Will Epsom salt deter armadillos?

Armadillos are small armored mammals found in parts of North, Central, and South America. They have a bony armor shell that protects them from predators. Armadillos are notorious for digging holes in lawns and gardens in search of grubs and insects to eat. This can be frustrating for homeowners who want to protect their landscapes. Some people try using Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, to deter armadillos from digging in their yards. But does Epsom salt effectively keep armadillos away?

What are Armadillos?

Armadillos belong to the order Cingulata in the family Dasypodidae. There are approximately 20 species of armadillos, according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Some of the most common armadillo species in the United States include:

– Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus): This is the only species found in the U.S., ranging from Texas to Florida up to Missouri and even southern Illinois. They have pinkish gray armor with nine movable bands around their midsection, giving them flexibility.

– Southern naked-tailed armadillo (Cabassous unicinctus): This species lacks the armored bands on its tail. It ranges from Colombia and Venezuela south to Paraguay and northern Argentina.

– Greater long-nosed armadillo (Dasypus kappleri): As the name suggests, this species has an elongated snout. Its range extends from southwestern Colombia to Ecuador, Peru, and central Brazil.

– Giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus): The largest species that can reach 5 feet (1.5 m) in length and weigh up to 119 lbs (54 kg). It lives in South America east of the Andes.

– Pink fairy armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus): The smallest species at only 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) in length. It can curl into a ball to block its underbelly. It inhabits central Argentina.

Armadillos have strong legs and sharp claws adapted for digging. They use these to burrow underground burrows and tunnels to escape predators, as well as find food sources like invertebrates and plant material. Armadillos have poor eyesight but make up for it with a strong sense of smell to locate prey.

Why Do Armadillos Dig in Lawns and Gardens?

Armadillos dig holes in lawns and gardens because that’s where they can find their favorite foods. According to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management (ICWDM), 90% of an armadillo’s diet consists of invertebrates like insects, grubs, spiders, scorpions, and earthworms. They smell out where these invertebrates are abundant underground and then dig to reach them.

Lawns and gardens provide ideal foraging spots for armadillos for a couple reasons:

– Grassy areas are often home to numerous grubs and earthworms living in the soil. Armadillos can sniff these out and dig holes extracting them to eat.

– Gardens with leaf litter and mulch buildup allow insects and other invertebrates to thrive. Armadillos locate these concentrations of prey foods with ease.

– Softer soils in lawns and gardens make it easier for armadillos to dig compared to harder, dry soils. Less effort allows them to uncover more food.

– Lawns and gardens near woodlands or forests provide prime habitat near the armadillos’ burrows and natural food sources.

The damage armadillos inflict when rooting through lawns includes 3-5 inch wide holes that can be 2-3 feet deep. At first, the holes may seem random but soon expand into large sections of overturned sod. Armadillo tunneling uproots plant roots, leaving dead patches. Burrowing can also disturb any landscape edging, mulch, or other lawn decor.

For gardeners, armadillos pose a risk to flower and vegetable plants if they tunnel through garden beds eating seeds, bulbs, tubers, and worms. Their digging can ruin crops and make a mess of the orderly garden. This understandably upsets and frustrates homeowners who take pride in their well-manicured yards. Finding solutions to deter armadillos becomes a top priority.

What is Epsom Salt?

Epsom salt is a mineral compound comprised of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. It has the chemical formula MgSO4 and gets its name from the town of Epsom in Surrey, England where it was originally discovered in bitter saline spring waters in the 17th century. Epsom salt dissolves easily in water, making magnesium sulfate a key component of Epsom salt baths which help relax muscles and relieve aches and pains.

In gardening and landscaping, magnesium sulfate serves a couple purposes:

– Provides supplemental magnesium, one of the essential macronutrients plants need. Magnesium plays a key role in photosynthesis, enzyme production, and protein synthesis.

– Can change soil pH making soils more acidic. Magnesium sulfate is very soluble and dissociates into magnesium and sulfate ions in the soil. The sulfate ion can lower pH.

– Improves moisture retention and drainage in soils. The magnesium ions help bind soil particles while the sulfate ions improve water penetration. This creates better conditions for roots.

Beyond its horticultural uses, Epsom salt also has household cleaning and other applications, such as:

– Laxative to relieve occasional constipation
– Foot soak to reduce foot odor and swelling
– Splinter remover by softening skin tissue
– Facial cleanser to exfoliate skin
– Tile and grout cleaner to remove soap scum
– Fabric softener and dye brightener for laundry
– Driveway ice melt to melt snow and prevent future buildup

Given its varied uses in gardening, household cleaning, and personal care, Epsom salt is a relatively inexpensive and versatile product that can be found in any pharmacy or grocery store.

Does Epsom Salt Deter Armadillos?

A common recommendation for stopping armadillos from digging up lawns is to sprinkle Epsom salt in their holes and burrows or create a perimeter around the yard with it. The rationale is that armadillos won’t like crossing over the Epsom salt due to the texture or scent. However, this armadillo deterrent has mixed reviews from gardeners and homeowners who have tried it.

According to research published in the Journal of Mammalogy in 1990 on the nine-banded armadillo’s sense of smell:

“The number of functional olfactory genes is reduced and accounts for the relatively small olfactory bulbs and poor sense of smell in D. novemcinctus.”

Armadillos have a very weak sense of smell compared to many other mammals. They rely much more on their strong digging claws and eyesight limited to shapes and movement to locate food sources. This suggests Epsom salt granules or powder scattered in yards is unlikely to deter armadillos through scent alone. They can’t detect it well and won’t be repelled by any odor.

Some gardeners speculate that the texture of Epsom salt might make armadillos avoid digging in areas where it has been spread. However, there is no scientific evidence that Epsom salt creates a tactile barrier. Around 75% of an armadillo’s natural diet consists of ants, termites, and other insects they are adept at rooting through dirt and soil to find. The variable textures underneath lawns do not impede them.

In one gardening forum, a user commented:

“I tried the Epsom salts last year to limited success. It’s a very temporary solution that must be reapplied after rain.”

The consensus from most gardeners that have attempted using Epsom salt is that it does not work for long, if at all. At best, it might temporarily redirect armadillos to dig elsewhere. But they eventually return and resume burrowing in treated areas after the Epsom salt has dissolved into the soil. It does not cause enough of an irritation for armadillos to permanently leave the area alone.

There is no scientific research specifically testing Epsom salt as an armadillo repellent. However, based on armadillo biology and firsthand accounts, it can be concluded that Epsom salt is largely ineffective for deterring armadillos from lawns and gardens except in very limited circumstances. The effort involved in continual reapplication after rains makes this approach impractical. More reliable methods of control should be explored.

More Effective Armadillo Deterrents

While Epsom salt is unlikely to repel armadillos for good, gardeners do have other more effective options to stop the damage caused by these pests. Here are some of the top methods to deter armadillos recommended by wildlife experts:

Remove Food Sources

Eliminating the grubs, insects, and worms armadillos are feeding on through the use of insecticides and changing mulching practices can help make yards less attractive hunting spots. Reducing their food availability may convince them to move on. Target grub infestations in particular with appropriate control products.

Use Fencing

Installing fences can be an exclusion tactic to keep armadillos from entering the property in the first place. A fence buried at least 12 inches deep and extending at least 18-24 inches above ground is suggested. This prevents armadillos from simply burrowing or climbing underneath.

Try Repellents

Strong smelling organic repellents using things like predator urine, garlic, dried blood meal, or ammonia soaked cloths may deter armadillos through scent. These can be placed around affected areas. Avoid using mothballs or moth crystals which are harmful to pets.

Set Up Motion Sprinklers

Motion activated sprinkler deterrents spray water when armadillos are detected, startling them away. The unexpected blast makes them wary of entering that space. Strategic sprinkler placement along known burrowing spots can be effective.

Use Solar Lights

Low-wattage solar lights along frequently damaged areas may discourage armadillos at night when they are most active. The consistent low glow irritates them and makes them avoid lit areas.

Try Metal Barriers

Burying wire mesh, hardware cloth, or sheet metal at least 12 inches underground forms a physical and tactile barrier against digging. The material can cause discomfort on armadillos feet and snout when they try burrowing.

Limit Mulch

Restrict mulch areas in the landscape, or use inorganic options like pebbles or gravel instead of wood and bark mulch. Organic mulch harbors the insects armadillos feast on. Limiting their habitat reduces foraging spots.

Use Pepper Sprays

Liquid capsaicin-based repellent sprays made from hot peppers can irritate armadillos sensitive skin and nostrils, deterring them on contact. Reapply after rain since liquid sprays wash away.

Employ Natural Predators

In certain cases, introducing natural armadillo predators like dogs, coyotes, bobcats, or hawks can control pest populations. However, only consider this option after consulting with your state wildlife agency.

Try Landscaping with Plants Armadillos Dislike

Certain plants like prickly pear cactus, yucca, juniper, or marigolds may deter armadillos due to irritation from thorns and prickly leaves. Again, plant scents are unlikely to work given their poor smell ability.

Use Vibrations

Armadillos have sensitive feet and don’t like the sensation of vibration. Placing stakes that vibrate in the ground around your property boundaries may turn them away. Just be sure these stakes do not pose a risk to lawn equipment.

Consider Trapping

In some cases, trapping and removing armadillos may be the best solution, especially if non-lethal methods fail. Make sure you understand your state’s regulations and only work with licensed wildlife control professionals when trapping. Trapped armadillos must be released legally and humanely.

The key is trying multiple deterrents together to make the yard as unwelcoming to armadillos as possible. Focus on removing food sources, installing physical barriers, and using irritants and repellents in combination. With persistence most armadillos will eventually leave and cause less burrowing damage.

Key Takeaways on Epsom Salt and Armadillos

To summarize the key points on whether Epsom salt effectively deters troublesome armadillos:

– Armadillos frequently dig holes in lawns and gardens because that’s where they find tasty grubs, insects, worms and other invertebrates. This destruction rightfully upsets homeowners.

– Epsom salt is often suggested as an armadillo repellent, either sprinkled in their burrows or around the perimeter of yards. Some think the smell or texture drives armadillos away.

– However, research shows armadillos actually have a poor sense of smell. The scent of Epsom salt does not bother them or deter digging.

– Armadillos frequently root through soil and are not impeded by textures like Epsom salt crystals under their feet. They easily dig through the granules.

– Most gardeners find Epsom salt provides only temporary relief before armadillos return. Frequent reapplication is required.

– More reliable and long-lasting deterrents exist like fencing, repellents, removing food sources, vibration stakes, predator introduction, and trapping as a last resort.

– While inexpensive and safe, unfortunately Epsom salt does not effectively or permanently deter armadillos according to scientific evidence and firsthand accounts. Don’t rely on it as your only control method.

So in summary, Epsom salt may briefly redirect armadillos away from areas where it is sprinkled but they will be back digging in no time. Invest your efforts into integrating multiple proven tactics like barriers and harassment that convince armadillos your yard is an unfavorable habitat. This provides the best chance of successfully protecting your garden and lawn from these persistent pests long-term.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do armadillos damage lawns and gardens?

Armadillos dig holes and tunnels in lawns and gardens when searching for grubs, insects, worms and other invertebrates that make up the bulk of their diet. Their sharp claws and snout allow them to easily rip up sod and roots leaving unsightly, dead grass patches. They also burrow through garden beds eating vegetable seeds, bulbs, and tubers.

What scent repels armadillos?

Strong scents from things like garlic, dried blood meal, ammonia, and predator urine are more likely to repel armadillos compared to Epsom salt. This is because armadillos have a poor sense of smell so the strong, pungent nature of these repellents has a better chance of irritating them enough to cause avoidance.

What is a physical barrier that can deter armadillos?

Installing fences at least 12 inches deep and 18 inches above ground can prevent armadillos from entering a yard and digging in gardens. Hardware cloth, wire mesh, or sheet metal buried underground also obstructs their digging and makes them uncomfortable. These physical barriers are effective deterrents.

What tactics should be used along with Epsom salt to discourage armadillos?

Epsom salt alone will not effectively deter armadillos for long. You need to remove food attractants like grubs, install physical barriers where possible, and use repellents with irritating smells or sensations. Combining multiple tactics including lighting, sprinklers, and plants they dislike covers all the bases and discourages their return.

How else can I use Epsom salt in my garden if not for armadillos?

You can dissolve Epsom salt in water and apply it as a supplemental fertilizer to give plants, especially tomatoes, peppers, and roses, an extra boost of magnesium for better flowering and fruiting. It also helps make clay soils more porous. Use it as a foliar spray to deter slugs and snails. And add it to compost piles to enhance the nutrient profile.


Armadillos can certainly wreak havoc on well-manicured yards and gardens in their constant quest for worms and insects to eat. This leaves homeowners rightfully frustrated and looking for solutions. While Epsom salt is inexpensive and readily available, scientific evidence shows it is minimally effective at best when it comes to deterring armadillos. These pests quickly learn to ignore its scent and texture. Relying solely on Epsom salt to repel armadillos only leads to disappointment.

Integrating multiple tactics like exclusion fencing, removing food sources, landscape fabric barriers, repellent sprays, motion sprinklers, and vibration stakes provides the best results. Patience and persistence are needed to train armadillos your yard is unpleasant habitat. But this multifaceted approach eventually convinces them to leave your lawn and garden alone in search of easier foraging grounds elsewhere. With some effort, you can protect your landscape investments from these bothersome borers.

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