As the winds begin to carry a frost chill, the natural world begins to ramp up activity. Every creature, from bears to beetles, will prepare for winter’s first frost. They’ll begin to store food, pack on the calories, and look for any place they can keep warm during the colder months.
Our homes are veritable treasure troves for many bothersome bugs, providing all their winter wants in one convenient stop. Unfortunately, this is why we see so many different types of pests inside our homes come fall and winter. To help keep your home pest-free this season, you can take some preventative measures using this checklist.
Clean Up Your Outdoor Spaces
The most effective form of pest control is proper prevention and regular home maintenance. If pests can’t find food, shelter, warmth, or moisture on your property, they’ll move right along. So, to keep pests out during the fall, your first step is to be diligent in your year-end cleanup. This way, you’ll remove anything that attracts them to your home.
Sheds, storage barns, and detached garages are the most common places for pests to invade before migrating to your home. These locations are typically easier to enter than your home, provide warmth, and often contain attractants like lawn clippings, leaves, and other smaller insects. As the leaves begin to turn, always take the time to clean your shed by:
- Sweeping out all dirt, debris, leaves, and cobwebs
- Removing and inspecting all tools
- Removing, cleaning out, and inspecting all boxes
- Throwing away all old, improperly sealed bags of fertilizer, dirt, and mulch
While a mere nuisance to us, leaf piles provide pests with everything they need to survive. Pests of all sorts will be drawn to leaf piles, and the longer they sit, the more infested they’ll become. It can be hard to keep up with the leaf drop during fall, but you should always try to dispose of leaves promptly. If you store or pile leaves for compost, be sure to do so at least 30 feet from your home, and always keep composting materials in sealable plastic bins.
Like leaf piles, log piles also have a bad habit of attracting unwanted pests and critters. Log piles are slightly more problematic because they attract more bothersome pests, like termites and rodents. While logs can be extremely useful in the winter to keep your fireplace lit, you should always store them away from home. Furthermore, firewood should be kept off the ground and covered in a plastic tarp.
Keeping your bushes, trees, and shrubbery trimmed does more than keep up appearances; it also helps dissuade pests. Unruly, overgrown, and unkempt foliage is a haven for spiders, beetles, weevils, and many other insects. If these plants are situated along your home, it’s just a quick trip through a foundation crack to your basement. We recommend taking advantage of the cool weather and giving your foliage a quick trim. This end-of-season pruning reduces your future pest problems and keeps your landscaping looking neat at the same time.
Remove Standing Water
Standing water sources attract nasty insects, like mosquitoes, earwigs, and roaches. Homeowners should try to limit the buildup of standing water as much as possible. Check garden hose faucets, sprinkler lines, gutter drainage, and utility mains before cold weather sets in to prevent much costlier problems down the road.
Clean Your Gutters
Gutter cleaning is a seasonal chore that helps reduce household pests. Over autumn, leaves, twigs, pollen, seedpods, and all other debris will clog up your gutter system. This environment is a perfect breeding ground for spiders, ants, wasps, bees, and even rodents. Even worse, it’s an easy migration from your gutters to your attic, only requiring a crack in your fascia or siding less than a quarter inch wide to let insects inside. It’s always best to clean your gutters twice a year, once at the end of fall, then again at the end of spring. By cleaning at the end of these seasons, you get all the debris taken care of at once.
Do a Foundation Check
Speaking of small cracks leading to big problems, cracks in your foundation can lead to massive problems later down the road. These issues can include increased moisture damage, freeze-thaw expansion, and pest infestations. Once a year, always thoroughly inspect your foundation, sealing any crack a fourth of an inch or larger (or any crack you could stick your pinky finger into). We recommend using an epoxy sealant or silicone, polyurethane, or latex concrete caulk to seal cracks and expand foam to fill any large gaps.
One additional note, while you’re checking your foundation for crevices, look at your dryer vent. Dryer vents are another common way pests get inside your home, and you’ll want to be sure that it’s secured tightly and outfitted with a mesh screen.
Replace Screens and Weather Stripping
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “how do they keep getting in?” with pests, it’s almost certainly either a faulty window and door screen or weather stripping. These small gaps might seem insignificant to us, but they might as well be a “welcome home” sign for pests. Weather stripping and screen door rolls can be purchased at home improvement stores, and replacing them doesn’t take more than an afternoon. Furthermore, if you install door sweeps, you can create a more airtight seal against pests, drafts, and water.
If you’ve never had to replace weather stripping, here is a helpful video detailing exactly how:
Reduce Food Sources
Right behind shelter, food is one of the biggest attractants for pests, especially dangerous ones like cockroaches and raccoons. As part of your fall cleanup, you’ll want to reduce all potential food sources pests might want to snack on by doing the following:
- Keeping compost inside of sealed bins
- Removing and disposing of loose plant matter, like lawn clippings
- Keeping all trash in sealed, lockable receptacles
- Cleaning and disposing of all loose pet food, and wash out food bowls
- Cleaning up and disposing of birdseed
- Keeping kitchen, especially countertop and floors, clear of food and crumbs
- Using airtight containers for storing food in pantries or cabinets
The final and most important part of any fall checklist is identifying potential infestations and clearing them up before winter kicks in. For example, if you have a mouse problem in your shed once winter gets going, you’ll quickly have a mouse problem in your home. The best method for spotting an infestation is by doing a yearly pest inspection of your home and property. While checking your property, keep an eye out for the following common infestation signs:
- Large portions of dead insects
- Discarded nesting material
- Damages plants
- Damaged structures – specifically small holes, gnawed wood, and chewed wires
- Strange, foul, or otherwise musty smells
Keep in mind there are many different types of pests, each with its own telltale signs of infestation. Because of this, we recommend contacting a pest control company if you suspect an infestation.