Do you like being outside in winter? We don’t mean “Do you like going for a snowshoe in your stylish winter coat with a little cocoa to keep you cozy?” We’re talking late-for-work, forgot-your-jacket, frozen-shower-hair, the-bus-is 15-minutes-late “outside in the winter.” We’re guessing you don’t love that.
Well, how you feel about standing around waiting for a bus that’s never coming while you’re buried in the cruel and uncaring snow is exactly how pests feel about being outside in the winter. As temperatures drop and the snow starts to fly, mice, bugs, and critters like them start feeling a little nervous. It’s November now, which is pest crunch time. It's either find a place to wait out the winter or they run the risk of some long, cold nights. This desperation means the pests are looking at your house the way you look at Christmas presents under the tree.
The untidy hordes would love nothing more than to sneak up inside your house, bed down, and wait out the cold winter from the comfort of right under your feet! Don’t let them. Now’s the time of year when it’s more important than ever that you preemptively pest-proof your home. As great as we are at pest control, we’re guessing you’d rather never have pests get into your house in the first place. Here’s a checklist of the steps you can follow to make sure that, come Christmas Eve, not a creature is stirring. Not even a mouse.
Did you know that mice and rats can fit themselves through openings the size of a dime? That means the cracks, crevices, gaps, and tiny openings that you might struggle to even notice could be open passages welcoming raucous rodents home. Pay special attention to doors and windows, replacing any weather stripping that’s worn down, scuffed, or damaged. If any doors or windows aren’t sealing perfectly, try adjusting them until they fit snugly. Remember: the size of a dime. Check and double-check the places where gas, water, and other utility lines enter your home and make sure that any gaps around the entry points are sealed. Not only are utility access points often wide enough to allow rodents to get inside, but the heat that gas and power lines give off attracts cold pests, like a path to the toasty promised land.
Even cracks and gaps you see on the ceiling aren’t safe--mice are notoriously good climbers. Picture mice raining down from cracks in the ceiling. You should also pay special attention to your basement and attic--mice often infiltrate your home through worn-down gaps in the insulation of unfinished areas. You can find gaps by turning off all the lights and looking for sources of light, or by lighting a candle and watching for drafts. Seal up any gaps you find with the most sturdy, material possible. Mortar, concrete, or caulk are obviously ideal, but if you’re leery of anything permanent, consider something like weather-sealed plastic, copper mesh, or a screen.
Cover your chimney and stovepipes with screens, too, and make sure the screens can’t be bitten through. Desperation promotes innovation; last year, we swear we saw mice stacking themselves to form a furry ladder up onto a roof. It was adorable and deeply, deeply disturbing at the same time.
If you can bear going out into the frigid wasteland, there are several things you can do out around your house and in your yard to make your home far less attractive to invading bugs and rodents. If you keep firewood, store it at least 20 feet away from the house. Mice and bugs love to hitchhike on wood to get into your house, and can also use it as a temporary shelter; a forward operating camp, if you will. If you keep your trash outside, store it far away from any openings into your house.
Next, take a couple passes around the perimeter of your house. Look for debris like rocks, twigs, mulch, compost piles, garbage, or dead shrubbery. Clear all this away. Ideally, you want to have about 5 to 10 feet all the way around your house be completely clear. Keep an close eye out for trees, plants, or shrubbery that’s leaning up against the house or touching the foundation. Consider removing or at least substantially trimming this growth. Any tree limbs that hang over gutters or rooftops should be cut away, as well. Mice and bugs can use these overhanging limbs as skyways up onto your roof and then into your house.
Once you’ve done all this, do one final pass over the whole yard. Look for anything that could make a decent shelter for pests. Even desperate pests are motivated by risk/reward reasoning. With nowhere to hide, pests will be less prone to try your home’s defenses; it’s just too risky.
Keep Your Kitchen Clean
Pests like roaches and mice aren’t content with simply taking advantage of your heat. They want your food, too! The number one thing that attracts pests in your home is access to food. Try to never leave grains such as bread, cereal, or pasta unprotected. Grain crumbs are like a tasty beacon beckoning any mouse who can squeeze his way in for a feast. Keep your kitchen counters clean, vacuum regularly, and never leave dishes out overnight. Crumbs and other food remains might not seem so noticeable to you, but that’s a whole meal for a mouse or a fly.
Make sure you keep produce like apples and bananas refrigerated and bagged. If you can keep any food you think could be at-risk high off the ground, that would be good. If you could keep it high off the ground and in a sealed container, that would be better. Practice good clean-up discipline; after every meal, do the dishes quickly and thoroughly. Dispose of any food remains in your garage disposal or take them outside to the trash instead of leaving them in a garbage can in the house. In fact, take all the garbage out regularly.
Be sure to mop every now and then, especially after large meals. Don’t forget about cleaning off the surfaces you ate off, either. Pests love tracking down little treats like crumbs in couch cushions or under furniture. If you can keep your kitchen squeaky clean, you’ll be going a long way towards keeping squeakers out.
Pests need water to live, just like everything else. Flies, roaches, moths, rats and similar pests are drawn to humid or wet areas. Unfinished areas like the garage, attic, or basement, tend to accumulate moist air more than other areas of the house, which is why pests are so often found there.
To make these parts of your home less accessible and appealing to pests, make sure none of your pipes are leaking or at risk of leaking. Pay special attention to the joints that connect the pipes to one another, as this is where most leaks originate. Check for gaps in windows and cracks in the ceiling, walls, and (if applicable) exposed insulation. Moisture from ice, snow, or just the wet ground can seep through gaps like these, just like pests can. Look for any puddling or stains on the floor to find where water could be getting in.
While you’re scoping out your plumbing, make sure your sump pump, gutters, and the other parts of your outdoor drainage system are all working correctly. Your drainage system is essential for transferring excess moisture out of your house, instead of letting it build up and spill out.
Finally, consider using a dehumidifier in particularly humid rooms. This will help prevent moisture accumulation and consequently make your home unappealing to pests. Make sure you’re careful about how often you’re using your dehumidifier. Read the instructions carefully, don’t set it up near anything flammable, and don’t leave it on longer than is recommended. Burning your house down is a creative way to keep your house dry, but we think you’ll find the technique has some pretty big drawbacks.
When pests get cold, they get desperate. When pests get desperate, they get clever. A lot of homes get pests during the winter, even if they never have any problems the rest of the year. That’s why it’s important to do a little proactive pest prevention before it gets cold (well, colder). By following these tips, you minimize the chances that pests will be able to use your home as a winter vacation destination.
Sometimes, you may find that you have a pest infestation even after you’ve taken precautions, however. Those nasty buggers can find about a billion ways into a house, sometimes in ways no one could expect. If that ends up being the case, give Plunkett’s Pest Control a call. We’ll solve that pest problem for you and find how it happened to make sure they don’t get in again.