Written by: Bobby Kossowicz, mother of two, Branchburg, New Jersey
Editor’s Note: Bobby Kossowicz is a mother of two from Branchburg, New Jersey, who has past personal experience with pests and the importance of controlling them. Before becoming a full-time mom, Bobby worked in the pest control industry, and she combines her professional experience with her perspective as a mom to share the importance of understanding pests and how to protect your family from them.
Everyone has encountered a pest problem from time to time. An infestation can be inconvenient, embarrassing and, at times, a serious danger to our family’s health or property. So while we resolve to make 2013 healthier, wealthier and wiser, let’s consider what we can do to also make it pest-free! Here are the Top 10 ways to make 2013 a pest-free year.
1. Inspect your attic. Take a few extra minutes when returning those holiday decorations, and at least a few more times a year, to inspect your attic or storage area. Have you heard any strange noises or scratching in the attic? Look for visible signs of squirrels, raccoons, rodents or other wildlife infestation by inspecting the perimeter of the room for droppings and nesting material. Depending on the type of critter, droppings can vary in size but are typically dark in color and in the shape of a pellet. Check your walls for droppings as well as these could indicate a bat infestation. Look in narrow crevices for roosting bats in attic walls. Also, inspect for broken vents or holes which would allow wildlife to enter the attic from outside. When not in the attic, simply listen and inspect at the first sign of any strange scurrying or scratching noises coming from the attic.
2. Trim trees and other brush away from your home. Overgrown trees and brush around your home offer a highway into it for wildlife and pests. Walk around the outside of your home regularly and cut back tree branches that are growing too close. Branches can promote bat infestations with their shade and literally create a bridge into your home for squirrels and other wildlife. Shrubs and other brush can encourage pest infestations around the outside of your home. Plus, insects will enter through tiny gaps around your foundation, windows and doors.
3. Caulk windows and doors. After trimming back trees and brush, thoroughly inspect the inside and outside of your windows and doors. Caulk any gaps or openings. This is primarily how insects enter the home and, as the old saying goes – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
4. Do a perimeter spray. Your home offers the necessary elements an insect needs to survive: food, water and shelter. Create a barrier around your home and you will see a dramatic decrease in common household pests such as spiders, ants, silverfish and more. If you are a “do-it-yourselfer,” visit your local home and garden store to inquire about a perimeter pest control spray. If such work is too much for you, contact a local pest management professional and inquire about using a quarterly service plan to protect your home from pests.
5. Properly collect and store firewood both inside and outside the home. Your state likely recommends or requires that you buy firewood locally, ideally within 50 miles of your home! Doing so helps to minimize the spread of invasive species. Firewood pests can include beetles, carpenter ants, bees, rodents, termites and more. Do your best to store firewood at least 20 to 30 feet away from your home so as not to invite termites and other insects to take up residence. Dry your firewood quickly and keep it dry. Raise the wood off the ground and keep it covered from the elements once it is dry. Always shake firewood rigorously before bringing it indoors to remove any insects that may be living on it.
6. Don’t bring bed bugs home from a trip. The best way to avoid a bed bug infestation is to travel wisely. When at a hotel, pull back the fitted sheets and inspect the mattress for signs of a bed bug infestation. Immediately change rooms if you find blood stains or bug casings in the folds of the mattress or box spring. Store your luggage on hard surfaces and away from fabrics while in hotel rooms. Leave your luggage in the garage upon returning home. Launder all clothing immediately upon returning and dry at a high temperature to kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home with you. Read “Don’t bring bed bugs back as souvenirs” for some additional tips on how to avoid bringing bed bugs home.
7. Clean your gutters! Not only will clogged gutters cause damage to your home, but they also are inviting to insects. Mosquitoes and other insects are attracted to the water in clogged gutters, plus birds and squirrels may even nest in them! Experts recommend cleaning gutters at least twice a year to keep them free flowing and pest free.
8. Put a tight seal on pet food! Many pet owners don’t realize how inviting pet food is to rodents and insects. Eliminate the food source by storing in a rodent- and pest-proof container with a tight seal. Take up your pet’s food bowl when meal time is finished.
9. Perimeter spray your yard to keep ticks at bay. Lyme disease is all over the news these days and can be quite serious causing long term effects if it goes untreated. Protect your family by doing a tick check on each member, including pets, every night, especially during the height of tick season (typically April through September). Have your lawn perimeter treated by a pest management professional, or do it yourself with products from your local home and garden store to reduce the number of ticks. Read my previous post about the dangers of Lyme disease, “Lyme Disease Danger Gets Personal.” You also may want to check read other posts on Lyme disease here.
10. Keep a clean house. Regularly vacuuming your carpets and sweeping floors can help reduce the number of pests. Declutter your home and always try to quickly dispose of garbage to keep your home free from bugs. A clean and tidy home is a healthy home, and it’s probably the easiest step to take to stay pest-free in 2013.