If you’ve ever had to get rats or ants out of the home, you know it can be a nightmare. Don’t let pest control be an afterthought. Follow these 5 simple tips to keep your home naturally pest free. Whether it’s spiders in the basement or a squirrel in the attic, preventative measures are part of any good natural pest control strategy.
1. Prevent Pests by Inspecting Regularly
The best pest control companies use a method called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to provide the best results. IPM evaluates the biology of each target pest, the environmental conditions and control options. A good IPM strategy will help you outsmart and avoid many pest problems naturally.
Inspecting the exterior of your home for pest problems is the first step for natural pest control at the home. Once or twice a year, thoroughly examine the integrity of the exterior “shell” of your home.
- Carefully inspect areas where construction materials transition; roofboard to gutter line, siding to foundation wall, areas around plumbing & conduit entry, and between chimneys and siding for any gaps or cracks.
- Frequently check your foundation vents and attic vents periodically for new holes. Damaged foundation vents are probably the biggest rodent and wildlife entry point to watch out for.
- Gaps under poorly sealing garage doors are also common rodent entries that should be fixed as a preventative pest control measure.
Seal any hole or crevice greater than a quarter inch so mice and rats can’t sneak in.
2. Monitor for Rats and Ants
If you have a crawlspace with an earthen floor, be aware. Now more than ever, Norway rat burrows are breaching the exterior shells of homes from underneath. Once dug out, these burrows are extremely difficult to close again. If you have a earthen crawlspace, keep 1-2 rat traps baited and set just inside, and check periodically or in the event of an odor.
The traps will basically monitor for rodent activity. If they are triggered or have a capture, you know rodents have accessed the crawlspace. You can use this same strategy to monitor attic spaces, garages and sheds for roof rats and Norway rats.
Ants & Spiders
Monitoring is also important to naturally control insect pests like ants, wasps and spiders. In spring when night time temperatures warm above 55F, inspect your foundation for trails of ants entering under the edge of the siding. Waiting until a warm, sunny afternoon will give you the best chances of intercepting invading ants and wasps. If you find an ant trail leading up your foundation or into a door jamb, you can repel and/or kill them with ant bait or spray. If you’re already seeing ants inside, you’ll need to use a bait instead of a spray.
- Check your soffits, eaves, and corners of porches and overhangs for paper wasps nests and spider webs.
- If you’re brave enough on a chilly evening, paper wasps nests can be knocked down and stomped to remove wasps naturally.
- Wipe down spider webs regularly to prevent annoying webs and deter spider entry.
- Caulk any small gaps you find to prevent insects and spiders from entering.
- You can also use sticky glue traps to monitor for insect pests. Place them flush up against the walls, under furniture in your basement, garage, or other areas where pests congregate.
3. Clean & Sanitize
The world isn’t sterile, and that’s a good thing. We should always expect an occasional ant or bug will sneak into our homes. But keeping the home tidy and clean will help prevent an environment that allows pests to proliferate. This is particularly important to control spiders, centipedes and other species on top of the creepy-crawly food chain.
Items stored along floors and against walls should be lifted up a few inches onto a shelf and moved a few inches away from the walls. This will reduce tight crevices where spiders & centipedes like to hide. You can also clean the area more easily and even set sticky glue traps if desired.
Keeping crumbs and debris to a minimum can help keep ants at bay. Cleaning and sanitizing floors, counters and surfaces will prevent ants from being seen for a few days. Folks should expect however that if sugar ants are nesting inside already, cleaning and sanitizing alone won’t get rid of ants in the house.
In general, cleaning and sanitizing will help you with more effective inspections & monitoring. Use a vacuum to remove debris, dust, and even individual spiders & pests while you’re cleaning. Just remember to dispose of the vacuum bag in an outside trash can afterwards. Again, always anticipate there will be a few wayward bugs that find their way into your home. And have a favorite strategy picked out for removing them physically during routine cleanings.
4. Adjusting Habitat
This step may be the most important. In order to ultimately reduce pesticide pollution, some folks are thinking critically about their yards and landscapes. Any environmental conditions that allow pests to thrive should be eliminated. If you have a persistent pest problem, mosquitoes for instance, you may want to consider reducing areas of standing water around the home.
Norway rats can be deterred significantly just by mowing and clearing all vegetation within 1’ of the ground so they cannot hide. Roof rats and invasive squirrels can be deterred by trimming all trees and shrubs at least 3-5’ away from the sides of the home. Grape arbors climbing up the porch & overhanging vines may look charming, but are a favorite way for mice and other pests to exploit any entries into your home.
Moisture creates habitat for mosquitos, carpenter ants, flies, fleas, springtails, centipedes, spiders and other insect-like pests. If you irrigate your lawn, you may notice less issues with pesky insects if the lawn is allowed to thoroughly dry periodically. Make sure mulch is not piled up against the siding of your home. This will prevent occasional invaders like carpenter ants & springtails from easily entering. Identify any areas with excessive moisture and get them fixed to prevent pest issues.
5. Adjusting Food Sources
Here in Portland where rats and other pests are abundant it is critical we do our part to limit human food available outside.
- Fallen fruits and nuts should be regularly picked up and disposed of in a yard waste container in the autumn.
- Garden fruits and veggies should be harvested regularly or disposed of.
- Kitchen scraps in compost piles must be enclosed on all sides with 1/4″ galvanized steel mesh and kept covered with a layer of yard debris.
- Pet food dishes should be brought inside at night to prevent issues with raccoons, skunks and wildlife.
- If you choose to put birdseed out, take measures to prevent seed from spilling and collecting on the ground to avoid issues with rodents.
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