Stop Paying for Pests
Pests and people are attracted to the same things: an easy meal, a convenient water source, and a cozy place to raise a family. All too often they find these things inside our homes. Delayed repairs and poor maintenance quickly become an open invitation for bugs and rodents to enter. Once inside, it only takes a little food and water to convince them to stay. Insects alone cause more than $5 billion in damages annually in the United States. Avoid the expense and hassle of dealing with pest damage by preventing it in the first place.
A leaky basement is more than an inconvenience. Pooling water attracts all kinds of pests, including insects, rodents, snakes and other unwanted creatures. It also increases humidity that can lead to dangerous structural damage by termites and fungus. Check the grading and downspouts around your house to make sure that rainwater drains away from the foundation, and address other potential sources of leaks like windows, walls, and sump pumps as problems arise.
Clogged Rain Gutters
Clogged rain gutters allow moisture to build up close to the roof line. In addition to structural problems, clogged gutters provide a water source for insects and snakes to breed. Clean gutters in the spring, and after leaf drop in the fall, or consider installing gutter guards to eliminate the cause of clogged gutters.
Pesky insects like cockroaches and silverfish love humid places. Leaky pipes, slow drains and even poorly vented bathrooms create conditions that lure these little creatures. Address repairs to these problems quickly, or you may have to contend with creepy crawlies.
Trash and Recyclables
It's no secret that the food scraps in trash cans attract bugs and rodents. Avoid infestations by properly bagging and sealing garbage and storing it in closed containers. Be sure to rinse out recyclables, and consider upgrading from the open-top curbside recycling container to a closed container.
Poor Landscape Maintenance
Tall grass and overgrown shrubs give cover to rodents, insects, and other creatures that would not be welcome inside the house. While these animals are free to roam in their own domain, you can keep them out of the house by practicing regular lawn maintenance, and not planting shrubs and trees right up against the siding.
Outdoor cooking and dining attracts ants, flies, and wasps, but the grease and residual food left on the grill after a cookout can bring even more pests, including mice and rats. When the picnic is over, don’t forget to clean the outdoor cooking area.
Any little food scrap is an invitation for bugs and rodents, and dirty dishes are a veritable buffet bar for all kinds of pests. Keep your kitchen clear of insects and rodents by washing dishes after every meal. Wipe down counters, stovetops, and sinks while you're at it.
Composting is a fantastic way to recycle food waste into an excellent garden soil amendment—but compost piles attract hungry insects and rodents. Avoid problems by using an enclosed composting system, and locate outdoor compost piles at least 50 feet from the house. Balance food scraps with garden waste like fall leaves and grass clippings to prevent a smelly mess, and do not attempt to compost meat, dairy, and fatty foods.
Some produce keeps better when not refrigerated, but on the flip side, storing ripening fruit on the counter can lure fruit flies. To reduce the risk of flies, don't let fruit sit too long before eating it, dispose of scraps after each meal. If you can't manage to eat your fresh produce before it gets over-ripe, consider freezing it for use in smoothies or baked goods.
Gaps In Siding
A mouse only needs a quarter-inch opening to get inside your home. Holes in your siding or gaps under the door are easy entry points. Inspect the siding on your house at least twice a year, paying close attention to seams, trim, and transitions from siding to masonry. Plug gaps with silicone caulk, steel wool, or expandable foam sealant.
Your attic is a great place to raise a family. Just ask a squirrel, bat, or mouse. Animals are attracted to the warmth and shelter of human houses. Possible entry points include holes or missing boards on the fascia or soffit, gaps between the fascia and eaves, gable or ridge vents without screen, or missing shingle. Inspect these areas annually, and keep them in good repair.
Door sweeps do more than simply save on utility bills. These little strips, which any DIYer can attach to the bottom of their front, side, and rear entry doors, also keep out bugs and other pests. Replace missing or worn door sweeps to eliminate a pest entry point.
Dogs and cats may be protected against fleas and ticks with preventative medication or collars, but that doesn’t mean they won’t bring bugs into the house. Whether a stink bug hitches a ride on their fur, or they bring in live rodents on purpose, pets can be adorable instigators to a pest problem. Monitor your pets’ coming and going, and inspect them when they come inside to stop unwelcome guests at the door.
Porch and Landscape Lights
A traditional porch light left on for an hour after dusk attracts thousands of insects of all kinds—and if a door is opened beside the light, those bugs will invite themselves into the house. The same holds true for landscape lighting. Even bug zappers attract far more insects than they kill. A better solution is to install motion sensitive security lighting away from the home. The light comes on when needed, and stays off the rest of the time, potentially keeping trouble and insects away.
Concrete slabs, poured or block foundations, and even masonry veneers are subject to cracking. Even the smallest crack can quickly become an entry point for insects, and larger cracks may even allow rodents inside. Inspect masonry annually, and address repairs as the need arises.
Open Garage or Basement Doors
We use them as storage spaces, workshops, studios, and potting sheds, but pests use them as a warm and welcoming home. These unwelcome guests often find their way inside when homeowners leave garage doors open for hours at a time. Garages and basements make outstanding entry points for all sorts of creatures. Always close garage and basement doors when they don’t need to be open.
Openings for Pipes and Cables
There are lots of small openings in the foundation, walls, and roof of every home to allow various utilities lines—telephone, cable, fiber, air conditioning, and gas—to pass through. Inspect and seal these holes with silicone caulk to eliminate entry points for pests.
Mice, squirrels, raccoons, birds and other critters can easily enter the home through a chimney, so close the damper when it's not in use. Install a mesh covered chimney cap, and inspect it each spring and fall to make sure it’s in place and intact.
Disorganized messes are difficult to keep dust free and clean—and they create hiding places for little creatures. Books and papers piled on an office desk are an invitation for silverfish and dust mites. Random boxes of stuff in an attic or basement invite squirrels, rats, and other small mammals to nest. Keep organized, clean and dust regularly, and purge unused stuff.
Even after a leak is repaired, the impact of water damage is just beginning. Wet wood and drywall attract mold and mildew, weakening the construction materials. The weakened materials become a food source for termites, silverfish, and other insects who feast on, and create, decay. Repair water damaged areas immediately after detection to ward off these little destroyers.
Stacked firewood attracts all kinds of insects who live in and feed on the organic matter, and it can even attract rodents. To keep the woodpile dwellers out of your home, never store firewood indoors, even for a few hours. Store firewood outdoors, off the ground, and at least 50 feet away from the house.
Bird Seed and Pet Food
Pet and wild bird food can cause rodent infestations at the points of food storage, and feeding. Mice and rats will easily sniff out poorly stored food, spilled food, and uneaten food left in food bowls. To prevent an infestation, store pet food and bird seed in tightly closed containers. Feed pets indoors at regular times—don't leave food sitting out all day. Remove uneaten food when pets stop eating at mealtime, and clean spills promptly. Feed birds at least 50 feet away from the house, and sweep up spilled seed.
Determining where the critters are entering from is the first step in getting rid of them.
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