Winter Pests: A Cast of (Unwanted) Characters

By:

Eddie Connor

December 12, 2014

As we noted in our last post, when the temperatures drop, pests of all kinds look for warm, cozy shelter. Often, this means that insects and wildlife find their way into your home, attic, garage or shed. To help keep your home free of unwanted guests this winter, we’ve identified some prevention tips for the most common winter offenders.

Mice

We see an uptick in mouse problems in the wintertime as the furry critters try to come in from the cold. Mice cause considerable panic, and for good reason: They can carry life-threatening diseases like Hantavirus and listeria, cause damage to property by chewing, and create public relations problems for businesses and restaurants. They also multiply quickly. In fact, a female mouse can produce 10 litters per year – and her pups are ready to reproduce within two months.

So how do you prevent mice in the wintertime? As our infographic shows, it’s best to start by sealing up common entry points like gaps under the garage door and cracks in doors, windows and vents. Mice can enter through openings a mere ¼ inch wide, so it’s important to identify even the smallest holes and block them using plaster, mortar, sheet metal or hardware cloth. Smaller holes can be blocked with caulk or copper wire.

Sanitation also plays a role. Mice love an easy meal, so be sure to clean up any spilled food (including Spot’s and Fido’s), store food items in airtight containers and don’t leave garbage out longer than needed.

If you’ve already spotted mice in your home, it’s best to act quickly. While we have some tips for using traps, we recommend calling a professional to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Squirrels and Raccoons

Squirrels may look adorable out in the wild, but they can cause considerable damage to a home or business by chewing through wiring and insulation. Like mice, squirrels can squeeze through tiny openings. And, if you’ve seen their acrobatics in your yard, you know they can climb.

Gray and flying squirrels are a particular nuisance in the Mid-Atlantic region and often invite themselves into attics through entry points like vents or cracks around doors and windows. Keep your home squirrel-free in the winter by sealing cracks and openings with wire mesh, and trimming tree branches so that they are at least six feet away from your roof. Have a fireplace? Make sure you clean your chimney and cap it in the winter to keep wayward squirrels out.

Raccoons have adapted to urban and suburban areas and can inhabit basements and attics. Homeowners are particularly wary of raccoons given their high rate of rabies – they are responsible for 60 percent of rabies cases in Maryland. Raccoon mating season starts in January, making it critical to keep garbage cans tightly secured and to seal up entry points around your garage and under your porch.

If you’ve seen a squirrel or raccoon in your home, we urge you to contact a professional to take care of the animal. At Connor’s, we use environmentally responsible methods to remove wildlife and implement exclusion techniques to keep your problem from returning.

Spiders

Spiders are another common homeowner complaint when the weather turns colder. And while spiders are generally harmless, the DC area is home to two poisonous types of spiders: the brown recluse and the black widow. The good news is that these spiders are not typically aggressive and generally only bite when provoked.

Spiders are solitary insects, which means they don’t live in communities like ants, termites or some types of bees. You know where to find them – corners of floors and ceilings, or damp areas like basements. Due to the solitary nature of spiders, if you spot many, you may have an infestation. To prevent spider infestations, we recommend sealing cracks around screens, doors and your foundation. Keep clutter, woodpiles and leaf debris away from your home as they’re not only good places for spiders, but for their prey.

Termites

The dreaded termite. These voracious eaters cause more than $5 billion in home damages in the U.S each year, and unfortunately, they don’t take winters off.

The most common wintertime termite in the DC area is the subterranean termite. Signs of an infestation include:

  • Mud tubes on your foundation or walls
  • Dark or blistering wood that sounds hollow when tapped
  • Swarmer termites (or their wings) spotted along the edges of floors and on windowsills

The best way to avoid termites is through smart prevention measures and regular monitoring and inspection. Check out our tips for preventing termite damage, and work with a pest control expert to keep your home termite-free throughout the year.

Year-Round Pest Control

If you think you have a pest issue in your home or business, give us a call to schedule a no-obligation inspection. Our year-round treatment plans are also great options to keep your home or office pest-free no matter the season. 

Additional sources:

http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/ENTO/ENTO-73/ENTO-73-pdf.pdf

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