How to Keep Bugs and Pests Out of Your Home
Critters will love playing in your home this season unless you make it clear they’re not invited.
Summer is the time you and your family are outside playing in the pool, eating BBQ burgers and dogs, and throwing Frisbees. But while you’re outdoors, pests move indoors. Here’s how you can make your home a little less hospitable.
They aren’t as bad as you think. They very rarely spread diseases. Most of the time, they eat other pests (e.g., mosquitoes).
While they usually use caves or old mining shafts to rest hanging upside down, those places are becoming scarce, ergo: our homes. If you see one, open your windows so it can escape naturally. If you have a repeat problem, find the hole from which they are entering (they can enter through ⅜” wide cracks) and plug it. Just don’t kill bats—that’s illegal (unless absolutely necessary for safety reasons).
Moths like to come inside to mate and lay their eggs, which eventually hatch and feed on animal-based materials: silk, wool, feathers, fabric, etc. (I can verify: Moth larvae ate my favorite dress.)
They usually enter homes at night attracted by light, so keep doors and windows closed and pull dark curtains over windows. Once inside, they lay eggs in dark, rarely disturbed areas, so keep spare rooms, storage closets, and the area under beds clean (much of the dirt in these areas is made of the kinds of animal fibers the larvae crave). Also store textiles in plastic bags or suitcases. If you already have a moth problem, resort to mothballs.
Termites cause more property damage—$5 billion a year—than floods, hurricanes, and fires combined. They like to eat the important parts of our homes—the foundation, for example, and anything that contains cellulose, including wood, paper, cotton, and plant fibers. So get rid of any extra moisture (termites need it to survive and reproduce), keep firewood and lumber away from your house, and repair rotted wood.
You’ll know if you have a termite problem by the swarm of winged insects near your home or yard. If you do, call a professional.
Bed bugs feed on human blood. And worse, these nocturnal pests like to cozy up with us—in bed (they like still prey). Their bites can cause painful or itchy skin rashes. Some victims may suffer severe allergic reactions.
Bed bugs don’t care if your home is clean. But you can lower your risk of getting them by covering mattresses and box springs with a plastic cover (to keep them from accessing the safe crevices of furniture, which act like their home base). Other options? Steam sheets and clothes regularly to kill them and don’t buy used furniture, since, unfortunately, they can lie dormant without feeding for up to a year! If you see bed bugs or evidence of them (itchy skin welts, small blood smears on bedding from crushed insects, tiny dark spots on your sheets or mattress—the bugs’ feces), call a professional right away.
Ants travel in packs. In fact, they are so social that they leave chemicals in their paths that allow their buddies to follow them to any food source. To prevent an ant party from crashing your home, make your food unattainable—seal leftovers in airtight containers, clean all kitchen surfaces, vacuum daily, and rinse recyclable containers before storage. If you already have ants, use a mixture of vinegar and water to repel them or insecticides to kill them.
Wasps like to hibernate in attics and walls in the winter, so, when the warmer weather hits, you might see some in your home. They are also highly sensitive creatures and will sting if they feel threatened, causing a lot of pain and even anaphylactic shock if you are allergic.
If you see one wasp, go after it with a broom or a fly swatter. If you see many wasps, find their nest and spray it with a wasp-specific insecticide, preferably at night when they are less active.