Few things are more annoying than getting up in the morning, turning on the bathroom light and seeing a cockroach scurry under the counter. Even worse is when bugs infest the place you strive hardest of all to keep clean and sanitary: the kitchen.
While it’s true that spring and summer are the busiest times for bugs coming into your home, winter is hardly a pest-free zone, especially when, like this year, it’s been relatively warm outside.
“We’ve actually been very busy this winter,” says Roland Montalvo, owner of Atlas Termite & Pest Control in Fort Worth. “Last winter was super cold, but this winter, up until recently, has been pretty mild, so we’ve been getting a lot of calls.”
According to Montalvo, people have a misconception about winter when it comes to creepy-crawly creatures.
“They think the bugs are going to die and go away, but that doesn’t really happen,” he says. “Many of them burrow deeper into the ground, but they’re still around, especially during mild weather, and they can still cause problems.”
Montalvo says German cockroaches, which typically are around a half-inch long and can range in color from tan to a dark shade of brown, are the most common bugs people find — and sometimes bring — into their homes.
“They’re small, but they’re everywhere,” he says. “They come in through gaps and cracks in your home. If you buy a used appliance — a microwave or something — make sure it’s bug-free. Roaches can be in there and come into your house and start going all over the place.”
While German cockroaches are the most pervasive pest year-round, “any type of bug can come into your home at any time,” Montalvo says. “Earlier this week, I got a call where they had wasps in their house. I had a customer the other day who had a lot of spiders.”
Spiders like to escape the cold by coming inside, where it’s nice and warm, as do much larger, much furrier unwanted guests.
“Every winter we see mice and other rodent infestations,” Montalvo says. “They come into your home, wanting a warmer place to mate and breed. We see a lot of squirrels coming into homes as well — they nest up in attics, and you can hear them scratching around up there.”
It’s enough to give anyone a case of the creeps. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent creature infestation.
“You should definitely go around your house looking for rodents and the holes they can go through,” Montalvo says, “whether it’s spaces between bricks or the gap by the water spigot. You should plug these holes with steel wool — that’s what I use.”
You should check your garage door as well, he says. When the door is closed, if you see a gap on either side, install weather stripping, or have a garage door company install it for you.
As for sprays, powders and other substances to control and kill bugs, Montalvo says, “there are some good ones, such as Bengal Products and Hot Shot, but those are what we in the industry call ‘quick kills.’ They kill bugs on the spot, but they’re not something that will stop them from coming in or other ones from following behind the ones you killed.”
If you’ve got bugs in your home, and you decide to go for the “quick kill,” you should always read the warning label on whatever product you are using, he says.
“I’ve had customers who sprayed outlets with flammable sprays and caused a fire,” Montalvo says. “Same with foggers. I’ve known people who have started a fire because they put a fogger next to a stove, where the pilot light was on. Foggers are very flammable.”
Tips for winter pest control
Here are 10 more tips for keeping bugs and rodents out of your house, year-round.
1. Keep your house clean and clutter-free — be sure to wipe down surface areas and sweep after each meal.
2. Keep food in airtight containers.
3. Avoid storing paper bags under sinks.
4. Use a broom to sweep down cobwebs.
5. Keep trash cans and recycle tubs securely closed and away from the house. Make sure indoor trash cans have lids.
6. Make sure holes or openings around windows and doors are properly sealed and caulked.
7. Trim tree limbs and branches to keep them from getting too close to your house. This will help prevent easy access to the attic.
8. To help keep termites away, avoid stacking firewood near your house, and keep it several feet off the ground.
9. Make sure your dryer vent isn’t broken or stuck in the open position.
10. Install screens over chimney vents and openings.
Sources: www.businessinsider.com, www.familyhandyman.com