When temperatures cool, critters that were perfectly happy outdoors begin looking for somewhere warm to spend the winter. They may decide your house is the perfect location — unless you take steps to keep them out.
You can prepare by learning what’s trying to get into your house and where they would most like to hang out once inside. The National Pest Management Association offers some information on the most common household pests that can show up in the winter:
1) Showering with a cockroach: Arguably the pest that creeps people out the most, cockroaches just love the water, so your bathroom could be their winter playground. To keep cockroaches out, eliminate leaks and standing water in the bathroom. Wash the shower curtain and liner, clean out the medicine cabinet, and check under the sink and around the tub and toilet to ensure there’s no moisture from leaky pipes or faucets. Remember, despite the urban legend about roaches surviving a nuclear holocaust, they can only live a week without water!
2) Rodents in the attic: Dusty, stuffy, hot in summer and cold in winter, the attic may not be your favorite place to hang out, but rodents like rats, mice and squirrels would just love to spend the winter in yours! Once rodents are inside, they can cause serious and costly property damage by chewing through walls and baseboards. In fact, the NPMA estimates rodents cause up to 25 percent of house fires every year by gnawing on electrical wires. To prevent a rodent infestation, secure everything you store in the attic (or basement) in sealed plastic containers rather than cardboard boxes, which are a favorite nesting spot. Keep the attic dry and well-ventilated. You can run a dehumidifier and install gutters and proper venting to keep moisture away from the attic and basement.
3) Party in the basement: Rodents also like basements, but they’re far from the only pests who will take up residence there. Spiders and a slew of other pests are happy to make their home in the dark corners and clutter that provide them plenty of places to hide. Deprive pests of their habitat by eliminating as much of the clutter in your basement as possible. Use plastic bins with secure lids for storage, rather than cardboard boxes. Pests can enter through cracks and crevices in walls and floors, so use a silicone-based caulk to seal fissures. Mice can fit through an opening the size of a dime, and other small insects need only a paper-thin crack to gain entry.
4) Ants in the kitchen: With a ready supply of food and water, your kitchen can be paradise for pests like ants. No one’s favorite picnic guests, ants are just as pesky in your kitchen where they enter through cracks and holes. To discourage ants, seal cracks or holes where pests might enter, particularly around stove and water pipes. Eliminate all moisture sites, including leaking pipes and clogged drains. Clean up crumbs, spills and stickiness on counters, tables and floors right away and never leave overripe fruit sitting out on the countertop.
5) Pests in the pantry: Other pests like your kitchen area, too, and your pantry is especially awesome to them. Most pantry pests such as beetles and Indian meal moths hitch a ride into your home in paper grocery bags, cardboard or plastic bags. The next time you grocery shop, inspect packaging before you put an item in your shopping cart. If the package is opened or shows the smallest sign of damage, don’t buy it. To ensure your pantry and cabinets are pest-free, periodically remove everything and toss out anything stale, old or expired. Stale spices and outdated flour can attract pantry pests. Wipe down the inside of cabinets and pantry shelves, and install fresh shelf paper. Store opened dry goods in plastic or glass containers that seal tightly.
6) Bugs in the bedroom: Bed bugs rival cockroaches for ick factor. Bed bugs enter your home through secondhand furniture, especially mattresses and box springs, or by hitching a ride on your luggage when you return home from a trip. Before bringing any secondhand furniture home, have a pest control professional inspect it for signs of bed bugs. After traveling, inspect suitcases outdoors before bringing them inside. Vacuum luggage before storing it or use a garment hand-steamer to help kill any bugs or eggs. Wash and dry all travel clothing, even items you didn’t wear, on hot settings. Store clothes that must be dry cleaned in sealed plastic bags until you can get them to the cleaners. Bed bugs are one pest you won’t be able to get rid of on your own, so if an infestation occurs despite your best efforts, find a qualified pest control professional at www.pestworld.org.