Cottage Q&A: Who is stealing my lightbulbs?

Christmas lights against a blurry background By astudio/Shutterstock

We have a strand of 25 patio lights strung between two trees. The other day, we noticed that 20 of the bulbs and sockets had been removed. We thought someone had snipped them off with pruning shears. But now we’re not so sure. Could a raccoon or a squirrel hang off the cable, bite through the wire, and carry the socket and bulb away?—John Habart, via Facebook

Yes. Our money’s on squirrels. Turns out, they have a reputation for snatching up decorative lights, especially around the holidays. Squirrels steal more Christmas bulbs than the Grinch. 

They like chewing on the wires, says Mike Webb, a wildlife expert and the owner of West Coast Problem Wildlife Management on Vancouver Island. A lot of new wiring has soy-based insulation. Tasty! Compared to petroleum-based insulation, soy-based wire insulation is considered better for the environment, and it sure is a win for critters that like to gnaw. Which is not great news for your cottage, your car, your ATV…or anything else with this wiring.

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Why take the bulbs? It’s possible the squirrels mistook them for nuts. Or, says Webb, maybe they were simply attracted to the bulbs’ colours and textures.

Of course, without witnessing this behaviour, you’ll never know for sure what happened. “If it was me and I really wanted an answer, I’d put up a motion-activated trail camera,” says Webb. Do it! Then let us know what you see. 

Got a question for Cottage Q&A? Send it to answers@cottagelife.com.

This article was originally published in the June/July 2021 issue of Cottage Life.

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