Pests live, crawl, and dwell inside your walls. They see you when you’re sleeping, and know when you’re awake. They know what time you go to bed and which parts of your home to eat. Although tiny in size, pests leave behind a mighty trail of damage to your home.
According to the experts in pest control, cockroaches, mice, bedbugs, and ants are among the most common pest problems for our nation’s homeowners. You will encounter these pests at least once during a lifetime. Often, spotting a pest scurrying across your floor is an indication of a much larger problem. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean these creepy, crawly tenants aren’t squatting in your home as we speak.
Luckily, there are ways to keep them from invading your space.
Inspect for Pests
If rodents, bugs, insects and other pests are just a part of Mother Nature like you and me, why should we care? Well for one, they are a nuisance. But all biases aside, they can actually pose a serious health hazard.
Pests like cockroaches, which we will dive into grander detail about later, cause gastrointestinal and respiratory illness. They can even trigger asthma attacks in some people. And they’re lingerers. They’re worse than unwanted relatives who stay weeks after the holidays have ended.
Perhaps a pest or two could be hiding right under your nose. Before dropping cash on a professional debugger, try to sniff out the culprit. This can best be accomplished when you first step into your home. A fresh perspective can allow for a less-biased olfactory response.
Think you’re in the clear? Maybe. But first, it’s time to really stretch your eyeballs past your subjective line of sight.
First, scan the room. Hopefully, it’s not something as easily spotted as capturing a creature scurrying across the room. If this is the case, stop everything and call an expert. Spotting anything bold enough to show its face is an obvious indicator of a pest problem.
On the other hand, just because you don’t see any critters in the open doesn’t mean they’re not hiding. It does, however, serve as a good indicator you won’t have to invest in a full-fledged bug raid.
Get acquainted with pest droppings, casings, and wings to save yourself from a pest problem further down the road. Still no signs of a swarm?
Sometimes, it’s not your kids who are at fault for random stains found around the home. A sign of fecal matter are spots appearing around those hard-to-reach places. A general rule of thumb? Keep an eye out for brown spots around cabinets. Look for holes in packages and openings in the home that pests can creep through from the outside.
Identifiable stains, as well as scratching noises from under the floors or the walls are the most obvious signs of a rodent issue. However, rats are nocturnal. And, depending on where they’ve set up shop, it might be harder to hear them.
Rodents tend to nest, so it’s important to check the small, dark crevices of your home. This includes cabinets, pantries or storage rooms. Pay attention to how your home feels in general. Food attracts not only rodents but also humidity.
How Pests Get Inside
Even if you believe your home provides the most pest-free prevention, you are probably incorrect.
Take, for example, an improperly sealed door. Depending on the size, it can serve as an opening for many creepy crawlers. Luckily, if it caught early enough, it is easily preventable. Experts recommend installing an aluminum or steel threshold, using a sweep, or re-caulking the frames. These can really help close the gaps between the door and the frame to give bugs less room for entering.
Make sure to always maintain your yard and grass on a regular basis. Not only will your local homeowner’s association thank you, but so will your general health. A common problem in the yard is standing water. This is an invitation for a mosquito infestation waiting to happen.
Just like a poorly sealed door, cracks in the foundation, as well as walls and perimeter of your home serves as the main entrance for pests. This includes openings for cables, heating and plumbing devices; as well as dryers, vents, and exhaust fans. Of course, this also includes large openings such as chimneys. Prevent pests by covering large openings with screens or hard-wire cloth.
Most importantly, avoid collecting clutter and old food like crumbs.
Hiding could be considered a favorite pastime of the pest population. Both bugs and rodents love to hide. Clutter, such as stacked newspaper and cardboard boxes are a fan favorite. Make sure to keep this type of storage solution to a bare minimum. This is especially important for areas prone to frequently stack up these items. This includes basements, garages, attics and other rooms used primarily for storage.
Get rid of any food or water left out in the open. Keep all food and ingredients stored in airtight containers or in the refrigerator as much as possible. Don’t let dirty dishes sit in the sink for long periods of time. This includes letting them “soak” in dirty, standing water. Also, if you have pets, remember to put the food away and not out overnight. Always take out the trash and sanitize the wastebasket regularly.
So what exactly are we looking for?
Some of the more common culprits known to frequent homes in the United States, along with rodents, include bedbugs, cockroaches, termites, and ants. Here is a further breakdown of these commonly found pests and how to properly identify what is what.
Mice enter your home because it looks cozy, has food, and is accessible. And, while they might have a sweet look with equally paired innocent intentions, their presence is anything but friendly. These little fuzzy-balls bring damage to your home. They can chew through furniture and electrical wiring, defecate on your belongings and bring a nice smorgasbord of diseases along for the ride.
So how do you identify them besides the damage and chaos they leave behind in their tracks?
Unfortunately, discovering the inhabitants is typically a sign of a major larger issue. These pests are clever, resourceful, and difficult to get rid of. This doesn’t include the additional ticks, fleas and droppings they bring with them.
These little four-legged pests tend to make themselves scarce. Once you see one scamper across your floor, it’s indicative of a much larger problem. You should always suspect a nest in your home somewhere. This could be your walls, attic, garage, or basically anywhere with an easy opening. Also, look for oddly chewed up food packages or pieces of your wall along the floor. And, for those light sleepers, scratching inside the walls at night.
The first step to eliminating rodents is checking potential points of entry. Mice and rats can easily enter through baseboards and cracks no bigger than the size of an eraser on a No. 2 pencil. When you discover any potential entryways, close it off with wire mesh. For interior findings, use steel wool and caulk to plug up any holes. The general consensus is mice can chew through practically any material but steel.
Next, start setting up traps around the house. Make sure to consider the type of trap. Sticky traps hold the mouse in place, while spring-loaded lethal traps tend to kill the mouse immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against the sticky traps because the mouse is still alive and can urinate out of fear, and mice urine can spread disease. If you’re up to the extra work and don’t want dead mice rotting in your attic, you can also find non-lethal traps that allow you to release the rodents somewhere safe. Just remember to check them regularly.
When selecting the type of bait to use in the trap, forget cheese (see eats wall above). Mice love small nuts, peanut butter, and even tiny pieces of hot dogs. The location and positioning of the trap, according to the CDC, should be perpendicular to a wall in a “T” shape. Try laying the traps near the suspected activity, such as in dark spots and behind bulky home furnishings.
Typically found in warm, moist and dark areas of the home, cockroaches are considered to be part of the more lethal family of pests.
Luckily, identifying them can be pretty simple if you follow certain basic measures. A large portion of pests, especially cockroaches, leave a particular smell in the air.
Do you smell something a bit musty or oily? This musk is known as Eau-de-cockroach. If you pay attention, you won’t soon forget the scent.
Cockroaches are particularly lethal for those who already suffer from gastrointestinal and respiratory illness. Can’t seem to escape the outdoor allergens? It could actually be what’s inside your home. These pests are known to trigger asthma attacks in some people.
An easy way to check your cabinets for cockroaches is to shine a flashlight directly into the cabinets. If you notice a lot of little brown specks clustered around certain areas of the cabinet it could be a sign of a cockroach infestation.
Sure, they are pretty tiny. But bedbugs lead a horrifying existence that is anything but pretty. These creepy creatures take over your bed. At night they feed on the people who sleep in the beds.
And, thanks to its flat shape, and tiny, fifth of an inch long size, a bedbug has the ability to hide from plain sight in tiny cracks and crevices. Luckily, they tend to leave behind a trail in their wake. Look for small maroon or brown spots on the walls. Check behind a bed or by outlets and switch plates. Bedbugs can easily spread to other parts of the home. They can even go with you in order to invade your car or office.
There’s also the off chance you could suffer from red welts on your body after a long rest. This is typically a sign that you have a full-fledged bedbug issue.
Unfortunately, identifying these pests is the easier part of the solution. The difficult part is actually getting rid of them. Remember the part earlier about them being small and flat? They can basically squeeze themselves in the most convenient hiding spots. That’s why, when you do suspect a bedbug infestation it’s imperative you obsessively check and wash everything you can think of in very hot water.
Ants, Termites, and other Creepy Crawlers
Just because we are grouping these little insects together, doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous on their own. Any type of insect infestation is going to wreak havoc on your home.
They typically tend to travel in colonies. This is probably best represented amongst the termite family. Known to cost Americans nearly $5 billion in repairs annually, termites plow through any type of wood holding up your home.
Besides the obvious clusters of termites and mud tunnels forming in and around your home, especially the foundation, there are other ways to determine if you have an infestation.
First, check any floors that seem to be sagging, have visible holes or sound hollow when you knock on them. Make sure you know the difference between termites and ants. Termites tend to have a broader center while ants are slim. Termites also have straight antennae on their head while ants are in the shape of an “L.”
While ants pose a lesser threat, they are still an issue nonetheless. Carpenter ants, specifically, leave behind evidence in the wood shaving variety. What looks like an innocent sawdust incident could actually belong to a much more significant structural damage issue to the home thanks to these ants.
Both of these critters can be easily exterminated without calling a professional. Most large retail stores sell certain types of sprays specializing in the specific type of insect removal.
The question still remains: When do you throw in the towel and call a professional?
Final Thoughts: When to Call Pest Control
Sure, you can hold off on calling a professional with your “wait and see” attitude. But if the problem isn’t going away on it’s on, the longer you wait for the more dollar bills you are throwing out the window.
Professionals are always the best call for identifying and exterminating your pest problem. If you do decide to call one, always make sure to ask what exactly they specialize in. Experts also warn to be wary of professionals who try to recommend poison as a first resort. This could not only pose harmful if inhaled by you or members of your family but potentially to your neighbors and surrounding wildlife.
Really, in the end, your best defense against the critters is making sure they don’t have a way to enter your home.
Do you have any additional tips and tricks for dealing with pests and rodents? Any interesting or funny stories pertaining to a critter incident at your home? We’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share any relevant feedback in the comment section below!