Self-Care for Your House: How to Prevent Pest Problems
Our homes are our safe havens from all of life’s troubles. The last thing we want to deal with are unwanted invaders disturbing our peace of mind. Whether an owner or a renter living in the city or the burbs, there are a plethora of pests that could add stress to your life. Luckily, there are three basic things pests need to be successful: food, water, and harborage (places to hide, rest, and nest). A solid focus on each of these three things, as it pertains to the different parts of your property, will serve as a little dose of selfcare for ya crib. Here’s how to take care of your home to prevent pest problems.
Most pest populations begin outside of the home. Keeping an eye on the yard surrounding your home can help stop situations before they get a chance to develop into anything significant. If pests have places to hide, they can build up numbers and move close to the home. Pay attention to surroundings such as woodlands, marshes, waterways, etc. Where possible keep a barrier such as a fence, bare ground, etc. that will make it more difficult for pests to make the traverse from their natural habitat to your yard.
In addition to the separation between nature and your yard, look for places that pests could use to hide. Long grass, bush cover, fallen leaves, grass piles, and even retaining walls can serve as great hiding places for pest populations as they set up shop.
Some pests such as Japanese Beetles will feed on certain types of trees, shrubs, and flowering plants. Selecting plants that aren’t on the menu of the plant feeding pests of concern will avoid drawing them in. Other pests such as spiders, wasps, and other predatory insects will chase other insects into your yard. Keeping general pest populations low and paying attention to lighting that may attract insects will minimize the food available to attract unwanted guests. In addition to these, keep in mind that pet food, bird feeders, and even moisture collection areas can all be food sources for pests.
Water plays into pest populations by giving them a drink, food sources, and breeding sites. Especially after rainfall, snowfall, snowmelt and irrigation, look for areas where water is collecting. You may need to use gutters to redirect the rainfall, dirt or landscaping adjustments to fill in depressions where water collects, or trim low bushes that trap water under the leaf cover. Don’t forget about less natural water sources such as swimming pools, pet dishes, bottle caps, toys, etc. Any of these can become breeding sites if not monitored, refreshed and/or cleaned up.
Pests may find hiding places on the outside of the home in the form of cracks that develop in the foundation, gaps around pipes and wires going in and out of the home, gutters, shutters, bay windows, etc. Sealing or blocking off these potential entrance and harborage points will reduce the opportunities for pests to get in.
Throughout the interior of the home, pay attention to unfrequented places. This may be boxes of stored items, difficult to reach portions of basements and cellars, cluttered areas of the house, or other forms of long-term storage. In addition, most homes have certain spices, baking goods, or old cereals and pastas that get pushed to the back of a cupboard that can be a wide open invitation for pests to set up shop. Keep an eye on things and do a deep clean on a regular basis — quarterly is a great place to start to prevent any season-specific pests.
In addition to the old food containers mentioned above, keep items such as fruit, candy, and bags of pet food in sealed containers. There have been far too many times we have gone into homes and had to inform people that they have been sharing their favorite candy minis with roaming rodents.
The most overlooked source of food comes in the form of crumbs and grease that collects under cabinets, behind ranges, and around fridges. Both of these scrumptious items can collect in hard to reach or notice places. Simply wiping down surfaces may not be enough since the small amounts that settle into grooves and cracks and can be enough for roaches, ants and other pests to subsist. Using a detergent or degreaser and crack and crevice tool is the key to success in for most of these situations.
Last but not least are the food sources for mold, fungus and decaying matter feeders. Sometimes this will come in the form of a rodent that dies out of sight, but could also be moisture that is building up behind a wall from a leaky pipe or dripping condensation. Regularly testing humidity levels and watching for early signs of mold growth can be great clues to when a change in humidity or temperature levels is needed.
Keep in mind that many pests are just going to take the natural transit systems such as luggage, shoes, food, pet bodies, etc. as the easiest way into your home. In fact, one customer of Rove Pest Control ended up having mice in her home that somehow hitched a ride in a piano in transport! WHAT! Ticks may find their way in on a pet or in a shoe tread. Fruit flies may spring out of deliciously ripe tomatoes from the farmer’s market. Bed bugs may snag a ride in anything from a cosmetics bag to a book. These types of pests are tricky to prevent, but try things like:
Having everyone take off their shoes in a mudroom or garage before entering the living space.
Do tick checks after spending time outdoors.
Wash fruit and veggies immediately after purchasing.
Have your pets regularly checked for ticks, fleas, etc.
Help is available
If you have a pest you are unsure where to start looking for the source, reach out to your local pest control company or university extension to begin putting the puzzle together. It is always better to start the resolution early on rather than allowing time for things to get established.