As the winter months and holiday season approaches, you may be entertaining more guests than planned. Your warm and cozy home can quickly become the perfect hideaway for pests to burrow and cause destruction. Despite slower activity in the winter, there are still many potential pests, from the dreaded rat to winter insects such as moths, bed bugs and fleas. Make sure one of your New Year’s resolutions include handling winter pests the right way!

Furry friends

Mammal scavengers such as raccoons, rats, house mice, bats, and squirrels are all common in the winter. Rats and house mice especially will be attracted to the warmth and security of your home, as well as the steady supply of food scraps! They will most likely take up residence in any holes in your wall, in crawl spaces or behind appliances and furniture.

How to spot them

It may be obvious if you discover that a raccoon has tipped over your trash, or you find a bat dangling from your chandelier, but rodents may be sneakier. Before you catch them in action, you’ll be able to identify the presence of rodents in your home if you spot their small droppings as well as small bite marks and holes in your furniture. Rats and mice will chew through your furniture to build their nests and they breed quickly. Because they are also nocturnal, you may hear scurrying and scratching in the walls and ceiling spaces. Treat these signs seriously, because rodents breed quickly.

How to get rid of them

Because these animals can slip through very small cracks, remove as many entry points to your home as possible. Replace any missing roof tiles and fill cracks with roofing cement. Ensure your air vents are also covered with wire mesh. You can also cover your chimney with a chimney cap.

It is also crucial you remove easy access to food scraps. Seal up your food in plastic or glass containers and store all food appropriately. Make sure you take the trash out regularly, keep your dishes washed and vacuum your floors. Squirrels will be deterred from entering if you store firewood at least twenty feet from your house and keep any shrubbery well-trimmed. To prevent bats from swooping in, keep your doors and windows closed for most of the day.

Tiny destroyers

Perhaps nothing is more dreaded than winter bugs like fleas, termites, cockroaches, spiders and bed bugs. They will enter discreetly and can cause obvious damage to your home. Cockroaches come in search of food scraps. Fleas will come home on the backs of your pets and bed bugs will emerge from suitcases, clothes and bedding. Termites, while more active during the summer, will continue to work away in the colder months, thriving on any excess moisture in your home.

How to Spot Them

Unless you catch a spider weaving a web in that pesky corner of your bathroom, you may not recognize when your home is a host to pest insects. Classic signs of bed bugs are spots of blood in your mattress. They may even accompany you on your travels from hotel to hotel, so be sure to inspect your luggage upon arrival and returning. Termites, on the other hand, will not only chew through wood, but will leave piles of droppings where they work. Cockroaches are hardy in the winter and might scuttle around the damp corners of your kitchen or bathroom. Pay close attention to your pets. If they are constantly itching, you may have a flea problem on your hands.

How to get rid of them

Like their mammal counterparts, these insects will draw near to any sources of food and water. Make sure to eliminate any excess moisture in your home by regularly checking pipes for leaks. Seal up pipe entry points and clean out your gutters. Termites are drawn to leaks, piles of soil and any firewood you might bring inside. Maintain a clean kitchen, sealing up food in quality containers, as well as washing dishes and vacuuming frequently.

To prevent fleas from coming into your home, treat your pet with flea repellent via medicine or flea shampoo. Bathe your pet regularly and wash their bedding. Avoid leaving your pet outside overnight as this just provides a wider space of time for fleas to attach themselves.

Likewise, bed bugs may hitch a ride during your travels. Clean out your suitcases thoroughly and keep your bedding and clothing washed and dried at high temperatures. Moths are also attracted to soiled clothing, furniture, and wool products. They will stake out hiding spots in your drawers and wardrobe. One easy way to eliminate this problem is to purchase mothballs in addition to maintaining good hygiene.

One or two spiders won’t damage your house. In fact, they may actually help keep the population of smaller pests down. They tend to make their homes in the small nooks and crannies of your house, and in areas less commonly used. However, a sure way to keep their numbers down is to turn off unnecessary lighting. A spider’s favorite food is a flying insect, and these insects are drawn to bright lights.

While most spiders are harmless, venomous bites from spiders such as a black widow or brown recluse can be dangerous to humans. You can reduce the risk of meeting one of these spiders be removing excess or extended tree limbs that touch your home, as these limbs provide fast access for the spiders. To be extra careful, store clothing and shoes in plastic containers and check the insides of your shoes before wearing them. If a brown recluse or black widow bites you, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

With simple actions such as maintaining a tidy household and storing your belongings well, you can dramatically reduce the risk of having unwanted pests in your home this winter. Not only will you reduce the risk of damage to your home, but you will also protect your health, as creatures such as rats, spiders, and raccoons carry dangerous venom or rabies in their bites. A small effort can go a long way, and if it doesn’t, be sure to call your local pest control center.