Your relatives aren’t the only guests who make themselves at home in your house over the holidays, and the other group is considerably less welcome. People often think rodents and insects go dormant during the winter months. And while many do indeed go into a kind of hibernation, others remain very active and seek to survive and thrive in the climate-controlled bliss of your home. Fortunately, you can keep pests away by taking some basic steps.
HOW TO KEEP PESTS OUT
The best defense is strong prevention. Seal cracks around your home, even small ones. This keeps out both rodents and insects. In particular, stink bugs like to sneak in through cracks, and once they get inside, stink bugs are notoriously difficult to exterminate. Caulk or mesh provide the best protection against gaps and cracks in your foundation or around doors and windows. Galvanized flashing or copper mesh make excellent obstacles to pests; rodents can chew through almost anything else.
Verify that your window screens are in good condition, with no rips or tears that a stinkbug might slip through. Areas around your home that are typical points of entry for bugs include soffits, pipes, utility wire holes, chimneys and siding.
Regularly dust your nooks and crannies and pay special attention to areas behind cabinets, underneath sinks and so forth. Dark, out-of-the-way places provide excellent homes for spiders, insects and rodents.
Rodents pose a big winter problem because they desperately seek out warm shelter. And because they can compress their rib cages to fit tiny spaces, they can work their way into areas you never thought possible. In addition to checking out your exterior entry points, make sure any foliage is at least three feet away from your foundation, and keep firewood away from your house.
As it becomes colder and there’s less food to be scavenged, you’ll receive more visits from bigger animals, such as raccoons, opossums and coyotes.
Keep your trash bins tightly sealed. If you feed your animals outside, do not free feed them and clean up after they are done. Remove anything that could be attracting animals, like trash, food remnants and seeds from the bird feeder. If you know there is an animal in the area, be careful and monitor your pets as you let them outside.
WHAT TO DO ONCE PESTS HAVE TAKEN UP RESIDENCE
If you see signs of pesky invaders, such as insects or distinctive mouse and rat droppings, they’ve already made it inside. At that point, carefully follow the steps above once more, because you might have missed a crack or an opening. Continue to carefully clean and remove food sources; you’ll have fewer problems with existing pests if they have less to eat.
Pest control professionals say bait boxes and traps are effective for removing rodents, but there are several options available, from traditional traps to no-kill methods that allow you to release the rodent back into the wild. Bait boxes contain a rodenticide that kills the mouse or rat in a few days. The boxes shelter the poisonous rodenticide and keep it out of reach of children and pets. You should place bait boxes in areas where you’ve seen rodent activity, and in natural walking paths along walls or in corners.
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For large infestations, or if rodents simply make you squeamish, consider hiring a professional pest control company. They will inspect your exterior for entry points, make improvements and come up with a removal plan that meets your specific needs.