Winter Pests | Which Should You Worry About?
You might think that once the weather gets sufficiently cold, you don’t have to worry about insects and other pests as much as you do during the rest of the year. Unfortunately, the pests that bother you the other three seasons are still around in the winter—they’re just hibernating or overwintering. They’re still there, and they can still cause you problems. Learn more about how to get rid of them and keep them out of your house for good.
Tips to Secure Your Home From Winter Pests
There are many tactics to secure your home from any pest looking for warmth. Just doing a couple of these things listed can go a long way in making your home pest-free. To keep insects and rodents out of your home, you should:
- Rake leaves and debris away from the foundation.
- Trim away tree branches that come in contact with the house. Ants and wildlife oftentimes enter the home this way.
- Seal any holes in your foundation to prevent rodent entry.
- Make sure your garage overhead door has a properly fitted weatherstrip to prevent pest and rodent entry.
- Do not store wood against the home- carpenter ant activity in the wood can easily find its way into your home.
- Make sure that you have a chimney cap that is properly fitted to keep out wildlife, birds, and rodents.
- Keep pet waste picked up in the yard. As gross as it may seem, rodents and certain insects consider this a meal.
- Keep all garbage in a closed container both inside and outside of the home.
- Store pet food and birdseed in tightly fitted containers.
- Keep an eye on the humidity in your basement- moisture issues can lead to fungal issues, stale smells, and insects. A dehumidifier can go a long way in preventing such problems.
Common Pests That Enter Your Home
No matter how hard you try, there will be common pests that can enter your home each and every winter. With how resilient some of these critters are, they will go to extreme measures to find warm shelter. Some common pests to worry about defending your home against include:
- Boxelder Bugs
- Stink Bugs
Rodents, specifically mice and rats, will often seek shelter inside structures during the colder months. Mice don’t hibernate though, so you’ll find them as active in the winter as you would any other time of the year. They’ll make nests in wall voids and under appliances, leaving behind bite marks and droppings as calling cards. Likewise, rats are active all year and are especially fond of making parked vehicles (like campers, ATVs, and motorcycles) their winter abodes. The one good thing is that while these rodents don’t hibernate, they do attempt to conserve energy by being less active. It will be easier to tackle a rodent infestation when the creatures aren’t reproducing as actively.
Boxelder bugs, known for their distinctive black and red/orange markings might be a pest that turns up unexpectedly in the middle of winter. These bugs likely made their home in your yours back in the fall, and have been overwintering since then. They’ve been lulled from their hiding spaces because your heat is on, and they’re confused. They think it’s spring, so they’re out and about, looking for food and places to reproduce.
Fortunately, boxelder bugs aren’t harmful and don’t generally bite. But they have an offensive odor, and their fecal material is a bright orange—which can stain upholstery and other soft goods. Killing them inside walls isn’t the best solution, because this can actually attract beetles, which will then cause their own problems. It’s best to vacuum up any you see, and wait till the warmer months to bug-proof your house by sealing cracks and repairing vents and windows.
Though bats hibernate during the winter, you may still encounter one because they sometimes awaken to move around or adjust to changing temperatures. You’re most likely to encounter a big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) in your home, although little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) are also a possibility. The big brown bat’s name is a bit of a misnomer—it’s only got a body length of about 3–5 inches. It’s really only “big” in comparison to the little brown bat, a species of microbat, which has a body length of no more than three inches.
If you do encounter a bat, take these measures: While wearing gloves, place a bucket or other container over the perched bat. If the temperature outside is above freezing, you can immediately release the bat outdoors. If the temperature is below freezing, it’s best to wait until morning when the temperatures are a bit warmer. If it is still below freezing during the day (which is often the case in the Northeast during winter), contact a wildlife rehabber. Bats can quickly dehydrate in warm temperatures, so it’s best to not leave them in the containers any longer than possible. Once you are done handling the bat, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
Stink bugs, an invasive species that the United States has been dealing with since the mid-1990s, can be found in 44 states. They get their name from the extremely pungent and unpleasant odor that they release when bothered or crushed. These bugs invade in the fall in large numbers, but it’s possible for them to have gotten into your home while you were unaware. Once there, they enter a dormant phase known as diapause. This is a phase of suspended development for the stinkbug, and in most cases, they’ll just spend the winter hiding in your walls, attic, or crawl space. However, if there’s a long enough warm spell, the stink bugs may become active prematurely. If you encounter a stink bug, don’t crush it. The resulting odor is highly unpleasant, with some people suggesting it smells a bit like cilantro. Instead, vacuum the bug up and then dispose of the particles in an outdoor garbage receptacle.
Few pests freak people out like spiders do, which is a shame since arachnids are rather helpful and eat a lot of more problematic pests. Nonetheless, most people just want them gone from their homes, which makes sense since some species of spiders can be dangerous. Fortunately, most of the spiders you’ll encounter in your home are not venomous.
Additionally, spiders are less active in the winter. As it starts to get colder, spiders go through a process called “cold hardening,” which prepares the spiders for winter by signaling their bodies to start producing an antifreeze compound. Even so, spiders need to find shelter, which just might be your home. Keep this in mind though before you squish a spider or move it outdoors. To reach maturity, a spider has eaten dozens and dozens of bugs and will continue to do so to stay alive. Your best bet may be to just leave the spider be. Just check items like infrequently worn shoes and sports equipment before using them. These are likely spots for a spider to have taken up residence.
If you’ve got pets, you’ve probably dealt with fleas at least once or twice. If you have, you know they most likely got into your home because your pet went outside and brought one—or more—of these pests back inside. So you might be thinking that you don’t have to worry so much about fleas because it’s too cold outside for them to survive. You’re right about that—fleas can’t survive freezing temperatures. However, fleas don’t hibernate, and they aren’t less active in the winter. In fact, they are more active, feeding and breeding rapidly inside your nice warm house. If you find a flea, there are several things you need to do to stop an infestation from developing. First, make sure you treat your pets with oral or topical medication, as recommended by your veterinarian. Second, vacuum everywhere you possibly can. Regular vacuuming can greatly reduce flea populations. Third, wash everything you possibly can. Any eggs deposited on clothes or linens could result in a reinfestation a few months later.
Contact Your Local Pest Control Exterminators
Pest control is an issue that needs to be tackled year-round. While insects and rodents may not be as visible in the winter, that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as present as they are in the warmer months. It’s best to address issues before they become problems, which is why Eco Serve offers a premium service plan to help homeowners combat pests 365 days a year. With this plan, you’ll get three scheduled visits each year: one in spring, one in late summer, and one in winter. We’ll target rats, mice, spiders, ants, wasps, and spiders, and get your home pest-free. Our Premium Plus plan targets additional pests like fleas and stink bugs, based on your home’s unique needs. While there are many steps you can take yourself to eliminate pests from your home, oftentimes, it’s necessary to call a professional. Our technician's service Williamsville, Amherst, and the surrounding Buffalo, NY area.