Are Mothballs Toxic to Birds?

A mothball is composed of a mixture of chemicals that make it extremely pungent. Inhaling the odor of mothballs can be toxic to birds, especially those with sensitive nasal passages. If you have pet birds, you should never use mothballs.

Pests like moths and other fabric bugs are a pain. Creeping into stored clothes and fabrics and laying their eggs. Once those eggs hatch, the larvae use the clothes around them as food, creating holes in everything and destroying the fabric.

There are many ways to prevent these pests from infesting. One of the more well-known methods is using mothballs.

A mothball is a small scented ball made from various materials typically used around storage units, dressers, and rooms to keep moth larvae away from your belongings.

Although mothballs can work, they are not the ideal solution if you have pet birds in your home.

Toxicity of Mothballs

Mothballs are made of a mix of several chemicals, two of which are naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene.

These chemicals turn into a gas that slowly seeps out from the mothballs. Mothballs have a distinct scent because of those gasses, which drive away moths and other pests.

However, inhaling these chemicals can cause nausea and dizziness in humans.

Why Are Mothballs Harmful to Birds?

Birds are much more sensitive to smells than humans are. Their respiratory systems work in a way that is very efficient in gas exchange, the process where atmospheric molecules are absorbed into the body and bloodstream.

This efficiency makes them more susceptible to scents and toxins in the air. Their bodies absorb these toxins faster and in greater quantities than ours, so any strong smell will have a much greater impact on them than it would on us.

The chemicals in mothballs may not kill a human but can kill birds since they take in more of the gasses. The chemicals in mothballs are so strong, and the gasses give off such a powerful scent that it can be toxic when birds inhale those aromas.

How to Tell if a Bird Has Been Hurt By a Mothball

When determining whether a bird has been adversely affected by a mothball, there are a few key factors to consider.

If a bird has ingested a mothball, it will display signs of lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, and sometimes even seizures. If a bird has only smelt a mothball, it will most likely have these same symptoms, but less severe.

Taking a bird to the vet is the first step if you suspect a bird has mothball poisoning, whether from the smell or because it ingested one. The vet will be able to fully determine what is wrong and how to help.

Your next step should be removing any mothballs from your home or anywhere the bird could smell them.

Bird-Safe Mothball Alternatives

If you have birds in your home, but you also need to get rid of some pests, there are luckily some mothball alternatives that are bird safe.

One alternative is to clean out any drawers or spaces where moths might want to lay their eggs every so often. This will eliminate any eggs and moths currently there. This way, you aren’t using harsh smells or chemicals that could upset a bird’s sensitive nose.

Another alternative is thoroughly washing any clothing or fabric before storing it. This will kill any pests hiding inside, so they will not go into storage with the clothing, where they can lay their eggs and feed on your belongings.

If something has been in storage for a while and you’re worried about it being infested, it never hurts to take it out and wash it before returning it to its storage place.

A third bird-safe alternative to mothballs is simply storing your fabrics in airtight containers. This will keep pests out of your belongings since they won’t be able to get inside the container.

Sealing containers can also prevent other types of pests, like mice, spiders, and even household pets, such as dogs or birds, from digging through your belongings simply because they look appealing.

There are many other options for bird-safe mothball alternatives, and all of them work well for many people.

When deciding what to use to eliminate pests, remember how sensitive birds are to smell. Things like cedar chips can repel moths, but cedar chips have a strong smell and fine dust on them that can bother a bird’s nose.

Keep Birds Safe from Mothballs

There are a lot of pests out there that can cause complete chaos if they get into your home or stored clothes, and they can be a nightmare to get rid of. But if you are a pet owner, you always need to be careful what chemicals and remedies you use to repel those pests, especially if you have a bird in your home.

Birds have such delicate respiratory systems. Any scent that’s too strong can harm them, including the strong chemical gasses from mothballs. These are extremely dangerous for birds to breathe in.

If you have a need for mothballs but own a pet bird, take the time to search for a safe alternative that will not harm you or your bird. If you are unsure if a certain method is safe for your birds, talk to your bird vet and get their opinion on the matter.

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