December 13, 2022
Many bugs and small rodents would like to live in your home. That’s because it’s a good place for them to find food and shelter.
Unfortunately for you, they aren’t ideal tenants. They can trigger allergies, spread diseases, and eat everything from your sweaters to the beams that hold up your house.
So, what can you do to keep them out or, if they’ve gotten in, kick them out? Here are some pointers.
The easiest way to deal with pests is to not have to deal with them. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says you can do that by preventing them from getting in, and making your living space unattractive to them in case they do.
One way to keep pests out of your home is to check for them in bags, packages, and boxes you bring indoors. Another way is to close off anything they can use as entrances. To do that, the EPA recommends:
• Caulking crevices around cabinets or baseboards.
• Using steel wool to fill in spaces around pipes.
• Covering holes with wire mesh.
Since some pests likely will get in your home anyway, you should make it as uninviting to them as possible to discourage them staying. The EPA says you can do that by:
• Fixing leaky plumbing and not letting water accumulate anyplace in your home, even in trays under your house plants and refrigerator.
• Storing food in tightly sealed containers and making sure garbage containing food scraps is in tightly sealed trash cans.
• Getting rid of things like stacks of newspapers, magazines, or cardboard, which provide pests with places to hide and breed.
Some pests are easy to spot in your home, such as ants on the kitchen counter. Others aren’t always out in the open. If you think you have pests, you should try to confirm that you do and identify them. That way, you’ll know how best to deal with them.
Start by checking inside and around your cabinets and drawers for fecal matter. For cockroaches, this shows up as brown spots. For rodents, it’s small, dark droppings.
If you don’t find fecal matter in easily viewable places but suspect you have pests, look under your sink and behind your stove and refrigerator, if possible. Use a flashlight if necessary.
Sawdust on or around windowsills or exposed beams could indicate that you have carpenter ants or termites. Small holes around your baseboard may be a sign you have mice. And small holes in your wool clothing are likely due to moths.
If your pets are scratching themselves, they may have fleas. If you’re feeling itchy, it may be due to bedbugs. And on top of all that, your pantry could be home to a variety of different insects that are attracted to cereals, flour, herbs, spices, chocolate, dried fruits, and similar items.
What should you do if you have pests? The National Resources Defense Council endorses a widely used pest control system called Integrated Pest Management. It involves starting with solutions that predominantly involve elbow grease and only moving up to pesticides if needed.
For pantry bugs, that means removing all foods you think they might be in, and thoroughly cleaning the areas where the foods were stored. For rodents, plant mouse traps baited with foods such as peanut butter near places you’ve seen fecal droppings. And flies, stink bugs, lantern flies, and other flying insects can be swatted with a fly swatter or, if they don’t sting, crushed with a paper towel.
For other pests, including outdoor ones, the Northwest Center for Alternative to Pesticides has a list with links to pesticide-free solutions for getting rid of them. Some, such as cockroaches, might require chemicals. Others, such as fleas and bedbugs, require extensive processes to eliminate.
If you have to use pesticides, be sure to follow the instructions and take precautions so they won’t harm you, other people in your household, or your pets.
And if you need to call in an exterminator, make sure you use one that’s licensed in your state, has a written service guarantee, and will provide you with written findings, treatment proposals, and costs.