When it comes to bugs, homeowners are pretty much unanimous: not in my house. Often it feels like an uphill battle and that the bugs are winning. But despair not – there are ways to discourage small, uninvited guests. There’s a little thing called Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is a fancy way of saying bug control. It’s a system that makes the homeowner an active participant in long-term pest control – in other words, there’s more to it than calling the van with the giant Styrofoam termite on the roof. Most IPM programs include some combination of education, proper waste management, structural repair, maintenance, biological and mechanical control techniques, and the use of pesticides.
The home must be thoroughly inspected by a professional pest control technician. Every home contains multiple microhabitats that provide bugs and vermin with shelter, food, water, and nest material. Identifying potential or existing microhabitats is the first step. Cleaning up and sealing off these areas from outside access goes a long way toward shutting down your roach motel.
Naturally, prevention is half the battle. Prevention includes proper waste management. What does this mean? Take out the trash! Eliminate conditions that promote moisture accumulation. Improve your drainage system (clean out the gutters and route rainwater as far from the house as you can). Improve ventilation in crawl spaces. Clean up food and water spills immediately. Repair any plumbing leaks. Seal cracks and crevices in walls and floors, especially to the outside. Seal cracks in your driveway and sidewalks. Repair any torn window/door screens.
If you still have tiny visitors after all microhabitats have been identified, cleaned up, and sealed off, it’s time to look into pesticides. There are many safe and effective “bug bombs,” pesticide sprays, and other treatments available at hardware and home stores. There are even electronic devices that use ultrasonic sound waves to drive away vermin. We all know and love bug zappers which electrocute flying insects. There are even devices that utilize a black light, a fan, and water. But if your pest problem is out of control, you’ll need to call in professionals to apply pesticides. The following are pest-specific tips on bug control.
Ants: Most ants establish well-defined trails between the nest and food and water sources. Eliminating these trails is crucial to eliminating an ant problem. Get rid of piles of wood, bricks, or other debris that could be used as a nesting site for ants. Keep landscape mulch less than two inches thick and at least a foot away from foundations. Make sure that your sprinkler system doesn’t spray directly onto the foundation. Seal all cracks in your house’s exterior. Trim tree and shrub branches to prevent them from making contact with the house.
Cockroaches: You’ve heard the saying that the only thing left alive after a nuclear holocaust will be cockroaches. Well, the rumor is true – they are very hard to get rid of because of their high fertility and ability to live in any condition and eat anything. The key to control is to find and treat the roaches’ microhabitat directly. Most of the time, the services of a professional exterminator will be required for long-term control. In southern states where cockroaches live outdoors, not only the structure but the entire property will need to be searched for and treated. Crawl space, attic, and exterior cracks need to be sealed also.
Crickets: Avoid using heavy ground cover in landscaping within 10 feet of the house. Firewood and lumber piles should be stored away from the house and off the ground. Clean up leaf piles that could provide shelter. Seal exterior cracks and holes in the outside walls. Install yellow bug lights in outdoor fixtures. Improve crawl space ventilation to decrease moisture.
Mice: As with other varmints, seal off and clean up any potential habitat. Store firewood off the ground and away from the house. Seal holes and cracks 1/4 of an inch and larger – if a pencil can fit into the hole or crack, so can a mouse. Large holes or cracks can be stuffed with steel wool or wire mesh before sealing with caulk or foam which prevents rodents from chewing through. Install thick weatherstripping on the bottom of all doors. Use mousetraps in the garage where most mice gain entrance to houses.
Spiders: Seal cracks around windows and doors to prevent their entry. Remove spider webs regularly; use pesticides to ensure that the spider has been killed. Use yellow bug lights outdoors to attract fewer flying insects on which spiders feed. Treatments to exterior spider nesting sites can help reduce the number of spiders when combined with an overall pest management program.