Like physical health and automobile maintenance, when it comes to keeping pests out of your home, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure — or so the saying goes.
Concerning pest control, the prevention aspect has a few different elements. The easiest is keeping your eyes open and being aware of the signs of common pests in your area. Early detection is critical in controlling the level of spread or even preventing it altogether.
If you see signs of an infestation or at least an incursion, you can start with some DIY methods or ridding your home of unwanted intruders (in-laws not included). If your critter problem is serious, it might be time to call in the pros. Read on to find out what to keep an eye out for, what to do if you see signs and when you need a professional pest control expert.
Different types of pests you might encounter
Different geographies and climates lend themselves to various pests you might encounter in your home or yard.
Pests you might find around your property depend on your location
Dry climates are prone to household pests like spiders, termites, crickets, ants and cockroaches. While most insects like warm weather, the majority of them don’t prefer to be roasting in the hot sunlight all day, especially in dry areas. During times of drought or heat waves, many household pests will seek water and shade indoors.
More humid climates have different common household pests, although there is some overlap. Wetter geographies are likely to see pests like rodents, silverfish, spiders and ants.
Another factor to be aware of for pest control is the temperature of your place. While residents of areas like the Midwest that get harsh winters and hot, dry summers may not enjoy the temperate California climate, they are saved from the proliferation of certain kinds of pests that don’t thrive in the cold, like cockroaches. This isn’t to say that you won’t come across the odd one in Kansas, but it’s less likely for them to be a problem than in warmer locales.
Most common types of pests in the United States
That being said, some common pests can be found in most areas in the US. Mice are commonly found throughout the US, while the species and size vary in different regions. The same goes for spiders, a nearly ubiquitous household pest in the US to various degrees.
The secret ways pests enter your home
Sewers – While we’ve likely all heard the horror stories of rats running around in the sewers and arriving in homes in the city through uncovered drains, that’s the less likely scenario. Most of the pests that live in sewers are species of flies and, potentially, cockroaches.
Foundation – Cracks in your foundation are excellent places for pests like ants, spiders, termites and stinging insects to enter. If you see the beginnings of a hairline crack in the concrete of your foundation, it’s essential to get it patched quickly to avoid having pests march in through that inviting gap.
Garage doors – Garage doors are the equivalent of rolling out a red carpet for household pests. Rats, mice and all manner of insects will take the opportunity to scurry right in if you leave your garage door open frequently, especially if you, as many of us do, store garbage there.
Gaps around doors and windows – Spiders, ants and rodents will take the small gaps around your doors and windows as an ‘Open’ sign to come right in. Not to mention, your utility bill will reflect that heat or cool air loss.
Garbage bins or compost piles – Outdoor garbage cans or compost bins are a veritable buffet for pests. Keeping the lids secured and maintaining clean composite decking can help keep away pests like rodents, small insects like ants.
Tree branches – It’s common to have spiders that live in trees enter via branches and bushes touching your house and find their way through cracks in the building. This can be prevented by having your trees pruned back from the sides of your home and keeping windows screened and cracks patched.
HVAC vents and chimneys – Bats and squirrels often enter through roof vents, creating quite the kerfuffle in your attic if left unnoticed.
What are the signs to look for to identify pest infestation
Droppings are the most common sign that you have a sneaky intruder that’s calling your home theirs. It might be a bit distasteful, but getting familiar with the droppings of common pests in your area can help you identify any you might find around your home.
Evidence of nesting
Rodents especially love to create nests out of soft and fluffy things like shredded paper, foam, clothes and anything else they can burrow into. Keep an especially close eye on warm and dry areas for these nests, like behind appliances and in furnace rooms and vents. It’s important to check on any furniture in your home or condo when you move in. Old furniture is a prime suspect for rodent nests, so do a thorough inspection and consider getting rid of the suspicious item if there are any signs of concern.
Odd smells and sounds
Different pests give off different smells. Bed bugs have a sweet, musty smell, while rats smell like ammonia. Roaches have an “oily” odor. An overall scent of garbage doesn’t indicate a particular type of pest but will be attractive to most pests overall.
Holes and bite marks
Bite marks and holes in furniture, drywall or other areas of your home indicate that you have a rodent problem. Rats love to chew on things like upholstery foam and electrical wires — these are dead-to-rights signs that you have a rodent issue that needs addressing.
Complaints from neighbors and previous tenants/owners
Checking with previous owners, or if that’s not possible, the neighbors, is a great way to get an idea of what types of pests are sneaking around in your area.
Best DIY pest control tips
Don’t let the laundry pile up
Dust mites, bed bugs and fleas absolutely love to make their homes in piles of laundry, unwashed bed lines and pet beds. Ensure these are washed, folded and put away regularly to avoid creating an enticing spot for these critters.
Keep your house clean
It’s great to have a shiny clean house — you will feel great! Bonus – the pests won’t come near your house. Wipe dirty surfaces and floors. Wash your dishes daily, and don’t let dirty dishwater sit in the sink. Vacuum, wipe and wash like Cinderella!
Maintain your yard
Trim all the nearby bushes and trees because your yard is the first pest entry point! Eliminate weeds and cut your grass. Get rid of piles of leaves and branches and eliminate piling wood as well.
Use different plants as a pest repellant
Some plants are great natural insect bug repellents. It’s a great green pest control alternative compared to chemical versions. Plant any of these to avoid pests: spearmint, rosemary, basil, lavender (for fleas, flies, mosquitoes), catnip, lemongrass, pitcher plants (for beetles, ants, bees, etc.) Some of these plants are great as healing herbs and spices too!
Seal all possible entrance points
Seal all the entrance points pests could use to enter your house. As unbelievable as it sounds, some pests can enter through one mm-sized crack or opening. Check foundations, door frames, and the roof!
Don’t overdo it – leave the good ones alone
While some pests are dangerous and harmful to your health (like rodents and roaches), there are some good ones too. For example, bats eat mosquitoes and other insects, so they are good, as long as they are outside your house. Ladybugs eat aphids and are great for the garden. Most bugs that we consider pests inside our homes have a useful place in the outdoor world – when they find their way indoors, they become a problem.
Leave it to professionals: Home pest inspection
Having a pest control expert assess the potential of a pest problem and point out likely entry points can be done before you agree to purchase a home or once you already own it.
What does a pest inspection entail?
Home inspectors are trained to look for signs of pest infestation, and they will also point out vulnerable entry points as a routine part of their assessment. An exterminator may also be qualified to do a pest inspection – double-check on certifications if this is the route you want to go.
How long does a pest inspection take, and how much does it cost?
A pest inspection does not take as long as a regular home inspection. It can take around 30 minutes to 1 hour. If your house is bigger or there are issues to be investigated, it could take longer. Then, the report will advise if there are any steps to take, for example, repairs or hiring an exterminator. Most pest inspections separate from a standard home inspection cost around $100, but this number will vary by location.
Dealing with a pest infestation is never a fun thing to have to do, but the upside is that with some easy steps and a keen eye, you can avoid having an infestation altogether. Keeping your home maintenance on a diligent schedule is the first step. If you’re still finding unwanted critters in your home, try some DIY pest control measures and if necessary, call in the pros.