By MARC AMORE
For the Paxton Record
When I was a little boy, 9 or 10 years old, my friends and I had a club. Well, not so much a club as an organization. We called ourselves “BeeBusters.”
There were a lot of bees in the neighborhood, and for some reason we took it upon ourselves to rid our friends and neighbors of this winged menace. We collected all of the butter dishes and Tupperware containers that we could find and very carefully trapped the offenders within. We would then take them to my house and put them in the “Containment Unit,” otherwise known as my parents’ freezer.
After a few hours the threat was neutralized, and the now dead bees were given a proper burial — with full military honors, I might add. This went quite well for several weeks until my mom decided to make some ice cubes and wondered what the heck her good Tupperware was doing in the freezer. In retrospect, I think that the whole thing would’ve ended a lot better for me if the bees had been in the “Containment Unit” for longer than about 15 minutes when she found them.
I think that this is probably my first experience in pest management, and if you would’ve asked me on that day if I would’ve ever considered making pest control my life work I probably would’ve thought about how bad my butt hurt and gave you a firm “NO.”
Thankfully, enough time passed for me to forget the pain of the switches and look back on this experience with a trained eye. If I was able to talk to my 9 year old self, I would tell him that rather than trying to catch and kill this beneficial insect, it’s a whole lot easier (and less painful) to try and exclude them from entry into your home.
That’s what I want to focus on today, showing some easy, inexpensive and effective ways that you can help prevent insects and rodents from entering your home. We will talk about exclusion on the outside and the inside, as well as things in and around the house that can make the home more attractive and inviting to pests.
Pest-proofing from outside
It’s happened to me. The cable guy comes and moves some wires around and drills a new hole from the outside to run a new cable. He does his job well, and in no time the kids are watching Nickelodeon and sipping Kool-Aid.
Outside, though, there is a new access point for those little black ants that could care less about “ICarly” but would love to get some of that Kool-Aid. What looks like an innocent little hole to you and I is I-57 for the ants, and your house is the exit with plenty of Food-Gas-and Lodging.
When you are approaching pest-proofing from the outside, it’s important to think like a bug. As you walk around your home, bring a caulking gun and some steel wool. Any crack or wire entry can be caulked and offer a good level of protection.
The steel wool can be packed into any larger opening to prevent rodent entry. If you are wondering how big is big enough when it comes to rodent entry, use your fingers as a guide.
If an opening is large enough to fit the tip of your pinkie, a mouse can gain entry. If it is large enough to allow the tip of your thumb, a rat can gain entry.
It’s also good to install hardware cloth, half-inch wire mesh, over all of your crawlspace vents. If you can safely get on your roof hardware cloth should be put over chimney caps and vents as well to prevent rodent and bird entry. If you can’t safely access your roof there are plenty of local contractors that would be willing to do this for you for a small fee.
Moving to the interior
On the interior of the home, the easiest access is sometimes the one that you yourself use.
You should install door sweeps on all exterior doors.
Check all windows and make sure that they shut correctly and completely, also make sure that all window screens are rip free and installed properly so that they fit flush against the window frame.
If you have an attached garage, make sure that there is a nice seal at the base of the garage door, as well as the sides. If your house is like most, there is a huge gap on the side of the garage door.
Once you have done this, you can do a “Lights Out” test. During the day, close as many curtains as possible and turn off all the lights. Go around the house, crawlspace and attic too if possible, and seal up any areas that you can see the light shining through, if it’s big enough for light to get in, it’s probably big enough for a pest to get in.
‘East at Joes’ sign for bugs
There are lots of things around the outside and inside of your home that send up a big “Eat at Joes” sign to bugs and rodents.
Overgrown vegetation provides food, shelter and a great starting point for lots of bugs.
Ants will feed on aphid honeydew and other insects that hide on and around overgrown vegetation and it is only a matter of time before an ant scout discovers the smorgasbord in the house.
Leaf litter and dead weeds and grass are another thing that bugs love. They hold in moisture which lots of insects like and also because they are decaying organic matter they are a great food source for many home invading pests.
It’s important to keep trees trimmed away from the home. Overhanging trees that touch the house can provide a good way to get bugs from the outside in contact with your home; in addition the branches can rub against your roof shingles eventually creating a roof leak that could attract carpenter ants and termites.
If you store firewood at your home, try to not have it stacked up against the house. This wood to soil contact is a great way for termites to find your firewood, and then your home.
On the interior of the home reducing clutter is vital. Clutter is a great place for most home invading pests, from cockroaches to bedbugs to hide. The fewer places for them to hide and reproduce, the slower the infestation will grow and reducing clutter also makes control easier.
Sanitation is key to preventing infestations on the interior, however even in the cleanest house in the world insects and rodents will find a snack or two. Keeping pet food and water up off of the ground and in sealed containers is helpful, as well as keeping all opened food in the panty in sealed containers. Garbage should be emptied often and the can cleaned out frequently.
Covering the bases
While this is by no means a technical manual on insect exclusion in the home, I think that we have covered enough points that if you use the points outlined; you should be well on the way to helping keep bugs and rodents out of your house, instead of inviting them in.
It is also important to remember that no matter how vigilant one is, there is still always a possibility that pests will find a way to get in, and remember when in doubt, always contact a licensed pest management professional. Most reputable companies will offer a free, or very inexpensive, inspection and will outline a treatment plan and include ideas to help you pest proof your home.
I want to add one last thing: If there are any young boys or girls reading this, do not put bees in your mother’s freezer, I promise you that it will not end well.
Marc Amore lives in Paxton with his wife and their two sons. He is the owner of Paxton Pest Solutions and has been kickin' ants for over a decade.