This guide to common pet reptiles will help you send pests – definitely.
Pests are everywhere, and having a few in your home is almost inevitable. But knowledge is power when it comes to animals, says Dr. Nancy Troyano, director of technical education and training at Rentokil Pest Control.
When you know how to recognize and prevent an infestation, you can keep unwanted visitors away. The first step is to learn which pests could become a problem for you.
These are the most noticeable pests, according to Troyano.
Termites and carpenter ants devour the foundation, and you should call a professional to get rid of them. They are usually hard to see, but you can still find evidence that they are around.
In the northeast underground termites build mud tubes that you can usually see. Look for a brown spot around the house, both inside and out, and pay special attention to ropes in the basement.
Other hints are blister paint, loose sidewalk, piles of mud or a substance that looks like sawdust.
Homeowners in the Southwest and California should be wary of dry wood termites. They create colonies in the forest instead of the land, and they need very little moisture. Watch out for piles of excrement or swarms of termites flying out of the forest.
Chips are a big problem in crowded cities and apartment buildings. Although they do not actually cause damage to a home, they do need professional extermination – and they are just vile.
Chips are attracted to food and garbage, and are usually brought in from outside. Broking or rented furniture is a big culprit of chip infestations.
The “advantage” of chips is that they are large, so you will know for sure when you have a problem.
Most unwanted bugs are quite harmless – just annoying.
After Zika’s outbursts, mosquitoes generate more concern than in the past. Standing water creates a breeding ground for these pests, so try to minimize the water collected around your home.
Bed bugs are a big problem in cities where it is easy for them to bring in furniture, clothes or people – and they are notoriously difficult to remove. Homeowners with pets also beware of ticks and fleas.
Bugs aren’t the only unwelcome guests you can meet – beware of rodents, too.
Bird feeders are a “mouse buffet,” says Trojan, so watch out for those. Mice are also pulled inside to avoid the cold, so homeowners in colder climates need to make sure their homes are tightly sealed.
Then there are our flying friends: bats. Bats are usually found in homes with attics or chimneys because they like to hang out in dark cavernous places.
You can easily lure one or two bats, but if you have a big problem, you’ll want to call a professional. A word of warning about these winged animals: They can carry rabies, so beware of all the DIY measurements made.
What to look for where you live
The types of pests you encounter mostly depend on where you live.
- Tropical, humid places like Florida are breeding grounds for water-loving pests like mosquitoes.
- In forested areas, you will find spiders, ants and beetles.
- In the desert you have to take care of snakes and scorpions.
The type of home will also determine what pests you get. Log cabins are the most pestilent homes, Trojan reports, and can attract beetles, termites and bees. Houses with vinyl siding or brick tend to be safer bets.
Older homes are also a concern, as they are full of cracks and crevices where pests can enter or settle. Spiders and silverfish love these corners.
Newly built homes come up with their own numbers. When wooden beams are exposed to the elements during construction, they collect moisture, which attracts fungal beetles. These tiny beetles are very common and will go away on their own after the material dries – but this could take up to a year. The fungal beetle has been nicknamed the “new home pest,” says Troyano.
How to prevent pests
The good news is that most pests are easily lured out of the home.
Troyano trains people on the biology and behavior of pests. Rather than take off an insecticide, she says, you can “outwit” the insects. “If I have an ant problem, and I know what they like to eat, I’ll take away their food.”
Don’t forget to think about how the animals get in. Plants and trees can act as a highway for pests. “I watched ants walk along tree limbs into a home,” says Troyano.
Here are Troyano’s top tips for keeping your home free of unwelcome intruders:
- Don’t let them in. Keep your house sealed beautiful and tight. Use window screens, seal windows and door frames, and block other exterior entrances.
- Keep the outside of your home tidy. Mow grass regularly, prune shrubs and trees to prevent branches from touching your home, and keep mulched beds away from the house.
- Beware of water pools and drainage problems. You don’t want water to pool at your home foundation. Make sure your drains direct water away from the house. Similarly, you don’t want hills sloping to your house. You will also want to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your yard by paying attention to stagnant watercourses, such as bird baths.
- Inspect your house inside and out. Check regularly for signs of pests.
Originally published August 2016.