Pests are insects and animals that can cause harm to a property. Some of the most common examples include ants, termites, flies, rats, mosquitos, cockroaches, bed bugs, and mice. They are an unfortunate reality for homeowners and renters alike and a national survey found that 84% of American homeowners experienced pest problems in the past 12 months. Pests can carry diseases, venom, and they can cause both allergic reactions and property damage. It is critical to do what you can on your own to manage pests, and take full advantage of residential pest control professionals when necessary.
Signs of Pests in the Home
Where you are located geographically, the time of year, the age of your house, and your habits inside the home can all increase or decrease the likelihood of pests in your home. Regardless, it is important to be aware of the different signs that there are pests in your home — some signs inside and outside the home include:
- Pest droppings;
- Dirt and grime build-up;
- Peculiar smells;
- Holes or gnaw marks on various household items (e.g. laundry, trash bags);
- Holes in wood (e.g. house foundation, steps, wooden furniture, siding);
- Strange plant damage;
- Bizarre sounds;
- Out of place household items;
- Evidence of nesting;
- Holes in the grass;
- Dead bugs or pests/remnants;
- Waking up with/commonly finding bites.
Pest Control Inside the Home
Pest control is important for both indoors and outdoors, but pest control inside the home should be a priority. It is where you eat, sleep, and live so immediate intervention is necessary. You may be able to take care of some of the pest control on your own, but in some cases, you may want to hire a professional. Below are some general steps that homeowners can take to pest-proof the inside of their home:
- Pest traps: Placing different pest traps around the home is a great way to get rid of pests. The type of pest trap you get should reflect the type of pest you are dealing with. If you have a problem with mice, you may need mouse traps and if you have a problem with ants, you may need ant traps;
- Seal off everything: You want to be sure that there are no possible entrances for pests and one of the best ways to do this is sealing everything. If you can feel any air or see light coming through, the area isn’t sealed, and small pests have a way in. This should include doors, windows, chimneys, window/door screens, walls, ceilings, and any other areas that allow potential access to pests. Use materials like caulk, foam, or other some form of weather-proofing material to seal your home;
- Keep things clean: You want to be sure to clean up messes immediately. Bugs are drawn to filth and when you clean regularly, it helps deter them, and eliminate any eggs they may have lain. Be sure to vacuum, wipe down surfaces with cleaning supplies, and create a cleaning schedule for inside your home;
- Avoid clutter: Pests love clutter. It gives them a place to hide and lay eggs. You should avoid and eliminate clutter as much as possible. Take your trash out, break down/get rid of cardboard boxes, do your dishes, and take care of laundry promptly;
- Use a dehumidifier: Pests are often drawn to moisture. If your house is becoming overly humid and you are noticing more pests, a dehumidifier may be able to help. If you have a big issue with moisture in your home, you may want professional moisture control help to avoid further issues;
- Pesticides: If your pest issue is serious, you may need to apply pesticides inside your home. Treating your inside your home with pesticides can be done on your own, but in this scenario, you may want to call a professional for indoor pesticide needs. If you choose to spray pesticides on your own, be sure to read all directions and safety considerations for occupying the space afterward.
Certain areas in your home need special attention — consider the following:
- Bedrooms: The bedroom is full of perfect homes for pests — especially bed bugs. The above information is relevant for bedrooms, but you should also consider the following:
- Regularly wash your clothes and avoid dirty laundry strewn throughout your bedroom;
- Regularly change/wash your sheets to avoid bed bugs;
- Avoid letting your dog sleep in your bedroom to reduce the likelihood of fleas or ticks;
- Wipedown your headboard, dressers, and other furniture in your bedroom;
- Examine your mattress every time you clean your sheets;
- Don’t bring food into your bedroom;
- If you get bed bugs, they can get nasty quickly — consider professional bed bug control.
- Kitchen: The kitchen poses unique pest challenges. Pests want to get into food and water, and a kitchen is a great place for this. You will want to follow the generalized tips above, but you will also want to:
- Use airtight containers to store food;
- Avoid leaving food out (both your own, and pets);
- Keep food off the ground;
- Fix any leaking pipes, faucets;
- Empty the trash regularly;
- Utilize deterrents like mint or bay leaves;
- Throw away food outside.
Pest Control Outside the Home
Pest control outside of your home is another crucial piece of the puzzle. Proper pest control outside helps maintain pest control inside as well. There are certain things that you can do to protect the outside of your home from pests — some options include:
- Set traps: You can set out several traps to keep a handle on pests outside your home. Again, the type of traps that you choose should reflect the pests you are struggling with. There are specialty lamps, sprays, ground traps, bug bombs, and hanging traps to take advantage of. If you are placing potentially dangerous traps, keep a close eye on children, and pets. Place traps in areas that aren’t frequented by people or pets;
- Burn citronella: There are citronella sprays, torches, and candles that are used as natural insect and animal repellents. They are a great item to keep handy;
- Change lighting: Light attracts pests, especially white and blue colored lighting. You should use light bulbs that are yellow, pink, or orange around the outside of your home to reduce the attraction to the lights — especially lighting that is near doorways;
- Clean regularly: Just like inside, it is important to keep your backyard clean and free from clutter. Spray off the sides of your house, clean windows, dust, pick up outside toys/items, and check for cobwebs;
- Use window screens: Put up window screens and be wary of any holes or tears in the seals. This is an added layer of protection that enables you to open the windows without pests getting in;
- Yard maintenance: You want to take care of your yard, keep things clear, and eliminate any pooled or standing water. Excess branches, vegetation, water, and undisturbed areas are all breeding grounds for pests. Trim grass, pull weeds, cut branches, avoid over-watering your plants or yard, and keep your yard controlled;
- Garden: Some plants and herbs help ward off pests. Some examples are garlic, rosemary, chives, lemongrass, bay leaf, mint, and marigolds. Plant a few in strategic areas around your house to deter pests;
- Seal everything: As mentioned above, it is important to make sure everything is sealed to eliminate any potential entrances for pests. Areas such as doors, windows, dryer vents, siding, crawl spaces, garages/garage doors, garbage cans, compost areas, etc.;
- Pesticides: Spraying pesticides is an approach you can do on your own or hire a professional. Some pesticides are safe for humans, pets, and plants while others are not. If you choose to do so on your own, read the directions carefully for application directions and warnings. If you hire a professional, be sure to ask questions about important safety information.
Seasonal Pest Control
Seasonal and weather changes can lead to additional pests, and there are certain pests that you should prepare for based on the season.
Springtime marks the end of hibernation and the beginning of the warm season, so pests are looking for food, a place to live, and a place to breed. Common pests for the springtime include:
- Stinging insects;
Focus on things like monitoring for excessive moisture, setting out traps, doing an initial pesticide spray outside, and looking for any cracks inside/outside your home from harsh winters that need to be sealed.
When the weather gets consistently warm, pests are in full force. Although you may notice less in your air-conditioned home and more outside of your home. Common pests for the summertime include:
- Stinging insects;
- Bed bugs.
Focus on things like removing standing water, refilling outdoor traps, doing regular yard maintenance, respraying pesticides, monitoring pets for ticks/fleas, and cleaning your gutters.
As the warm weather ends and the cold begins to set in, pests start making their way from the outside to the inside. Common pests during fall include:
- Stink bugs;
- Bed bugs.
Take care of yard debris like leaves and sticks, declutter inside and outside the home, spray treatments and pesticides, look for any holes/gaps inside or outside the home to seal before winter, and start putting up pest traps inside your home.
At the height of the cold season, some pests like rodents may hibernate, others do not. Your home provides the perfect area for pests seeking shelter from the elements, or a place to hibernate. Common pests during the winter include:
- Stink bugs;
During the winter season, the best ways to focus on pest control is to seal off your home from the outdoors, set up indoor traps, and spray for pesticides. The winter season is filled with holidays, so you bring in decorations from the garage, attic, basement, or storage.
Managing Pests in a Rental
Pest control in rentals can create a difficult scenario. Pest control isn’t always cheap and it can be time-consuming. It can be complicated to determine who is responsible — both financially and action-wise. Most rental agreements will state what the tenant vs. landlord responsibilities are regarding pest management. Landlord and tenant requirements may also vary between states.
Responsibilities of Landlords
In most cases, landlords are responsible for pest management. This may be small preemptive things like providing tenants with indoor/outdoor traps or for more serious infestations that are a safety hazard to tenants and require immediate attention. For example, termites eating away at the foundation requires the immediate use of termite control services and possibly even a contractor.
Homeowners insurance doesn’t generally cover pests, so be sure to take whatever measures are needed to protect your property from pests. Clearly define tenant vs. landlord responsibilities, choose trustworthy/clean tenants, and be sure to stay on top of your responsibilities to avoid costly pest-related damage.
Responsibilities of Tenants
If a tenant’s behavior led to an infestation, then the tenant may be responsible for taking care of the pests. For example, if the rental is strewn with trash, leftover food, and debris and it causes an infestation, it is likely the responsibility of the tenant to seek out and pay for things like ant control services or any other remedies that are necessary.
Again, the exact responsibilities should be outlined in your rental agreement. Additionally, pest infestations are not generally covered by renters insurance, so even if it isn’t detailed in your rental agreement, it may be a good idea to take some additional DIY measures to keep your housing pest-free.