It’s the dead of night, all is quiet in your world, and you are about to drift off to sleep when suddenly, you hear a scurrying sound in the attic. It can only mean one thing: household pests!
It’s every homeowner’s worst nightmare because once you get a family of unwanted guests, they are hard to remove; plus, more are likely to follow once a few get in. So, what can you do to stop unwanted critters from entering your home?
We have some top tips to prevent unwanted guests, but here are some interesting stats before we get into the detail.
So, let’s take a look at each critter by type, ask what the tell-tale signs are, and what you can do to prevent the problem in the first place.
Rats and mice are among the most common animals taking up residence inside our homes. They like to live in dark cavities behind walls and beneath floors. Surprisingly, there are millions more rats than humans, yet they are difficult to spot among us, even though we have lived side by side for thousands of years.
Rats and mice rarely enter our homes in the warmer months because heat and food are plentiful, but when the mercury starts to drop, they go in search of warmer nesting spots.
If you spot a lot of shredded paper and cardboard, typically in dark spots like attics and cellars, it could be a sign you have an infestation. Rats and mice chew the paper for mulch bedding. Look for concentrations of droppings, paying attention to underfloor areas and behind cavities.
Check cardboard packets in your larder for signs of spilt contents as rodents often gnaw at corners and edges of dried packet foods like cereal and porridge oats.
Before reaching for the phone and dialling a pest control expert, there are some things you can do to prevent that invasion in the first place. Plus, you want to adopt a humane response rather than extermination.
Keep an eye out for gaps and holes on the exterior of your property. A loose brick, cracks in stonework, split wooden door frames, even gaps where guttering and downpipes run are all open doors to rodents.
And don’t be fooled into thinking that the holes have to be mouse-sized for them to fit; a mouse can squeeze into a gap just half an inch in diameter.
If you see any suspicious-looking spots where our furry little friends can get in, fill them in. Prevention is the best cure.
Rats and mice love grain, so the seed mixtures in your bird feeders are an irresistible lure for your average rodent. Once they know there is a ready food source on tap, they keep coming back until they set up home.
It’s a bit like you moving into the flat above your favourite restaurant!
Furry rodents hate peppermint, so planting it at the base of your home should be enough to repel any unwanted intruders.
While we are on the subject of plants that deter rodents, spices are known to be an effective method of keeping critters out. Mice and rats hate garlic, chilli, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, so mix a spoonful in a water solution and spray it around locations where you think they might try and gain entry.
First, rats have teeth that never stop growing, so the only way they can control their size is to grind them down with continuous chewing. Plastic rubbish bins are not going to protect your waste material from rats if the contents are left to spill out. Rats have a great sense of smell.
The best solution is to get a bin with a lockable lid and not overfill the container so the lid won’t close. The same goes for wheelie bins.
Soak a rag in ammonia and place it inside a container. Next, find the concentration of rodent dropping and stand the container next to where you think the rats have been. Rats hate the smell and will leave.
The only downside is that ammonia is also repugnant to humans, so don’t use this technique near any space in the home where you are living, eating and sleeping.
Laying traps in the spots where you see droppings is an effective way of catching your intruders. However, there is still the question of what you do with it once you have trapped it? Mice and rats live in close family units, so it’s nailed on that should you release it, it will come back.
If you go down the extermination route, and many people do, you can lay specially impregnated corn seeds laced with a deadly poison that is irresistible to rats. However, prepared for the rat to take the poison back to their nest and infect the rest of the family unit.
If this happens, they die somewhere deep within your home, untraced, which means first comes the decaying smell as they decompose, and second, the flies who lay their larvae in the carcasses of the rats.
You might even get maggots inside your home. So while you think poison is the answer to all your problems, it could be the start of a triple whammy of infestations.
Birds are relatively clean animals, but their faeces could contain contaminants that cause salmonella and histoplasmosis, a lung disorder caused by inhaling spores from bat and bird droppings.
In extreme cases, it could lead to avian flu, but this is rare. There are 3 types of diseases transmitted by birds.
Birds like to make nests in lofts and eaves, so look for entry holes. If you have wooden facias, unless you maintain them, the wood rots, giving flying pests the incentive and the means to peck their way through to make a nest.
Another way to tell if you have a birds nest in your home is to look at the ground for signs of feathers, straw, faecal matter and other detritus scattered about. You might also notice an increase in the number of flies around your home because birds attract them.
Everyone likes an easy life, and that includes birds and other animals. If they have a ready supply of food and water, they have no incentive to move on. Remove bird feeders and birdbaths to reduce the incentive for them to set up home in the first place.
Dense foliage, tall grass and dead trees offer ample opportunities for birds to hide while they feed because they like to stay hidden. Removing tall grass and undergrowth exposes the space, making it more difficult, and they move on.
You can buy sonic devices that emit sounds like bird distress to scare them away. Think of it as an electronic scarecrow. Some even mimic the bird calls of predators to keep unwanted winged guests from landing.
Try and keep up with maintenance to keep the threat of unwanted visitors to a minimum. Fascias and soffits should be sanded and stained to protect them against the rain, wind and sun.
Rotten wood should be replaced, or you could opt for a maintenance-free route and fit PVC fascias to avoid the threat of them rotting.
Just like rodents, birds dislike the scent of garlic. Liberally spraying areas where birds might take up residence deter them from moving in. Crush a couple of garlic cloves and pour them into a spray bottle and fill it with water.
Give it a shake, and leave the garlic to infuse the liquid for a couple of hours. You now have a smelly deterrent to spray on your potential entry points.
If you want to go straight to DEFCON 1, you could glue strips of anti-bird spikes. They aren’t sharp enough to impale our flying friends, but they deter them from landing.
Often, when a bird sees another bird, especially a predator species, they are less likely to take the risk and land in your garden. This works to a point, but sometimes the birds realise that you have a plastic model because it never moves, so take the time to position it in different places in the garden.
Netting is a solution but not one we like. Bird netting covers the areas where they try and gain entry, and it prevents them from landing. That’s the upside. The downside is they become entangled and can’t escape, with many dying as a result.
This deterrent should only be used as a last resort where you have so many bird problems that nothing else works.
These special little stinging critters like to stay hidden, so you often find their nests in lofts, crawl spaces, ducting, under decking and behind fascias. Some species make their nests in the ground, burrowing down into mounds of mud and between tree roots.
Unlike wasps and hornets, bees are more universally loved because they don’t sting unless they have to. Plus, they are a dwindling species and so vital for crop and food growth across the world. So, when you discover a nest in your home, it can be challenging to balance the need to preserve bee life and protect your family.
Typically, a sting from one of these insects results in mild pain, swelling and discomfort, which goes within a few hours and can be treated easily at home with antihistamines. Still, for some, it can be a life-threatening experience.
When it comes to infestations of this type, we would always recommend calling in the professionals.
Look for small holes or chewed wood or fascia boards. If you see a lot of flying insects in a particular part of your home, it could be a sign of an infestation. While you are in the garden, often you will see stinging insects flying about aimlessly, but their flight movements are different when there is a nest nearby. They come and go with more purpose, and it is easy to spot.
Like most critters, bees, wasps and hornets look for opportunities. They seek out ideal nest sites, and if they spot gaps and cracks in your fascias, sidings and decks, it entices them to move in.
A rigorous yearly maintenance program not only keeps your house looking good but also prevents invasions of the stinging kind.
Stinging bugs love sugary food. It’s like a drug, so if you have anything that might attract unwanted attention, cover it over and put it in a cupboard or refrigerator.
Removing trees close to your property could be another way to reduce insect infestations. Tree sap is sweet and attracts wasps, bees and hornets, so keeping them to a minimum could be the answer.
When storing your food waste, try and keep the lid on your wheelie bin closed. Wasps, bees and hornets are attracted to the food inside, and they are more likely to appear if the cover is open or ajar.
It is believed that wasps won’t build a new nest within 200 feet of an existing one, so deploying a few paper wasps around your garden might be enough to deter them.
For the sake of convenience, we are using the term “Bugs” as the generic name we for the household critters we battle every day. They may be small in size, with some even microscopic, but they are high in numbers and can cause all sorts of havoc.
Here are the most common:
Don’t leave sweet foods and drinks in view of open windows and doors, and avoid gaps and weeds in your patios, paths and driveways. Keeping on top of maintenance is crucial if you want to win the battle.
There are a few weapons at your disposal: coffee grinds, lemon, vinegar, and spices all top the list of an ant’s most hated things.
You could treat a flea infestation with powder scattered on your floors and soft furnishings, but it is often too late at this stage. It should start with outdoor maintenance. Fleas like to lay their larvae in tall grass, so get out the strimmer and cut everything back.
Sunlight and wind are deadly to flea larvae, so cutting back the shrubs and grass leaves them vulnerable.
In the event of a nuclear war, the only things left roaming the earth are zombies and cockroaches, or so the urban legend goes. So, how on earth do you get rid of a critter that a nuclear warhead can’t kill?
The easiest way is to keep a clean house. Cockroaches are attracted to crumbs on the floor and food waste in easy-to-reach locations near windows and doors.
They carry bacteria and get in through small holes and cracks in woodwork, brickwork and other entry points. They hate catnip, peppermint, garlic and even bay leaves.
These creatures are microscopic, and you may not even know you have them. They live in mattresses and bedding, feeding on human skin cells that naturally fall while you sleep. If you spot rusty brown marks on your sheets or mattress and you can smell a musty odour, it could be a sign of bed bugs.
Regular cleaning with a vacuum cleaner and covering the mattress in plastic sheeting might be the best way to protect your bed.
You might have noticed a familiar theme running through this article? It’s all about maintenance. Keeping on top of faults and issues relating to your home will drastically reduce the instances of insect and animal infestations because if they can’t get in, they can’t set up home.
Also, with good maintenance, prevention is better than cure.