Allen Norwood

Why squirrels love chomping on your house

Squirrels like to chomp...a lot
Squirrels like to chomp...a lot File art

I sprayed and patched all the carpenter bee holes in the arbor above our deck. I chronicled those wars back in the early summer, as you might remember.

I was feeling good about at least battling the bees to a draw – until I noticed that a squirrel had been chewing the wood all around the most prominent bee hole, even though I’d sprayed it and filled it.

What the heck? Do squirrels eat carpenter bee larvae?

Ah, nope. There’s another explanation – that you will understand if you’ve ever been pregnant, or lived with a pregnant wife.

“There might have been some sort of salt the squirrel was after,” said David Crowe, a wildlife biologist and owner of Critter Control of Charlotte. “Squirrels mate twice a year, once around Thanksgiving and again in the summer.... It was probably a female... You know how pregnant ladies get cravings.”

Pickles and ice cream I understand. But insecticide and construction adhesive?

They chew all kinds of things, Crowe said, including rubber and plastics. (And, of course, insulation on electric wiring.)

If you’ve noticed the squirrels being a little crazy around your house, you’ll appreciate other squirrel stuff I learned from Crowe.

The fall mating season is triggered as the days get shorter and shorter. The young are born about Valentine’s Day. The next breeding cycle comes around the summer solstice.

That means that about now, those mommy squirrels are looking for warm places to have those babies. They’d really like to get into your attic. That’s why they’re chewing on the fascia or gable vent.

And here’s why, once they chew their way in, it’s really hard to persuade them to go someplace else.

“Once they’ve made a nest, they urinate all over the entrance hole,” Crowe said. “It’s a family scent....

“That does two things: It tells other squirrels to stay away. And it tells other family members, ‘This is home.’ So they keep trying to get in.”

You might not be fighting just one squirrel.

You might be matching wits with the whole bushy-tailed clan.

Critter Control ( often has to make multiple trips on squirrel calls, Crowe said, because squirrel kin keep showing up.

Squirrels chew because they’re rodents, and their incisors keep growing their whole lives. They need to chew to keep those teeth in check. Lots of us remember that from biology class.

But not all squirrels chew on your deck or arbor. Some are perfectly happy chewing on hickory nuts and other appropriate squirrel fodder.

The ones that munch your deck are chewing “recreationally,” Crowe said. Sure, it’s fun for them!

A few will taste your deck, decide they like it, and develop an addiction. They’re like those drivers who text behind the wheel: They have a habit that’s hard to break.

“There are a number of repellants you can try,” Crowe said. “Things like pepper spray or urine.” You’ll find lots of suggestions online.

Good luck.

More than a decade ago, a reader said that squirrels were chewing her composite deck. I invited other readers to share ideas for preventing squirrels from chewing. You know, tactics that actually worked.

I’m still waiting...

Allen Norwood: