Chilis have their reasons the birds know not of?

Ummm…not that I speak for the entire Louisiana population, being a native myself, but I asked several relatives about this and even my parain had never heard of this. Most of them were killing themselves about- ‘chilie pepper patch!?!’

Excuse me while I go get my winter coat- It’s 60 degrees today, brrrrr

To tell you the truth, gonz, my suspicion is that ishmintingas’s friend is pulling his leg. I would guess that if this really occurred it would have been mentioned in one of the many chili sites/articles I consulted in writing the article. If anyone can provide first-hand documentation of self-chilied poultry please chime in. There may be a 4-H Club Blue Ribbon in it for you.

In a recent question you said that birds did not have the receptors to
“appreciate” the effects of eating hot peppers, and presumably only mammals
do. I live on a boat and several boat owners use Capsicum mixed in with
their bottom paint, to deter barnacles and other marine growth. I don’t know
of any mammals that grow on boat bottoms so are they wasting their money?

Apparently capsaicin does have a repellent effect on at least some other animals besides mammals. In addition to barnacles, I have seen reference to it being used to repel zebra mussels, scallops, certain snails, sea anemones, and some soft-bodied insects such as aphids and termites. I haven’t yet been able to pinpoint an article that describes exactly what the mechanism of the repellency is, however. I would be somewhat surprised if it was exactly the same as that found in mammals. Interestingly, the invertebrates mentioned belong to a variety of different groups: mussels, scallops and snails are mollusks, insects and barnacles are arthropods, and sea anemones are lowly coelenterates.

Incidently, capsaicin does not seem to be repellent to insects in general, since it is found only in the chili fruits (i.e. the peppers) and not in other plant tissues. Presumably if it deterred most herbivorous insects it would also be found in the leaves and stems.

As capsaicin is used in barnacle and insect repellents that are sold commercially, I presume they have been tested and found effective. New Mexico Tech seems to be a hotbed of research on chili-based repellents, for some reason. Check out the following links:

I’ll get back to you if I can locate something more specific on how capsaicin actually works on invertebrates.

Of course, putting capsicum on your hull would also help fend off walruses or hippos, depending on where you plan on boating.

This leads me to ask what what might be a dumb question:

Can I use chili powder to ward off the evil squirrels that continually raid my bird feeder?


Not dumb at all. As I mentioned in the article, there are a number of commercial bird seeds that include capsaicin or chili preparations in order to deter squirrels. A web search on “capsaicin”/“squirrels”/“bird seed” or other combinations will readily turn up relevant sites, but I am not going to provide any links here in order to avoid promoting one commercial product over another.

Squirrels may continue to visit a feeder with chili-dosed seeds for a while, until all of the local squirrels have had a chance to sample it and learned to avoid it. Also, if food is extremely scarce in the area, squirrels may be willing to put up with the chili if the alternative is starvation. And if you have Mexican squirrels (Sciurus mexicanus) in your area, all bets are off. :wink: Other problems can include the chili washing off the seeds in the rain and getting the powder in your own eyes while putting the seed out.

I should also mention that at least one Humane Society objects to the use of capsaicin treated seeds out of concern for the well-being of the poor squirrels. However, if there are alternative food sources in the area, and the critters are not actually on the verge of starvation, in my opinion the solution is as humane as any other (and more than some), as the squirrels won’t eat very much before they learn to go elsewhere.

I imagine somebody out there is objecting to the “squirrel bigots” who want to feed birds, but let the poor squirrels starve. :wink:

Yes, obviously Nixon has a case of rabid Anti-Squirrelism. :eek: