Written by: Robin L. Tabuchi, Research Entomologist, University of California, Berkeley.
Winter is here, and although we are less likely to encounter pests this time of year, we need to ensure pest prevention occurs year round. In between sipping your hot chocolate, opening gifts, and enjoying the company of your family, take a few minutes to read these holiday season tips.
Firewood Forethought. Cuddling in front of a fire is a winter tradition. Whether you are traveling to visit relatives or staying home for the holidays, bear in mind that firewood needs to stay local. Why? Tree-destroying insects and diseases are commonly found in firewood. On their own they can’t disperse far, but in the bed of someone’s truck they can disperse hundreds of miles. Our forests and houses are vulnerable to infestation from these introduced pests. It is recommended that you purchase local firewood and do not move it more than 10 miles. Visit http://www.dontmovefirewood.org for more information about preventing the movement of forest pests and your state’s regulations for moving fire wood.
If you are home for the holidays, make sure you also store firewood properly. Termites are decomposers and will feast on firewood just like a fallen tree in the forest. Store firewood away from your house and stack it on concrete blocks. This helps limit the amount of soil-to-wood contact, which makes it easier to spot termite mud tubes, and increases the distance a termite would have to travel to feast on your house.
Unwanted Guests. No, I don’t mean relatives! I’m talking about pests that like to hitchhike while we travel or overwinter in our warm, cozy homes. Two unwanted guests that come to mind are bed bugs and rodents. Read, “Don’t bring bed bugs back as souvenirs,” for some tips to avoid bringing bed bugs home. If weather permits, take a quick walk around your house and search for holes in the roof and crawl space vents, and gaps under doors. Seal them with fine mesh screen to limit entry points for mice and rats.
Protect Your Pets. Like many of you, my pets are considered family members. Their safety is just as important as my child’s. Pet hospitals see a large increase in patients around the holidays. As holiday gifts arrive, please ensure the contents will not harm your pet in case it decides to open one without your knowledge. Keep gifts containing chocolate and strongly scented items somewhere your pet can’t access them. Decorations and holiday plants also can be harmful. Christmas trees, poinsettias, mistletoe and holly, can be toxic to dogs and cats if ingested. Ornaments, tinsel, and ribbons, can cause blockages if swallowed. Protect your furry family member this holiday by limiting access to these items.
As 2012 comes to an end, I wish all of you a very special holiday season and a happy New Year!