Brace yourselves, homeowners. Winter is coming, and its unpleasant chill will send a number of unwelcome critters scurrying into your homes in search of warmth, food, and shelter, unless you set up the proper defenses. Here are some tips in DIY pest control that will help you put out the “No Vacancy” sign on these creepy tenants.
The Kitchen is Closed
Unprotected food rings the dinner bell for hungry intruders. Pantry items, such as baking ingredients, pasta, rice, cereal, cookies, and pet food – “dry” foods, should be stored in airtight containers made of nothing less than heavy plastic, as both rodents and insects alike can effortlessly chew threw the flimsy paper or cardboard packaging these items come in. An unsettling thought: A food product can become infested by one or more insects before and after reaching the grocery store. This is a rare occurrence, but all the more reason to unpack your groceries and transfer the “dry” food items to containers.
Regardless of aesthetic appeal, you should never leave a bowl of fruit out on your kitchen counter or table. As fruit ripens, it gives off a strong aroma that purposefully attracts seed-spreading critters, which is how wild produce is sown, but your kitchen is not a grove. Store all of your produce in the refrigerator; the cold deters pests and slows down the ripening process of most crop items, allowing you more time to enjoy them.
If your trashcan has means to breathe, releasing the odors of discarded rubbish, vermin will be lured with full disregard for expiration dates and mold. Purchase a trash can with a locking lid, in addition to thicker trash bags that help mask the stench of the garbage. And, while on the subject of waste, be sure to never leave dirty dishes in the sink, and regularly clean your garbage disposal.
Finally, make it a habit to clean the stove top, cutting board, counter spaces, and other kitchen surfaces after cooking and eating; remove all stains and crumb trails because even the smallest trace of nourishment will attract a swarm of insects. Ants are a great example: One or two “scouts” trail the kitchen in search of food and, once a source is found, the “scouts” return to the colony, which proceeds with an invasion.
Water is essential to all forms of life, and if critters have access to water in your home, they can breed and multiply. Bugs, in particular, are attracted to damp environments, making the bathroom a prime target for infestation. Clear clogged drains and fix dripping faucets and/or shower heads to prevent standing water in the sink and bathtub. Regularly clean the toilet bowl and tank to chemically treat the water. And, run the bathroom fan after each use of the shower or bath to clear the air of humidity.
Roaches are notorious for hanging around and crawling into plumbing systems, and you may notice that most vermin frequent or hide out under the kitchen or bathroom sink, where it is dark and moist. For this reason, you should habitually check the plumbing in your home for leaks. Minor leaks can be temporarily fixed with epoxy, clamps, waterproof tape, or patch kits, until you replace the cracked portion of the pipe; do not rely on a temporary fix to permanently keep pests away because if the pipe is in worse enough shape to crack or break once, it will do it again.
Seal Up Your Home
Where there is a will, there is a way, and pests are ever searching for viable access points into your home; even the smallest opening, so long as air can pass through it, will allow free entry to the tiniest of raiders. Take the time to conduct a thorough examination of your home’s exterior from the base of its foundation to the top of the roof, and build your barricades. Fill any cracks, gaps, or holes you see in the foundation, siding, or roof seam with weatherproof silicon caulking or flexible patching compound; this includes fissures along a window frame and any cavities where wires, cables, and/or pipes enter the home. If a screen is torn or missing from a door, window, exhaust vent, or air flow vent in the attic, replace it or use an aluminum screen patch for a temporary fix. Seal off door perimeters with weather stripping and, if the door has warped from changing weather conditions, address this issue by sanding down the bowed sides or readjusting the door mechanics.
Your roof is an operable entry point for a range of vermin, including rats, bats, possums, and raccoons, to enter the attic, where they will happily feast on the insects that prematurely invaded the loft ahead of them. When inspecting the roof, check for loose shingles or weather-beaten portions that have become lax with moisture and mold, and replace these sections. Soffit and attic vents should be covered with insect screening and hardware cloth; hardware cloth, if properly installed with a staple gun, deters larger vermin from infiltrating the attic. Caulk any holes you see along the roof, and if you have a chimney, consider the installation of a chimney cap.
Get Rid of the Clutter
Clutter creates more places for critters to hide and nest; not only that, but some insect diets allow for manufactured biodegradable materials. An example: Silverfish eat cellulose, glue, linen, and silk, while cockroaches devour book bindings and wallpaper paste. This being said, your first step in de-cluttering your home should be the removal of the following items:
- Newspapers and magazines
- Paper and plastic bags
- Cardboard boxes
- Junk mail
- Used bottles
The next step is to go through your home, room by room, and part with the things you do not need or use anymore, such as old clothes and shoes, books, or the tacky holiday gifts your relatives gave you – we all get those. You do not necessarily need to throw these things out with the garbage; depending on their condition, you can bring these items to a Goodwill and get a tax write-off.
Third and last step: Organize the remainder of your clutter. Any space in the home you use for storage, whether it is the basement or attic or a spare room, venture in there and pack up your belongings in sealable plastic tubs. If you have a stack of important papers and documents, lock up the irrecoverable items (e.g., birth and marriage certificates, passports, and medical records) in a fireproof box and file the rest away in a labeled folder system. Finally, free up your closet space by packing your non-seasonal wear in plastic tubs and store them where it is cool, dry, and well-ventilated – not the attic.
Regular landscape maintenance reduces bug populations. Prune shrubs and trim back tree branches that touch your home; these create a natural bridge for non-flying insects to cross. Mow the lawn to uncover ant hills and other signs of bug colonization. Clean out the gutters and drains to prevent standing water, and rake up piles of leaves and debris that pose as hiding places for crawlies. If you have a traditional wood fireplace, stack your kindling outside, away from your home; bugs eat and inhabit timber, and to pile it beside your home provides an access point into your domicile.
You do not need to fight insect armies alone; invite their natural predators – birds and bats – to even the odds. Simply install a few birdhouses and/or bat houses, and set out a fresh water supply with a birdbath; be sure to change out the water once a week to prevent growing algae or hatching mosquito larvae. Some of you readers may be hesitant about encouraging bats to live in your yard, but as these flying mammals are nocturnal and have a diet that typically consists of insects and fruit, you will hardly ever see them unless you are a night owl.
Just as some plants repel humans (e.g., poison ivy or stinging nettle), there are species of flora that ward off bugs. You can add these leafy blockades to your garden or keep them potted in your home; you can even purchase their extracted oils and make a natural bug spray. This last tip in DIY pest control cannot solely guarantee your home will be free of insects; it is merely an extra precaution to take after following all of the previously mentioned guidelines.
Crawling to a Conclusion…
Please note that the guidelines in this article help prevent the invasion of vermin, not control or eliminate an already existent raid. If you find yourself facing a current infestation, call a professional pest control service, and then follow these guidelines after your home is critter free.