Goodbye Basement Pests

- National Pest Management Association
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Before I became part of the pest management industry, I associated the sound of crickets in my basement with the arrival of fall. That distinct sound male crickets make when they rub their wings together (stridulation) would regularly greet me right about the same time as the neighborhood leaf blowers. Both were annoying. But now, it’s really just the leaf blowers that have me running for the earplugs as crickets no longer seem to be an issue. 

My secret solution? A dehumidifier. Ever since we installed a dehumidifier that runs 24/7, crickets and other small insects have disappeared out of our basement – and out of our lives. Thankfully, even the frightening jumping crickets (Camelbacks) have vanished from the laundry room, forcing me to identify another acceptable reason to procrastinate on the wash.

As I have mentioned before, pests need three things for their survival: water, shelter and food. The elimination of water and moisture is paramount in making your home inhospitable to creepy crawlies. In fact, by simply eliminating – or even reducing – wetness in your basement or crawlspace – you can greatly diminish the likelihood of infestations of a myriad of pests including sowbugs, pillbugs, cockroaches, silverfish, centipedes, millipedes, and crickets.

In addition to installing a dehumidifier if there’s evidence of any moisture, make a point when pest proofing your basement to check for and fix any leaky water pipes under utility or bathroom sinks; ensure sump pumps and heat pumps aren’t leaking, and be sure the washing machine lines are intact. Of course, other parts of the house should be water-free as well but basements and crawlspaces are particularly vulnerable at this time of year as temperatures drop. 

Many of my fellow East Coasters who have recently experienced flooding from Hurricane Sandy need to ensure their homes are properly dried. Otherwise, not only will the pests mentioned above be problematic, but damp wood is especially attractive to termites. With the extensive damage they can cause, it’s essential to take preventative steps now to protect against them.

Of course, moisture elimination is only part of the pest-proofing equation. It’s also important to remove offerings of shelter that may be lurking in and around your basement.  Most spiders and insects come into the lower levels of homes through cracks and crevices.  Walk around the exterior of your home and use caulk to seal any openings you see. Pay particular attention to holes from utility lines and plumbing that come into your home. To check your work, stand in your basement with the lights off. If you see any streams of light coming in, grab the caulking gun and seal things a little tighter. If you see a lot of cobwebs in a certain area, there’s a good chance there’s a pest entry point nearby. Don’t forget to check your dryer vents. If they remain open, you have practically rolled out the red carpet for pests.

The last component of pest proofing is the elimination of food sources. When it comes to food for spiders and other insects that often infest basements, natural sources are outdoors. Be sure to keep foliage trimmed back from your home and keep mulch 18 inches from the foundation of your house. As the leaves come down, be sure to remove them from gathering around your house as decaying leaf piles are very attractive to pests. 

And I suppose that gets us back to why leaf blowers are a common sound in the fall.


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