Roaches, bed bugs and mice...oh my! Your home is your castle, and unwanted creepy-crawly house guests aren’t just pests. They can cost you thousands of dollars in damage and even spread illness.
Here’s how to prevent five of the biggest pest threats to your home.
If you’re not careful, you could be feeding cockroaches along with your family. Just like us, roaches need food and water to survive. Your best defense is to clean up those crumbs and keep food sealed and out of sight.
Beyond your kitchen’s surface, roaches thrive in damp places, so check for leaky faucets or moist crawl spaces. Use a vacuum to regularly clean behind appliances and inside cupboards to remove inviting food particles or, possibly even, cockroach eggs.
Roaches can spread disease. Salmonella bacteria can live on their bodies, and a pair of roaches can multiply to 400,000 in just a year if they’re allowed to flourish, according to Bob Young, New York Regional Manager at Terminix. “If they get inside your home, we have methods like freezing or flushing out with hot air to eliminate them,” he says.
A relative of roaches, termites cause $5 billion in damage annually, feasting on cellulose found, for example, in wood products. One species found in the South can actually eat through the equivalent of 20 2x4s in 12 months.
Water is actually a bigger draw for termites than wood, so make sure rain spouts carry water three to five feet from the foundation of your home. Keep basements dry, too.
Another tip: Never stack firewood next to your house, and only bring it inside when you’re ready to burn it. Remove rotting wood, like tree stumps, from your property, too.
Our clothing can also attract pests, namely moths. Silk, wool, feathers and fur are all delicious bait, thanks to a particular tasty protein found in these materials called keratin.
Before adding a new piece to your wardrobe, examine it for bugs. And whether you buy new or second hand, it doesn’t hurt to wash the item first. Toss out clothes with moth-bitten holes and eliminate any cotton-like webbing in your closet.
“When it comes to moths, the infected article of clothing is like a rotting banana attracting fruit flies. If you rid of the clothing with holes or marks, you get rid of the infestation,” says Young.
As a preventative measure: Wash or dry clean clothes regularly, since sweat, perfume and food stains can lure in moths. Clean seasonal items before putting them away, and store in airtight bags or containers. Add cedar or lavender sachets to drawers and stored clothes, since moths hate those fragrances.
Perhaps an even more invasive imposter than a moth is the bed bug. These insects can be picked up in taxis, planes, hotels and even movie theaters. “Bed bugs are the modern vampires of today’s age,” says Young. “A single bug can drink up to 150 gallons of blood. They’re nocturnal and attracted to carbon dioxide that humans give off.”
Play it safe. Before booking a hotel room, check BedBugRegistry.com to see if there have been any recent incidences. Inspect the linens and mattress, looking for insects or dark marks, a sign bugs have been there. If you find evidence, ask to be moved to another room farther away. Never set your suitcase on the bed where bed bugs tend to crawl. Hang clothes in the closet, rather than placing in drawers.
When returning home, vacuum your suitcase and wash everything as soon as possible. Thirty minutes on high heat in the dryer will kill any bugs and eggs you might be carrying.
If bed bugs do get inside, don’t spread them by changing where you sleep. Since they’re attracted to human scent, they’ll follow you. Instead, use a vacuum to get into nooks and crannies in your home where bed bugs can lurk. Cover mattresses and box springs in protective bags. New treatments like rapid freeze or steam can kill them and their eggs.
Finally, mice will eat just about anything, even birdseed or dog food. Keep food in airtight containers, including foods stored in your garage and basement.
Mice can also multiply rapidly. They can go from just eight to 2,000 in a matter of months. They can climb wire vertically, chew through wires causing fires and even carry other pests like ticks, fleas and mosquitoes, according to Young.
Make sure garage and home doors don’t gap. Seal any cracks or holes in floors, walls or cabinets. A mouse can squeeze through an opening the size of a dime. Mice will leave behind droppings or chewed food boxes if they get cozy in your home. Traditional traps or bait are the best way to get rid of them.
How have you dealt with pest threats to your home? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.