Things Your Parents Didn’t Tell You About Taking Care of Your Home: Pest Control
A routine for pest control is one of those things that you don’t think about until you find yourself really needing it. Particularly in warmer climates or areas with a mild winter, unwelcome visitors to your home can not only be annoying or distasteful, they can also do permanent damage to your home, furnishings, and belongings over the long-run or even the health of you and your family. A persistent pest problem can even impact the value of your home and can increase the risk of pests for neighbors, making this an issue you’ll want to get a handle on well before it develops into a full-blown problem.
Keep in mind that chemical pesticides can be dangerous or lethal if accidentally ingested or even touched, so if pests have gotten to the level of an infestation, it is important to leave removal and treatment to the professionals. Luckily, preventing pests is far easier and more cost-effective than removing them once they’re entrenched, and often if you make the house hostile to their presence, most critters will leave of their own accord for more fertile grounds.
The most important guideline is to avoid providing access to ‘pest food,’ namely anything bugs, mice, and other assorted vermin are likely to see as a snack. This means:
- Store dried goods – cereal, pet kibble, flour, sugar, etc – in sealable, airtight containers (preferably metal, glass, or thick plastic, to prevent mice from chewing through). This has the added benefit that foods will go stale more slowly than if stored in the original packaging.
- Avoid leaving dirty dishes in the sink or around the house.
- Avoid leaving pet food out overnight.
- Take out the trash at least once a week. Outdoor trash cans should have secure lids and be kept a distance from the door.
- Clean up spills and crumbs as soon as you can.
- Restrict eating to a few places in the house (such as the kitchen and dining room tables), especially if you have younger kids, to reduce the risk of crumbs ending up scattered about.
- Keep counters clean, wiping them down regularly instead of just spot-cleaning.
You’ll also want to seal the house against pests. Put screens on all windows you’re inclined to open and check them periodically to make sure they fit right in their frames and don’t have any holes. If a screen has a hole, replacing the screen is better and more effective than trying to patch it. Also, use caulk to seal cracks around windows, baseboards, pipes, and anywhere else you notice bugs getting in, to reduce the number of easy entrances.
Other steps include recycling old newspaper, boxes, and cardboard regularly to avoid letting potential bedding accumulate to be used by mice and roaches.
Maintaining a pest-resistant yard is just as important when it comes to whole-home pest defense. Keep mulch and wood piles away from the side of the house (ideally at least 30 feet) to discourage mice, termites, and other pests. Look for other evidence of pest-friendly areas, including rotting trees, standing water, or unsecured garbage cans too close to the home. Remove rotting wood and dump out any standing water.
Give the attic at the least cursory look-over, if not a proper cleaning, in the spring and fall. Use a flashlight to look in all the nooks and crannies for animal nests.
Keep down moisture in the house, especially in the form of still water, to discourage roaches. Mop up spills immediately, fix leaky pipes as soon as you can, and check your basement for excess moisture. If your basement is consistently damp, address any potential sources of leaks and consider installing a dehumidifier.
If your house has a crawl space, check foundation vents if applicable. Make certain that they’re undamaged and firmly in place, and clear them of any debris, to reduce the chances of something nesting under your house.
Keep your house clean of dust and regularly wash bedding and curtains, especially if you suspect you have a problem with dust mites.
If you’re having trouble with wasps specifically, you can put up a fake wasp nest outside to discourage wasps from setting up a nest (as they’re fairly territorial, and often won’t move in if they think the area’s already occupied).
Cats and dogs like rat terriers are a natural pest deterrent, but pay special attention to any part of the house they’re not allowed in (like an attic or mechanical room) since mice and other critters will gravitate away from predators.
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