Keeping pests out of your house can be a struggle. Every summer, countless homeowners are faced with swarms of biting insects, rodents, and creepy-crawlies. Companies like Terminix and Orkin can help with extermination and general prevention, but it’s not uncommon for pests to find their way inside.
Thankfully, there are basic habits that you can adopt to help discourage pests in the first place. The first step in curbing pest problems is removing certain objects that attract pests from your property. To help, we’ve compiled a list of some common things inside and outside homes that attract pests.
Common household bugs and insects are attracted to food and shelter, and piles of garbage provide both. By removing piles of garbage, you will have a cleaner home and eliminate an attractant for pests. You should immediately clean up trash, tie up and secure trash bags once filled, and promptly take them to outside bins.
The most crucial areas to keep clean of trash and clutter are the attic, garage, and basement. These areas are more prone to clutter going uncleaned since they’re often used as storage areas and see less frequent tidying. You should come into these areas and give them a good cleaning at least once per month, along with a seasonal, deep cleaning.
Dirty dishes, both in the kitchen and throughout the home, are among the most attractive food sources for pests. Leaving dirty dishes out can quickly attract gnats, flies, cockroaches, silverfish, and mice. After eating, you should bring your dishes to the kitchen, rinse them off, then clean them promptly.
Another major problem to avoid is letting dishes pile up in the kitchen sink. Piled-up dishes, especially when half-filled with water, become an appealing buffet to insects. Drain flies, earwigs, and fruit flies love sugar, food, and standing water. A good habit for keeping away drain flies and other pests is to clean and run dishes after each meal and at the end of each day to ensure no dishes remain in the sink.
Speaking of standing water, you should try to eliminate stagnant water on the lawn that can pool around the home. Birdbaths, kiddie pools, pet water bowls, and filled flower pots should be emptied and cleaned regularly. Certain pests, such as gnats, mosquitos, stink bugs, and certain species of spiders, love standing water.
Mosquitoes are the worst offenders, as they need a water source to lay their eggs. Mosquitoes can become a real problem if a house is located next to a pond, river, or lake, or has an untended pool. While there isn’t anything you can do about a pond or river, making sure your pool has a functioning pump and is properly chlorinated will help keep mosquitos at bay.
One of the most natural attractants for unwelcome guests is firewood. It provides shelter, food, and a breeding ground for countless pests. Roaches, rodents, spiders, ants, termites, weevils, and a host of other unpleasant visitors, love to call stacks of firewood home. Firewood can even come pre-loaded with problems if gathered from nearby trees, as they likely are already housing pests and their eggs.
You should never store firewood inside, even if bought from a store. Firewood should also not be stored next to the house; instead, you should keep firewood off the ground, wrapped in plastic tarp.
Wild grass, overgrown plants, and untended shrubs are the perfect places for countless pests to hide and propagate. An uncared for lawn can lead to problems with mice, ants, lady beetles, grubs, crickets, earwigs, spiders, and even more pests. You should cut your grass once per week, rake and dispose of leaves and debris, and remove weeds when they arrive. It’s also important to avoid planting shrubs, bushes, trees, and gardens next to the home.
Due to the difficulties of modern life, it’s easy to collect massive amounts of paper. Catalogs, magazines, bills, legal forms, and documents can pile up over time. If not stored correctly, these documents can become the hiding place of unwelcome house guests. Plastic, airtight containers with front-facing labels are your best bet. While cardboard banker boxes are tempting, these are almost worse than leaving the paper unboxed, as cardboard can also attract pests.
The kitchen countertop is a popular place to store certain fruits and fresh produce. Pears, bananas, passionfruit, and most melons do better when not refrigerated, making open-air storage unavoidable. If left to overripe, these fruits will quickly attract certain pests, ruining the fruit and contaminating other foodstuffs. Overripe fruit attracts gnats, cockroaches, and mice, and is one of the biggest sources of fruit flies. You should try to consume fruit and vegetables before they become overripe, and once beyond salvaging, you should dispose of them via trash or compost.
Homeowners often ignore gutters, with most cleaning them only once or twice in their lifetime. Mice, squirrels, birds, ants, and spiders love clogged gutters, and keeping them out is as simple as keeping the gutters clean. Generally, you should clean your home’s gutters at least twice a year, depending on the local foliage. The ideal seasons to schedule a gutter cleaning are once in the fall and late spring. The fall cleaning helps rid your gutters of the heavy leaf drop and other debris like pine cones and bird nests. The spring cleaning helps remove mold and grime that has been fermenting with the heavy rainfall of spring.
In the same vein as left out dishes, food that is left exposed to air is like a siren song for pests and critters. Not only is left out food unsanitary, but it can attract some of the worst forms of pests and, if left unchecked long enough, can lead to severe infestations. Cockroaches, mice, and flies are the most problematic pests that food attracts, as members of this terrible trio carry hazardous foodborne diseases like E. coli and salmonella. Once the food crumbs draw them in, they will invariably head towards your pantry and kitchen, potentially contaminating your fresh food.
Your home’s walls are the first and best defense against outside invaders. Like all defenses, they’re only as strong as their weakest point, and that entry point is often tiny cracks and crevices. Homeowners often underestimate how little space pests need to get inside their homes; insects only need a fraction of an inch in most cases, while mice only need about a quarter of an inch.
For sealing these cracks, your best option is silicone-based caulk or expanding foam in the case of larger holes. It’s always best to give your home a yearly walkthrough, carefully looking for any cracks or openings and tending to them immediately.
Over quarantine, the popularity of bird-watching exploded. It became a way for homeowners to bring the serene beauty of nature to their homes, providing solace and enjoyment. While using bird feeders is a great pastime, it can create quite a mess. Bird seeds can attract roaches, mice, and ants, who will quickly take up shop and make your home their home.
If you want to enjoy bird feeders without worrying about pests, keep all feeders at least 20 feet away from your home. Avoid overfeeding and clean up any droppings, crumbs, and shells that find their way to your porch or patio.
Spend any time on your front porch at night, and you’ll quickly learn that insects are attracted to light. However, some lights attract insects more than others. White lights, sometimes called soft lights, are more likely to attract flying insects than warm light. This attraction is because insects typically only see in three colors, blue, green, and ultraviolet, and soft lights shine more in this spectrum. To attract fewer flying insects, you should use warm-toned lights in and around the entrances to your home and keep cooler toned lights, like LEDs, for the inner part of your home.
Keeping pests away from your home comes down to removing their reason to stop by. To do this, keeping your property devoid of trash and clutter is the first and most crucial step. But once you consolidate and remove this clutter, the place you store it until disposal is also important. Broken, exposed, or unsealed trash bins can attract pests by allowing smells and liquids to leak out. This leakage will attract flies, mice, roaches, gnats, and even larger pests like raccoons and possums. You can avoid leaky trash cans by investing in high-quality, sealed cans with attached lids.
Composting can be a great way to cut down on what we throw away. Composting helps reduce landfills, allows us to recycle food, and creates high-quality fertilizer at the same time. However, composting can create tremendous problems for you if not done correctly. If you’re going to compost and want to avoid pests, you should keep compost 10 to 15 feet from home and contain it in sealable bins.
Another important part of composting is knowing what to compost and what not to compost. You should avoid composting:
- Insect infested plants or soil
- Dairy products
- Fat, grease, oils, or similar animal byproducts
- Any form of meat, bones, animal skins, etc.
- Coal or ash
- Yard trimmings or plant products affected by fertilizer or insecticide
Similar to cracks and gaps in walls or your foundation, gaps in siding can provide pests with easy access to your home. While not all openings extend into your walls, any hole in the house’s siding can allow insects inside that individual piece. Lady beetles, spiders, and especially wasps like to take advantage of weak siding.
Frequently inspect your siding, filling the gaps with silicone caulk or expanding foam. In extreme cases, you may need to remove siding to clear out infestations and replace that section altogether.
Missing shingles, gaps between the fascia and eaves, and holes in attic window screens are potential ways pests can infest your attic. Mice, squirrels, chipmunks, bats, and raccoons love to inhabit your home’s upper sections. Unlike most home maintenance and repair, roof damage is easy to overlook, as a standard roof can last up to 25 years if installed correctly. You also aren’t likely to venture into the attic very often to spot potential damage. That’s why it’s good to give the attic a good inspection once every year to make sure everything is up to code.
As mentioned several times before, damaged window screens can be an entryway for pests. Most flies can squeeze through even the tiniest of gaps or holes, so even that pea-sized hole in your screen can offer easy access. Flies and gnats can plague most homes during the summer months, with homeowners in the south encountering them almost year-round. Thankfully, patching or completely repairing screen doors isn’t difficult. You can purchase screen door tape or patches for a quick fix or buy entire screen rolls for a replacement.
We all love our four-legged friends, and so do pests, specifically their food. Cat and dog food is full of sugars, fats, oils, and nutrients. These are the exact ingredients most pests look for in desired food. Most pet food will attract common pests like mice, roaches, ants, and other bugs. If left outside in bowls, pet food will also attract raccoons, possums, foxes, and other wildlife. While these larger forest side neighbors aren’t pests, they can bring pests along, like ticks, lice, fleas, and other parasites. Homeowners should always sweep up after their pets and keep food bowls inside if possible, and if not possible, empty them into the garbage at the end of the day.
One of the most significant contributors to home invaders is houseplants. While great as accent pieces and beautiful additions to almost any room, houseplants can act as a veritable trojan horse for insects. Insects love to hide their eggs all on plants, so you should always carefully check a plant’s stalk, body, tops and bottoms of leaves, and flowers before bringing them inside. Plants from your lawn or garden should be checked even more thoroughly, as they’re more exposed to the elements than store-bought greenery.
While it may feel like a daunting challenge to keep pests out, you can prevent them with simple good housekeeping and homeowner habits. Simple daily tasks like taking out the trash, cleaning the kitchen, and removing messes are enough to prevent them in the first place. At worst, some of the more difficult jobs are standard maintenance in spring cleaning or simple steps in active pest control. It’s also good to keep in mind that occasionally infestations happen, and on those occasions, they’re manageable with the help of an exterminator or pest control service.