How to keep your home pest-free in winter

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Just like you, pests and critters will be seeking warmth during winter. As the weather gets colder, some insects and furry animals will be looking for shelter, food sources and mates (to reproduce with). Sometimes the best place to get these is in our homes. To prevent your house from becoming a wonderland for pests, early detection and proactive measures must be done. Here’s how to stop them before they become a problem:

What kinds of pets and critters should you look out for?

Insects can seek shelter in the damp areas of your home. If you live near a lot of trees or have a garden, centipedes and millipedes can move to your basement, bathroom and other damp areas of the house. Bugs and ants, as well as cockroaches and spiders may find refuge in your walls. The worst kinds of insects are bedbugs and ticks. Some could find their way into your home during warmer weather and stick around until winter.

If you often see rodents, like mice, rats and raccoons near your house or building or if they’re using your yard as a playground, it’s possible that they are nesting in the leaves and plants. They might also be using your basement as their winter headquarters.

Should I be concerned?

Some insects like centipedes and millipedes are harmless. They can even be useful since they eat smaller insects. However, others like ladybugs, boxelder bugs or termites can bite you or leave unsightly stains and bad odour. The worst ones, like ticks and cockroaches are carriers of diseases, bacteria and other viruses. Meanwhile, rodents, aside from being possible carriers of rabies, can ruin property. They can snack on your cables, gnaw holes and damage your house. They also leave smelly and unsightly droppings and urine.

How do I prevent these pests from coming in?

  1. Block access points

    Check your walls, corners, gutters and pipes to see if there are cracks or holes from which pests can enter. Inspect windows, pet doors, chimneys and other possible openings and keep them closed during winter. Seal all small openings to your home. Use epoxy to fill in small cracks or holes.

  2. Keep your home clean inside and out

    Clutter makes your home attractive to pests. Mice start stockpiling food (food scraps, paper and other garbage) in the fall. If you have a steady supply of these, mice will stick around. Prevent them from nesting in your backyard by clearing out weeds, grass and leaves. Remove junk from your garage so rats will not hide there. Pick up trash strewn around in your area. Dispose of garbage regularly and make sure that your garbage bins have tight-fitting lids.

    Inside your home, inspect dark and secluded areas like closets in the basement or bathroom cabinets. Keep them clean and dry. Clean your bathroom regularly. Don’t keep junk like old books, fabric or broken toys in your basement. Spiders and other insects can live inside unused objects like vases, shoes and others. Make sure to pack your clothes, shoes and other items in plastic. Clean them before storing them. Your kitchen is another zone that can be targeted by pests, so keep your kitchen counters and floors free of crumbs. Store food in metal or glass containers in your cabinet or pantry. Always vacuum your carpets and rugs in all the other areas of your home.

  3. Use pest control

    If you see tell-tale signs of infestation like mouse droppings, gnawed food or insect bites, then it’s confirmed that you have an unwanted house guest. You can use traps, like poisoned baits or snap or glue traps but make sure to place them in areas that your kids or pets cannot reach. If you decide to use pesticide, first check that you are using the right product for the type of pest that you are dealing with. You can ask for advice from your local hardware or supplies store. Follow all label directions. Read Use pesticides safely from the Government of Canada site for more safety tips. If you live in an apartment, inform your building manager before using measures that may affect your neighbours.

  4. Stay vigilant

    Always maintain your surroundings and keep them clean in every season. Inspect your home periodically to ensure that the structure is sealed and secure. If you live in an apartment, ask for the building manager’s help if you think that a professional pest control expert should be consulted.

    Sources: How to keep creatures and critters out of your home as it gets colder, RJ Skinner, CBC Life; Rats and mice,; and Common pests that invade the home during the winter season, Pest Accessed November 5, 2018.

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