Everyone knows that pests are worst in the summer. Mosquitoes buzz overhead. Field mice run through lawns.
However, while certain pests recede during the winter, some pests can become more prevalent during the colder months.
Consider these statistics about rodents, collected by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). Rodents enter around 21 million homes every winter, most of which are in the Northeast. In fact, 45% of in-home rodent sightings occur in the fall and winter months, far more common than the summer or spring. Additionally, once a rodent enters your home, the infestation can spread with alarming speed, as a female mouse can mother twelve young every three weeks.
But rodents aren’t the only winter pests. Many homeowners observe an increase in certain winter insects too.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to make sure your home is prepared for winter pest problems. Whether you are concerned about the presence of winter bugs or you have seen a rodent scurry across your floor, this guide is designed to help you put an end to wintertime pests.
Why You Need Winter Pest Control
Many people are unconcerned about winter pest control because they don’t see insects or rodents in their outdoor environments. They assume the pests have all hibernated for the winter. This isn’t the case.
- Prevent Pests From Coming Inside
However, you need to remember that bugs and rodents want a nice warm place to call home for the winter. Your home may be just that location.
Rodents are especially prone to invading warm homes come wintertime. While underground holes and brush piles outside are inviting residences for rodents during the warmer months, as temperatures cool, the inside of your home can become the preferred spot.
Nest building is also a structural problem during the winter. Because mice often build their nests in the attics and walls of homes, they are doing so in an area with exposed wires, insulation and load-bearing beams. Mice have continually-growing teeth, which means they need to wear their teeth down by chewing on hard materials throughout their lives. This chewing can weaken beams, render insulation less effective and even create fire hazards by exposing wires.
When tackling the presence of bugs in the house in winter, professionals also address problem areas that may invite warmer-month pests. Winter pest control helps prevent rodents and bugs from using your home for hibernation and make your home more impenetrable in the summer. Because professionals can locate nests of unwanted guests, they can also identify the entry points that they used to get into your home in the first place, thus eliminating future access.
- Avoid Potential Health Concerns
But beyond the annoyance of winter pests, hibernating or cold-weather-avoiding invaders can pose a significant health concern. Because we tend to spend more time in our homes during the winter, our level of exposure to the health hazards of pest invasion increases.
For example, rodents usually bring about other disease-causing insects, such as fleas, ticks and lice. According to the NPMA, mice can drop 25,000 fecal pellets in a year. Plus, they urinate almost constantly. During the winter, 50% of rodent infestations take place in the kitchen. That means food preparation surfaces could be exposed to rodent waste — a definite and severe health hazard.
Various insects, especially the dreaded cockroach, have been known to cause respiratory issues as well, exacerbating problems among asthma sufferers. Spiders are known to bite, and even bites from non-poisonous spiders can cause reactions. Here in Cape Cod, we are home to both the Northern and Southern variety of Black Widow spiders, which are one of the more potently lethal poisonous spiders.
Between both the health and structural risks associated with non-invited pests during the wintertime, it is imperative to do everything in your power — including partnering with a pest control professional — to make sure you don’t have a winter pest problem. While you may be tempted to ease up on pest control during the winter, know that you winter pest control approach should adapt, not end. Proactive pest control means you’re working to potentially avoid more hassle and future unnecessary expenses.
How Pests Can Invade Your Home in Winter
Pests take specific routes to enter your home during the winter. By identifying the common entry points, you can take steps both during the winter time and the warmer months to protect your home:
Here in New England, many people still use wood-burning heat. While a cozy wood stove is a beautiful addition to any home, woodpiles pose a risk for pest infestation.
Rodents and other critters will inevitably use woodpiles to make winter nests, so store your pile at least 20 feet away from the home. That way, even when they do make their homes in the woodpiles, they won’t be tempted to cross into your home when it gets unusually cold.
With the rise of energy-efficient home design, many homeowners have found savvy ways to insulate their homes, thus saving themselves significant amounts of money on home heating and cooling. However, there is one drawback to superior insulation. Because modern walls are so good at keeping out the cold, they are not as affected by the changing temperatures outside. That makes them ideal homes for pests of all types.
The best way to keep your walls pest-free is to ensure they don’t have access in the first place. That means sealing your walls both inside and out. If there are places where you can see insulation, then you are opening the door to invaders.
- Moisture Areas
While rodents like warm places — bugs, especially cockroaches — seek out moist areas. That’s why cockroaches are common under kitchen sinks and in bathrooms.
Make sure there aren’t any leaking pipes, clogged drains or plumbing issues that might be causing condensation build up. This will make your home less inviting to moisture-loving bugs.
- Cracks and Holes
One of the frustrations of fighting rodent invaders is their ability to squeeze through small spaces. Keep this in mind: A mouse can fit through a hole the size of a dime, and a rat can fit through a hole the size of a quarter —even though both are much larger that.
That means you need to be extra vigilant about identifying and sealing any potential entry point. If you have an older home, this is even harder. Various cracks can develop, and seals between the home and the foundation can wear out over time. Aging mortar between bricks in need of repointing can also serve as an access point despite being hard for your eyes to see.
You want to pay special attention to the areas in which your utilities enter your home. These are sealed, but the product used to seal them will age over time. If the sealant has cracked, that could be just enough space for a small rodent or insect to enter your home.
If you aren’t confident in your ability to do this work on your own, consult with either a pest control professional — like our team here at Pest Pros! — or a contractor who has experience with such issues.
- Broken Screens
Window and door screens are usually installed so you can open your windows without letting bugs in when it’s warm out. However, those screens are still a line of defense in the winter as well. This is especially true if you have older windows.
Sometimes there are small entry points that exist between the actual window and the screen. While these small fissures may not contribute to drafts in your home, they can allow insects and other pests to enter the walls of your home. Make sure your screens are free of damage and fit properly into the window frame.
- Under Doors
In a place like Cape Cod, where the winters can get very cold, door sweeps are a must for keeping out drafts. However, they also block the entrance for critters.
If you don’t have door sweeps, put that on the top of your list. But even if you do, you might want to consider checking them to ensure the rubber seal is still pliable. As door sweeps age, they will harden, and that can make them less effective.
Woodpiles are perfect nesting places for rodents. However, if you have clutter — especially in the attic or garage — it creates a similar environment as a woodpile, and it could be just as inviting to an unwanted invader. If you are storing things for a long period, it is a good idea to place them in sealed rubber containers. This will make sure a critter can’t transform your keepsakes into an inviting home.
Additionally, keep your boxes off the floor. Cardboard boxes are especially susceptible, as mice can easily chew through a corner and transform your storage into a winter mansion.
- Improperly Stored Food
When you purchase sugar, it usually comes in a paper bag. Over the winter especially, this is not the ideal way to store it long-term.
You want to place dry goods like that in sealed containers that are sturdy enough to keep rodents at bay. The same is true of things like cereal or rice, which can serve as sustenance for an unwanted guest.
Chimneys, which release warmth into the air, are inviting entry points for critters of every size. While a raging fire may make the journey into your home harrowing enough that critters are kept at bay, today’s chimneys are often used for steam exhaust or other heating purposes. As such, rodents and bugs alike may take the opportunity to build a nest in the upper reaches of your chimney.
Luckily, there are screens and other pest prevention devices that can be installed on your chimney. However, you need to make sure such deterrents don’t also limit the ventilation capacity of your chimney, or else you may raise your risk for air quality issues. It is best to have a professional install such devices.
Many homes opt to insulate the ceiling between the attic and the top floor rather than the roof and the attic. Unfortunately, that also means the seal between the roofline and the attic is often neglected.
Bugs, especially wasps and spiders, are eager to get out of the cold weather. An attic with access along the roofline is a perfect place for these bugs to hibernate.
Even though these bugs may enter your home initially to escape the cold, many find attics to be so comfortable that they don’t choose to leave when the winter ends. Wasps can become a danger to a home’s residents, especially those with young children and pets.
Trust Pest Pros for Your Pest Control Needs
If you live in Sandwich, Massachusetts or Cape Cod, turn to Pest Pros. We have the experience to address a wide variety of pest problems, whether they are insects, spiders, rodents or nuisance wildlife. We take pride in our work, meaning we won’t quit until your pest problem is solved.
When you get in touch with us, you’ll get a free inspection and estimate. We also offer green solutions, so you can feel comfortable tackling your problem without hurting the environment. If you’ve spotted winter pests in your home, contact us today!