Why is it that we will spend thousands of dollars to go visit the world’s most famous mouse in Florida or California at his home?  But it upsets up when they enter our homes? Why is it that bats and spiders terrify so many people, yet we spend millions of dollars to watch movies where humans dress up and have some of the shared abilities of these pests and vermin?

In many cases these fears are well justified. Many pests and vermin are vectors of diseases, they can cause damage to our homes (structurally by chewing away at the wood or by chewing wires and starting fires), to our business’ reputation, not to mention that they can make us very uncomfortable in our own homes.   

This is the time of year when so many pests will look to enter homes and businesses in an effort to survive the cold winter months ahead. Some of them do it purely over winter and return to their natural environment once the warmer weather returns. Others, once they enter the structure, are perfectly suited to make your home theirs for as long as you will let them. Mice and spiders in particular are known to enter during fall and can thrive once inside.  In commercial settings if the right environment exists, many insects will enter and find ways to flourish.  

Let’s take a moment to review the pests that are simply surviving the cold weather.  The most common in this category includes stinging insects, stink bug, box elder bugs, cluster flies, and lady bugs.  For many, these are tolerable intruders.  They typically enter a structure, hunker down and stay put for the winter.  They tend not to move until the weather begins to get warm again, at which time they return to the great outdoors.  As they begin to move again the insects tend to look for light as an indication they are moving towards the outside.  However, often they are tricked by light being emitted into the areas they have hidden in through cracks around the attic accesses, recessed lighting which lead them straight to your living space.  They do not want to be inside and they will likely die after being trapped for a period of time. But the end is likely to come more quickly because once spotted, we tend to crush, vacuum, and or spray them with something.  In an ideal scenario for these pests this cycle would only happen one time.  But typically it happens several times over the course of a single winter.

The reason for this is simple. During a typical winter we will experience period of unseasonably warm temperatures which triggers the early movement of the insects.  This is important for people to know because our imagination can get the best of us.  Many people begin to think they are multiplying in the walls but this is not the case. These pests can be a nuisance for sure, but for the most part they just make us uncomfortable because as a society we do not tolerate pests in our homes.

What can a homeowner, business, facilities manager, etc. do to help protect themselves from these unwanted guests during the height of holiday season? The following list contains pest control recommendations that homeowners and businesses can use to help reduce the likelihood of pests accessing their structures.

  • Maintain your landscaping.  This means cut back trees and shrubs at least 18 inches away from the structure and roofs. Also keep vines off of structures.  Although it may look pretty, it is perfect cover for any number of pests to enter without ever being seen.

  • Visually inspect the screens on the structure.  In order for them to be effective they must not have any holes or tears.  They must be in the proper place in the window or door.  

  • Door thresholds, regardless of type (Front entry, revolving door, bay doors, and garage doors), need to seal properly to prevent pests from entering.  They should also remain closed when not in use.  It may surprise you how often people leave doors open allowing anything wandering by to enter.  In many cases a simple door sweep can make a huge difference regarding the pest pressure.

  • Be mindful of your storage practices in general. Fire wood, pallets, pipes, stone, and trailers are all great harborage places for pests. In many cases these situations can become shelter and food sources for pests.  They can also become a vehicle for entry into a structure.  It is not uncommon for homeowners to bring insect infested wood into their own homes.  Be cautious where and how you store things.  RVs, cars, and even ride-on lawn mowers can become rodent nesting sites during the winter months.  If you do not have a pest professional consider buying some glue boards or snap traps so you can catch and remove whatever comes in.

  • Remember, garbage may be trash to us but to the pests it may be a meal or a place to deposit eggs.  Best practices are to keep exterior garbage receptacles and dumpsters as far away from the structures as possible.  The odors emitted from them alone will draw pest activity.  Empty interior garbage and recycling containers on a regular basis as well.

  • Beware of bird feeders. I am in the pest control business and we have them at my house.  Yes, the birds can be fun to watch and are very pretty.  But they are also very messy because bird seed gets everywhere.  Do you know what else feeds on seeds?  Rodents as well as pantry pests which include moth and beetles.  If you do feed birds, set the feeders up further from the house and watch the birds using binoculars.  If you store the seed inside, make sure to seal the container and that you don’t forget about it.  A forgotten bag of bird seed can become a terrible moth problem in no time.

  • Potted plants come with similar issues. Pests can come into our homes this way as well.  The real trouble begins when we overwater them.  This happens especially often in office settings.  No one person takes responsibility for the plant so it gets watered many times over the course of the day and poof, just like magic, you begin to see fungus gnats. At times they can appear in large numbers and often in the offices of VIPs.  The pest control solution is often as simple as removing the plants.  With the holidays coming up, be wary of Poinsettias and cut flower that linger too long. 

When it comes to keeping pests out of structures, consider what you are trying to keep out. Did you know that rats need a hole just the size of a quarter to gain entry?  A mouse needs a hole the size of a dime, and insects obviously require even less.  Do you think you have holes at your house, office, business, warehouse, etc. that would allow for pest entry?  I can tell you with certainty they exist.  If you take the time to inspect the structures, your policies (regarding doors, storage, garbage, and flowers), you could very well get ahead of the game this winter.

So be sure to follow some of these simple pest control  tips and keep your house relatively free of uninvited guests this holiday season!