When you read the title of this blog, did your mind go to certain relatives? Or bugs and beasties? You’re on your own with the relatives (pretend you’re not home), but here are some suggestions for crawling, scurrying, slithering, buzzing intruders and ways to keep unwanted visitors out of your home. If this also describes your unwanted relatives, you have my sympathy, but you’re still on your own.
No Welcome Mat. The first thing to do is eliminate anything that attracts pests, or makes it easy for them to enter your home. Trim trees and shrubs away from your home so there’s no highway for rodents. If you have a woodpile, keep it away from your home. Check for easy access points, such as holes in the roof, gaps in the siding or stucco, and open dryer vents. Ants and rodents love sugar and crumbs, so keep your kitchen clean and store food in sturdy containers. Make sure your trash is in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and keep it in the garage if you can. Trash left outside will invite attention from rodents, dogs, coyotes – yes, even in urban areas – and even curious crows.
Exclusionary Tactics. Now that you’ve identified potential trouble spots, it’s time to get to work. Seal cracks and gaps, and install door sweeps. Make sure your window and door screens are hole-free and fit properly. Stuffing cracks and crevices with steel wool or copper mesh works well to keep rodents at bay, but depending on the size of the gap or hole, you may need more extensive measures. These might include new roof shingles, a properly installed dryer or kitchen fan vent, or wood cut to the right dimensions and secured with sturdy nails and caulk. One more tip. If a squirrel should happen to fall down your chimney while you’re on vacation, you will think that sooty-footed vandals have trashed your home. (Little known fact: A hungry, thirsty squirrel will eat ground coffee and drink balsamic vinegar.) Close the flue, make sure the spark arrestor is in good shape, and don’t ask me how I know this.
Removal. It’s going to happen. Mice will get into your house, especially if someone leaves a door open when you go on vacation (but that’s another story). Ants will appear as if by magic. Giant horrifying malevolent centipedes will stalk you at night. (Really. I know they are out to get me.) Snakes will sneak in – I don’t know why. Squirrels will fall down the chimney. What to do? I confess I used to go for the nuclear option every time. Now I take a more measured approach. Living in a rural area of the Southwest, I’ve learned that kitchen tongs work for both centipede and (non-venomous) snake removal. (I also speak to them sternly about staying outside.) I don’t use glue traps for mice, but a snap trap is fast and effective. Ants sometimes leave as mysteriously as they arrive, but there are times when I use a pesticide. I keep something pet-friendly on hand and use as little as possible.
Pest Inspection. If you are buying a home, consider a pest inspection. This is particularly important if you live in termite country, and it’s a requirement for VA loans. A pest inspection may cover more than creepy crawlies, and extend to dry rot and black mold. Be sure to ask the inspector what’s included. As with any service, make sure the inspector has any required state/local licenses or certificates, look for online reviews, and check the Better Business Bureau. Your Realtor® will probably have recommendations, and if you’re getting a VA loan, there will be a list of approved inspectors. In addition, when you are thinking of selling, an inspection will alert you to anything you need to remedy before you list your home.
A final caution. Be vigilant. If you notice that pieces of your garden hose are missing, bits of shiny objects are lying in your yard, and strange piles of sticks, debris, and leaves have appeared, seek professional help. Trust me. Packrats are not your friends.