype about how we are at so much risk from a devastating
    cyber attack and yet we can't even protect our infrastructure from
    squirrels, or birds or snakes," the site's creator said. The site grew
    out of a Twitter account started in March 2013 dedicated to sharing
    squirrel-related outages and is now a labor of love run by a handful of
    volunteers, according to the creator."

    A worthy endeavor, in my opinion.


  • coutlaw76

    I had an LED light string that didn't work anymore, so I used it as bait for the squirrels. If they're gonna chew, then at least they can focus their teething on a worthless string. I discovered that the squirrels chew through the wires to get the bulb. I read that somewhere else, too. They think the bulb is a nut. Every place on the wire that they chewed through used to have a bulb. I recreated this string that I picked off the ground to demonstrate.

    Here is what the debris field looked like beneath the decoy light string.

    These are the various pieces I retrieved, in all states of destruction.

    The decoy string did keep them away from my other lights, though I have been making the others squirrel-proof by using more rope lights and putting light strings on weak branches that won't support a squirrel, like palm fronds that are flimsy. Also, I discovered a technique that seems to obstruct the squirrels from chewing through the wires to get the bulb. I put a strip of duct tape at the base of each bulb. Whether it changes the shape or it makes it unappealing to chew through, IT WORKS!!

    claireplymouth z6b coastal MA thanked coutlaw76
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  • coutlaw76

    As a PS to what I just posted, I had another light string with BIG bulbs. Well, they REALLY wanted those big, juicy bulbs. They chewed through the string on both sides of the bulb and the bulb fell and broke.

    But here's what was scary. Part of the extension cord was eaten into. That squirrel had a death-wish!

    claireplymouth z6b coastal MA thanked coutlaw76
  • claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

    Good information, coutlaw76, and well documented! I'm making a note to myself to put tape on the strands around the bulbs next year.


  • H B

    I am so happy to find this thread! We have found all kinds of things chewed off, chewed on -- and just realizing -- its the squirrels!!! In addition to lights and cords, ours seem to like pool noodles -- we put noodle stumps on the ends of some spikes sticking up out of the garden, and at first they'd pull the noodle off and leave it nearby, chewed to bits. Now we bungee them on to the ends and they chew off the sides! And the kayak arm rests! And the kids hard plastic swing! !!!

  • kendall330

    Well Im glad Im not the only one. I thought it was kids at first:( . After 3 sets of lights and wrapping electrical tape filled with cayenne pepper they still chewed them... Not happy

  • loralu32

    I have squirrels that also chew on some of my irrigation drip lines. Bastards! lol

  • kendall330

    I'm going to try hanging them on the ends of the limbs , I'm so determined lol

  • layotte94

    The squirrels did not touch my lights last year because I changed from led lights to the larger old-fashioned bulbs.....the only way to go for me. I'm lucky I don't have a lot of lights as it would be too expensive electricity-wise.

  • Diana Fiorini

    I put some old fashioned lights up & the squirrels still got them, but only once--

    also, if you put the lights way out on the branches, the squirrels will fly for them & bring them down off the far out limbs--hot pepper nor sprays work either for a determined squirrel--leaving the lights on failed also--guess you have to

    decorate the inside of your house so that it shows outdoors--I really gave up....

  • kendall330

    Ohhhh no Diana I thought hanging them from the far off branches would work , these squirrels are killing me , now I'm becoming obsessed with these lights lol

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    Has anyone tried regular spraying with Sriracha sauce? To my tongue it's really hot.

  • coutlaw76

    The key to your comment was "regular" spraying. Anything you coat the lights/wires with will wear or wash off so you'd have to always re-do it. And the squirrels will watch, and laugh, and wait... and then CHEW, BABY, CHEW!!!

  • Jana Silvia

    I have decided that the squirrels main goal in life is to take away all our gardening fun. Well squirrels, I may have a new "fun" garden hobby, and you really aren't going to like it.

  • coutlaw76

    Jana - whatcha gonna do?!?!

  • coutlaw76

    My previous experiments showed that putting duct tape at the bottoms of the bulbs would keep those squirrels from chewing through the wires. It seems there is a new rodent in town that completely ignores the tape. I've lost several previously untouched strings to this new squirrel. This photo shows where the squirrel chewed through the wire and duct tape to get the bulb. Time to buy more rope lights, I guess...

  • petalique

    New Squirrel-like rodent released by the manufacturers of outside holiday lights -- just in time for the 2016 season.

  • claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

    Maybe we need to attract different birds to our yards....

    (Thanks for the introduction to, petalique).


  • coutlaw76

    Or maybe it was Scrat the Squirrel?

    (I'm bookmarking!)

    - Cathy

  • petalique

    Grrrrrr! That time of year again. I've been looking high and low. As Claire and others suggested, even if sprays work, the stuff will need to be reapplied. I've considered making up an oily wax mix (outdoor stove and gloves) with bitter orange or hot chili mixed into the mix. Or even one of the commercial rodent deterent solutions. From my online reading, it appears that none of those products are all that consistently effective. Some squirrels seem to relish the hot stuff and bitter, well, bitter is relative; life is full of bitter this, sweet that.

    Coutlaw -- those nut-shaped bulbs might be irresistible to rodents. But then, even my teensy LED light strings go dead. I don't always see any gnawed wiring.

    And, here is a fun twist for any of you thrifty handy folks. Think you can use the bulbs in a dead light string to replace broken bulbs in another string? I've seen at least five (5) look alike bulbs, but, alas, different.

    1. Long base with opposite contacts

    2. Long base with staggered contacts

    3. Short base with opposite contacts

    4. Short base with staggered (asymetrical) contacts)

    5. For any configuration 1 through 4, another factor gets added to the mix: some bulbs have an entirely round escutcheon, others have a little "key" or jog (these will not slide into a round socket without a receptacle for the "key".

    Someone do the permutational math with me. I think that results in at least 8 possible bulb base configurations. No one said being a consumer was going to be easy. Well, unless your a squirrel.

    Anyone want to trade two dozen round long-based, unkeyed, symmetrical-contact warm white mini LED bulbs for two dozen of the otherwise same with keyed bulbs? You can have your choice of symmetric or non-symemetrical contacts.

    Does that just leave me with the option of those ugly silly junky boring Lazy-Laser light show As-seen-on-TV gadgets. Aside from not the look I want, I've heard that these units get removed by two legged squirrels.

    Maybe a big ugly spotlight with an orange extension cord?

    surround any tree, shrub, or railing with thick steel mesh fencing?

  • Diana Fiorini

    sprays do not work--I tried heavy duty wiring & they chewed right through that, even with no bulb attached......

  • coutlaw76

    Petalique - The squirrels seem to want any shape LED bulb. They have assaulted every variety I've had - bigger C9 bulbs, smaller dome bulbs, and everything in between and in any color.

    LED light strings are picky. If one bulb goes out, the half (or third or quarter depending on the amount of lights) of the string it is on goes out. For example, in a string of 50 lights, 25 lights at one end will not light if only one bulb goes bad. To save the entire string of lights, you have to painstakingly go through the bad side of the string and test every [bleeping] bulb.

    And yes, every darn brand of LED lights has a different bulb type and shape. I have a box of extra bulbs carefully arranged by what they are. (I cut off a picture of the lights from the box they came in and store that in a ziplock bag with the extra bulbs.) And before I throw away a useless string, I retrieve a handful of bulbs to save. With the amount of lights I have in my backyard year-round, I have to have extras on hand during the off-season.

    Those special keyed bulb bases on certain LED strings drive me batty! Those are usually the first ones to fail, and you never get extras of those in the replacement pair that are always included in the box. So I've recently learned to search for and save those special bases before I throw away an unrepairable string.

    I've had good results with rope lights to deter the chewers, but you can realistically only put those on solid surfaces, like tree trunks. My LED bulb lights don't get gnawed if they are on flimsy branches that don't support a squirrel's weight. But there's a vast array of areas that fall between those two extremes and keep those chomping rodents happy.

    I have had good experience with net lights on bushes or hedges. I think the configuration of the wires may confuse the squirrels.

    I have a laser light. It doesn't project as far and wide as advertised. I'm disappointed. And don't point it into the sky or you'll have the FAA knocking at your door.

    I like the projection lights with the round plastic head that has the moving, swirling LED light inside. Again, they need to be close to your object to have the best effect. Very beautiful on large-leafed plants.

    As always, good luck!

  • petalique

    Thanks for the tips and commiseration, coutlaw.

    I've considered grabbing wire cutters and transplanting some of the light units. A lot of work for no guaranteed outcome.

    I have resisted going out and buying more light strings (that may not make it through a whole month). DH thinks we should just plan on spending $x each year to replace them all. But I don't like to just cave and toss dollars away.

    There's got to be a more creative, if not enduring, approach. Anyone remember the group Act Up (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power)? GreenPeace?

    What if on a certain day, everyone peeved at the "short"-lived strings out outdoor lights bring their many strings of dead, chomped oohtdoor lights to a designated box store. Imagine the huge piles. They could be set ablaze and then people could scramble to salvage the copper.

    I'm thinking of spraying all my broken light strings a metalic silver or gold, weaving them through shrub branches or forming a sort of sculpture from them. Then I can illuminate the glitzy tangle with an LED Spotlight. Bada Bing.

    I like the projection lights with the round plastic head that has the moving, swirling LED light inside. Again, they need to be close to your object to have the best effect. Very beautiful on large-leafed plants.

    I'm afraid that if I got one of these, I wouldn't be able to refrain from exercising my free speech and changing the dotty stars to an arrangement of words unrelated to holiday cheer.

  • huntergee1

    Thanks for all the advice, everyone.

    I have been trying to solve this problem for many years. I have a lot of squirrels in my yard. Today , I repaired the damage to the lights that I put up yesterday.

    I also then laid out the lights that they chewed through last year. (Hopefully, to provide a "decoy" set set of bulbs/nuts for them to enjoy)

  • petalique

    Hi Huntergee, it looks like Coutlaw has been doing a lot of fieldwork for us.

    I remember that last year, only 1 month after we put larger LED light on a southern balsam, two of the light strings went DEAD! Everything looks intact. We'll try to check the two little fuses if I can locate the original container with the box and ? Extra fuses. I had bought a nylon cylinder with "wheels" onto which homeowners could wrap their string light -- better than trying to force them back into the box. So two sets of outdoor loft with medium bulbs over LED lights. Probably $20 a set. Look good, but are dead. We used them with a dawn dusk timer (and with a circuit breaker) for only a month.

    DH with look for replacement fuses or new light strings. Or we may just quit tossing away $50 to $80 per year on outdoor lighting that fails. Maybe I'll go back to my old standby of warm white electric brass-based candles in the windows. When and if "America is Great Again" or remains sane in lieu of "again", I don't think simple working tree lights will be my benchmark, even though it sure would be nice.

    Our wild turkeys are making a list of wants for us.

    How are all of you doing? Having fun? Lights on? Candles? Cookies baking? I hope that we take time to have fun, smell the balsam and pine; visit friends, help others and count our blessings.

  • huntergee1

    Thanks Petalique,

    I live in Canada, north of Minnesota. I have been replacing / repairing outdoor Christmas lights for years. As well as the fuses, I still suspect that you have a break somewhere in the string. I find they really like to chew very close to the bulb. If scared away before finishing , they might have chewed through the wire but not the covering entirely. Thus , hard to find the break.

    Electrician's tape and a couple of couplings, and you're good to go again. :)

  • coutlaw76

    huntergee1 - The squirrels chew the bulbs off because they think the bulbs are nuts. So they chew at the very bottom of the bulb to take it off. I have never been able to fix the wire so close to the bulb. I just cut off the bulb, strip off the covering of the 2 wires about 1/2", then swirl the thin copper wires together. I wrap it securely in duct tape to waterproof it and it's good to go. I gave up trying to use couplings. You have to use really tiny ones for these wires and I've had too many of them not grip and simply fall off.

    petalique - I saw a "professional" LED light string in Home Depot. The box said that if one bulb goes out the rest remain lit. But I wasn't going to spend $29 on a string of 100 LED bulbs to test the theory. I can buy 5 or 6 boxes of regular 100 LED bulbs and replace them for that price. However, if the box had said "Squirrel Proof" I might've forked over my credit card then and there!!

  • huntergee1

    Coutlaw, I respectfully suggest that electrician's (black) tape is better than duct tape. More waterproof, and less visible. When using the small couplings (use the ones with metal inside - they hold the wires better), wrap the wires together , and then around the whole connection. They'll never come off. Duct tape will lift , and is bulky.

    Otherwise , we are essentially doing the same thing. No sense buying more, Petalique, when we can fix the ones we have in five minutes.

  • petalique

    Message went to vapor when I opened another window. I will try later.

  • John Castleton

    I am going nuts! I am one of the crazies...I have about 15k lights on my house and in my yard...I do the whole setting them to music and all. I will say that squirrels and rabbits are a constant struggle. Every year I lose lights, and extension cords to these little....well you get the idea. There is no pattern, but with 1000's of feet of cable in my yard it is like a rodent buffet, sometimes they chew off lights, other times they take out the cables like corn on the cob. I can not leave 15k lights on all day (plus they aren't on constantly as they flash to music so I will have to try something else) Hot sauce is a no go, due to weather washing it off...maybe I will try that stink spray this year? My mom recommended moth balls around my yard...but I'm not sure if that will do much besides melt in the rain and kill the yard. Well here's to another season of headaches!

  • coutlaw76

    John - I feel your pain. I didn't know that rabbits would chew the wires, too! Short of encasing your entire yard in chicken wire, I have no other remedies for protecting that amount of lighting. Perhaps adopt a dozen cats / dogs from the SPCA? Take up falconry? Quit your day job and patrol your yard with a shotgun for the next 4 weeks? Hire a neighborhood kid to scare the rodents away? Get a drone? Program an airhorn to go off randomly?

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    Claire, are your rope lights still working better than regular light strings?

    (I have to say, this thread really has legs; it's almost 7 years old!)

  • claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

    NHBabs: The rope lights are mostly very durable. I did lose one when a squirrel chewed on the rectifier/transformer (I'm guessing that's what it is - picture about a year ago upthread), but otherwise the squirrels leave them alone. One of the rope lights has lost the lights on the end foot or two, but it's an 18 ft string so it's plenty long enough for my railing. I think this is not squirrel-related since there's no sign of gnawing.

    During this time the squirrels have been steadily demolishing the few regular light strings I still put out on the wisteria. I have a backup regular string ready for when the gap in lighting is bigger - I prefer the look of the regular lights but I really like having reliable rope lighting for the main display. It's just really annoying to have lights disappear in the middle of the holiday season, particularly when it's not so easy to get replacements (and I don't want to be bothered with replacing light strings in cold weather).

    I guess there are some eternal verities in life besides death and taxes - e.g. squirrels attacking light strings.


  • gz08

    I have red LED light bulbs and the same thing happened to me. In fact, red is the only color of lights that squirrels around our house chew. I put up some red lights for halloween last year and they did the exact same thing. For some reason its the ones that are bright and large, not the normal ones. Don't know what to do now, I spent two hours putting it up and now I have to go out and buy a different set to put up.

  • kendall330

    I know , i was so bummed out about my lights:(

  • huntergee1

    Hi again, guys. I'm happy to report that those decoy bulbs and wires that I put on the ground near the new lights have done the trick.

    Thanks again to coutlaw76 for the suggestion. I have had no further problems in the past 4 weeks.

  • coutlaw76

    Hello to all my fellow LED lovers and squirrel baiters! Hope you had a relatively chew-free holiday light season.

    I just came across a product highlighted in Consumer Reports that I am going to try. It is a capsaicin-infused electrical tape, Honda part number 4019-2317 Rodent Tape. (Google it.) It's a narrow tape that is wrapped around the wiring in a car's engine so mice, rats, squirrels, etc. don't chew through the wires.

    I'll wrap some of my exposed LED bulb wires and see if that foils our chewers. The directions recommend using gloves when handling the tape.

  • layotte94

    I don't get it. The last 2 years the squirrels have not touched my Led lights. They have a heavy plastic wire and are only red and purple. Is it the colours?

    Also, I have outdoor white/beige lights (Led) on the hedge that the squirrels have not touched.

    Perhaps they are being kind to me after the previous years of abuse. I have given them some peanuts now and then....but not enough to warrant them leaving my lights alone........there is no rhyme or reason.......

  • claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

    That sounds interesting, coutlaw76. I had a bad experience with a mouse destroying the wiring in my car so that I had to have it towed to the dealer.

    You're right, layotte94, there is no rhyme or reason to squirrel behavior. I feed them peanuts every day but that seems to be irrelevant. My rope lights have lasted several seasons and I put out some regular LED strings this season that weren't touched. Maybe a new generation of squirrels that hasn't noticed the wires yet?


  • layotte94

    I think the squirrels are playing with our minds......they know about these comments and want to baffle us.....let's see what happens next year......they are busy chuckling and gulping down our peanuts......

  • Rick Stockwell

    I have had my lights on my trees for 20 years with no problems...and this year the squirrels got them all...I notoiced that it was a bad year for acorns and Beach nuts, so maybe the squirrels were hard up enough to eat the wires. I leave my lights on 2 trees all year, and never had a problem....any one else see that ?

  • claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

    Ah, so sorry, Rick - 20 years is a good long run. The bad year for acorns and nuts is very suggestive of desperate squirrels trying to eat bright colored bulbs.


  • coutlaw76

    I live in Florida. There are plenty of sources of nuts to be eaten in our area year round. It doesn't seem to have a connection to the squirrels chewing bulbs off the wires.

    I have settled on rope lights, sphere lights, spot lights, and projection lights throughout my yard. I have very few light strings now because I've been throwing them out as they are murdered. I only have string lights on my palm tree fronds, but all the wire in between the bulbs is wrapped in dark green duct tape. That seems to deter the squirrels from chewing those. And the color blends in with the trees so it's not obvious.

    This thread has been going for a few years -- it was fun re-reading all of our desperate sagas!

  • jc_7a_MiddleTN

    I read through this whole thing just now.

    Has anyone had issues with the LED lights they place on your actual home? Attached to the rooflines?

    I think I've mostly been reading that the squirrels are chewing through the strands that are on deck railings or in trees.

  • coutlaw76

    If there is a place for a squirrel to perch comfortably and chew, they'll target your light strings. I've had strings of icicle lights hanging from my roof line for years. The squirrels have never touched them. The strings hang down on hooks about 2" from the roof shingles so I guess that makes these lights unappealing.

  • jc_7a_MiddleTN

    Thanks for the first hand experience and advice!

  • Diana Fiorini

    I finally learned how to put up lights & the little guys can't bother them--make sure there

    is no perch for them to sit on & no way they can grab the lights--I put strings on the trees

    holding the lights away from the trees--lights have been up with no problem for months--

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