Winter Pest Proofing Tips for Homeowners
As the weather turns colder, pests seek warmth and shelter from wet and chilly conditions. A variety of pests can accidentally wander inside your home and decide to stay well past the end of winter. Knowing what pests are likely to come into your home and knowing how to prevent them from coming in is your best chance of success against this situation. Here's everything you need to know on winter pest proofing!
Winter Pests to Watch Out For
Below are the top critters to keep in mind when winter pest proofing.
We mention rodents quite often because they are by far the most popular pests in the Carolinas. Rodents are adaptable and although they can survive outdoors, they will usually find their way inside your home, garage, or shed. As prey near the bottom of the food chain, their inherent behaviors make them excellent at staying hidden out of sight. They can go unseen for a long time, but a trained eye can always identify the signs that they are around. Loose debris, pieces of fabric, and other foraged items are tightly packed to create a nest. Nests are typically found in the wall voids behind your drywall or behind large appliances. Rodents have collapsible rib cages that allow them to flatten and contort their body to fit into small and oddly shaped gaps. All a rodent needs to get inside is a hole to fit his head and the rest of his body can follow.
Raccoons are also known to wander indoors to find food and get out of the cold. A raccoon may live in solidarity but are more likely to adopt a group come winter. They may live together in groups of 4-5 to escape the cold, store fat, and grow thick coats. At this time, mother raccoons will specifically be in search of somewhere to keep their young safe. Outdoors, raccoons prefer to live in hollow trees and burrows. Indoors, they are attracted to chimneys, attics, crawl spaces, or wall voids. Thanks to their strong sense of smell, raccoons are more attracted to homes that keep pet food and bird seed in outdoor sheds and garages.
Sealed attics are very attractive to squirrels that enjoy climbing on your roof and trees around your home. Open soffit vents and other gaps are an invitation for squirrels to come right in and make themselves at home. Once inside your attic, they will quickly build nests, reproduce, and chew on wood. In the winter, squirrels spend less time foraging outdoors, so they’re more likely to enter your home at this time. As social creatures, they may create a den to keep each other warm. One squirrel in your attic can quickly become two, then three, and so on.
Several types of birds like to nest in attics or chimneys. Starlings, pigeons, sparrows, and wrens, are some of the most common species. As they search for warmth and try to hide from predators, it’s easy for them to accidentally wind up inside. In cold weather birds like to roost, or rest somewhere safe to get away from the many predators on their trail. The beams in your attic serve as roosts, or a perch, for them to sleep on. The attic is also a safe place for them to retreat to and escape the hands of cats and other prey animals down on the ground.
Bats begin hibernation in the fall and overwinter together in roosts. Checking if a family of bats is hibernating in your home is important when living somewhere like the Carolinas. Technically, bats are protected by federal regulation and can not be removed during hibernation season. However, you can keep an eye on the bats in your home and ensure that they don’t wander further than where they are. While bats themselves don’t usually cause any harm, their feces can stain walls, damage insulation, and contaminate water. They can also increase their numbers quickly and be difficult to remove. With bats, prevention before the winter season starts in key.
Moths can’t survive in cold weather so they are desperate to seek out shelter in the winter months. You may suddenly notice an influx of moths inside your home as they try to find sources of food and places to breed. They can lay eggs in materials like clothing or dry goods — and eat them as well. Young moth caterpillars may overwinter and bury themselves into the ground. So while they’re not an issue inside, be aware that they could be outside in your yard!
As a cold-blooded pest that loves warmth, keeping a cockroach out of your home in the wintertime can be a hard task to manage if you live in areas they naturally inhabit. If these pests are too cold, their growth and metabolic rate tends to slow down. To prevent this, they actively search for warmth and tend to settle inside of cabinets, behind appliances, and so on. Similar to rodents, cockroaches can also flatten their body to squeeze into the smallest of crevices. They are experts at staying hidden, so they can go long periods of time without ever being seen and continue to reproduce in the hidden areas of your home. Check out all of the insects that call the Carolinas home. Read about the good, bad, and ugly insects in Charlotte.
Earwigs are more noticeable in the winter months as they begin moving indoors. Earwigs come indoors via small openings from the outdoors — noticing a trend here? Inside, they can be found in firewood, bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, behind baseboards, underneath rugs and carpet, and buried in the soil of indoor plants. As you can see, they love to be anywhere that has moisture.
Winter Pest Proofing Tips
Aside from making your house a fortress, here are some realistic ways you can pest proof your home for winter.
1. Keep Your Home’s Exterior Clean
Whether you have a newly-built home or one that’s been around for decades, you must keep the exterior clean and free of clutter. Remove any debris or vegetation that provides hiding spots and nesting areas for all types of insects and wildlife. You especially don’t want these touching your home or placed near any openings, such as doorways or windows. You will also want to remove woodpiles and leaf litter, as these can serve as homes for pests that will eventually want to move indoors. The goal is to keep your property as undesirable as possible for pests. Related: How to Have the Best Lawn in the Neighborhood
2. House Repairs
All water leaks must be fixed immediately. Regularly check for any plumbing or pipe leaks as the water, no matter how slow the leak, can attract all sorts of pests. Critters this small only need a minuscule amount of water to survive, so although a small leak might not seem like a time-sensitive issue, for tiny insects it actually is!
3. Seal All Possible Entry Points
In addition, any broken windows or gaps in door frames and windows must be replaced ASAP! Any entry point can and will be used as a doorway into your home by at least one or more pests. Seal all entry points with weatherproof stripping, caulk, or spray foam to ensure a tight seal. This will stop pests from being able to travel in and out and prevent more from coming in.
4. Eliminate Food Sources
All of the pests on this list require different food sources, and that’s why winter pest proofing is not something to take lightly! Take the time to research which type of pests are common in your area and eliminate every potential food source. For example, if you have signs of cockroaches, make sure to never leave any food or dirty dishes out. Cockroaches can live off mere crumbs for months at a time, so a full plate of food sitting out on the counter means they’ve hit the jackpot!
5. Keep the Lights On
Bats, cockroaches, rodents, and raccoons don’t like to be in the light, so sometimes you can pest proof simply by leaving your lights on. This isn’t a guarantee, and it may potentially rack up your electric bill, but keeping your attic or crawl space well-lit is worth keeping pests out. Light is also beneficial if you plan to use these areas for storage and ease of inspection!
6. Pay Attention to the Weather
Pay attention to the weather and perform the above tasks when it looks like a cold front may be coming. Leaving the lights on is a great option to do only when it’s extremely cold because animals may start searching for warm places to hide. Also pay attention to incoming storms, as pest problems after inclement weather are common in places like the Carolinas.
7. Call for Backup
If you want to make sure your winter pest proofing efforts are going to work, call professionals to do it for you. We can effectively prevent and eliminate all of the pests on this list and then some! We have various pest packages to take care of whichever pests (or wildlife) like to call your home, home. Pests don’t stand a chance against our expertise, schedule an appointment if you want to keep pests out of your home this winter!
This blog was originally written in 2017 and refreshed in 2020.