Winter Pests 101

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Common Pests that Invade the Home During the Winter Season

 

When winter weather arrives, some pests go into hibernation while others enter homes seeking warmth and food sources. The National Pest Management Association encourages homeowners to take several precautions against common winter pests like mice, rats, raccoons, cockroaches and spiders. Follow this guide of quick tips to prevent an infestation over the next few months.

House Mice

The house mouse is the most commonly encountered rodent in the United States. House mice usually nest in dark, secluded areas like attics and basements. This rodent can cause serious property damage by chewing through drywall and also wires that can then spark an electrical fire. House mice are also known to contaminate food and spread diseases, including Salmonella and tapeworms.

Quick tips:

  • Mice can fit through an opening as small as a dime. Seal cracks and holes on the outside of the home with caulk and steel wool.
  • Keep areas clear and store boxes off of the floor because mice like to hide in clutter.
  • Regularly inspect the home for signs of mice, such as droppings, gnaw marks and damaged food.

Norway Rats

Norway rats often nest in basements, piles of debris and other undisturbed materials. They are known to gnaw through almost anything – including plastic or lead pipes – to obtain food or water. Norway rats are also a vector of many diseases like jaundice, rat-bite fever and cowpox virus.

Quick tips:

  • Norway rats can fit through an opening as small as ½ inch (or the size of a quarter). Inspect the outside of the home for any gaps or crack and fill them with silicone caulk.
  • Eliminate sources of moisture in crawl spaces and basements.
  • Regularly inspect inside the home for signs of an infestation, including greasy rub marks caused by the rat’s oily fur.

German Cockroaches

The German cockroach is the most common species of cockroach found throughout the world. German cockroaches prefer to live in small areas close to food and moisture, so human homes make the perfect habitat. This type of cockroach often hitchhikes indoors via grocery bags, boxes and secondhand appliances, and is commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms. German cockroaches can contaminate food sources and spread bacteria and human pathogens. Moreover, cockroach allergens are know to trigger allergies and exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially in children.

Quick tips:           

  • Keep counters and floors clean and free of crumbs.
  • Vacuum frequently and dispose of garbage regularly.
  • Pay attention to kitchens and bathrooms, especially under appliances and sinks.

Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown recluse spiders prefer to spin webs in undisturbed places, such as closets, attics, crawl spaces and basements. Like other types of spiders, the brown recluse is frequently found inside cardboard boxes, along window moldings and in seldom-used clothing and shoes. These spiders can bite and inject venom if disturbed, making them dangerous to humans.

Quick tips:           

  • Keep trees and shrubs trimmed away from the home and cut back limbs overhanging the roof. This will help reduce the chance of spiders finding a way inside.
  • Store clothing and shoes inside plastic containers. Pay special attention to shoes, baseball mitts and gloves that aren’t used as frequently as other items, as spiders like to hide inside them.
  • If you suspect you have a spider bite, seek prompt medical attention.

Raccoons

Raccoons are commonly found in the wooded eastern portions of the country. This type of wild animal occasionally enters homes through attics or chimneys in search of a denning site. Raccoons are a major host of rabies in the United States.

Quick tips:           

  • Store trashcans and recycling bins in sealed areas such as a locked shed or outhouse. If trashcans are kept outdoors, use animal-proof lids.
  • Inspect the outside of your home for access points, such as broken vent covers. Repair any loose siding or shingles.
  • Install a mesh cover or cap over chimneys and other exposed openings to prevent entry. Also, keep tree branches trimmed back from the house.