By Michelle Tomko
With summer well behind us and winter around the bend, people may start to feel like bugs and other pests are a thing of the past — a warm weather problem. Although, they’re not out in the open, doesn’t mean they’re not, well, snug as a bug in a rug in your home.
Depending on the conditions, rodents and insects can continue to breed, search for food, and nest inside your home. Now, what are the conditions that can entice these multi-legged squatters from turning your home into a pest hotel?
According to George J. Caso, a fourth-generation pest control specialist from Amco Pest Solutions, Inc., bugs don’t really go away in the wintertime. In fact, some do turn dormant — but not always. “Some become dormant, but at times they don’t need to because of the heat emitted from within multiple-family dwellings and other building structures that remain in climate-control throughout the colder months. Insects and rodents are able to survive and sometimes even thrive in these conditions. However, most of the outside bugs do become dormant or die during the winter,” said Caso.
Are there any exceptions to this? “There’s the bed bug. There’s the beetle. Also, roaches can breed all year. It depends on the weather conditions as well. Rodents become more populous because they are looking for food and warmth,” he explained.
What are some pest issues that come up in fall and winter that you don’t see in the spring and summer? According to Caso, rodents are a major problem. “Once in a while you get the box elder beetle in wooded areas. I do get a couple of calls for that, and the stink bug, but it’s hit or miss on those. Most of the work we deal with in wintertime are rodents and clean ups (e.g. mouse droppings), bed bugs (which are year-round), roach treatments, things like that. Occasionally, fleas and ticks — sometimes people can experience these pests in the cooler weather, as well,” Caso cautioned.
Is there a threat of fleas in the wintertime? “Only if they can get into a structure,” said Caso. “If the home is already infested, they can continue breeding as long as their living conditions stay the same.”
As a rule, do bugs breed in the wintertime? “They don’t breed so much in the winter. Rather, they slow down their whole system. Bedbugs and roaches can still breed. Once again, it must be in their ideal environment. If they have their ideal environment where their nest is located, yes. Termites can stay active through to springtime, and they won’t reproduce until then. However, their activity does slow up dramatically,” he said.
How can winter pest infestations be prevented? “If someone suspects insect activity, the best thing they can do is schedule an inspection to be performed by a certified and experienced professional to determine the course of treatment. Insofar as rodent and wildlife infestations during the winter, the best option for homeowners and business owners is to use preventative measures. First, close up any entry or exit holes. Second, make sure your soffits are secured, especially right where the roof lines are, so the animals can’t burrow into these. Lastly, crawl spaces — make sure they are inspected and checked. Certainly, a lot of animals will look for a place to nest. On occasion, they will nest their offspring in there,” Caso said.
As far as bedbugs go, Caso laughed, “I don’t know how long you want to make your article.” He continued, “be careful of traveling with your suitcase. For instance, if you go to hotels, keep your suitcases elevated off the ground. Always inspect when you are traveling. For example, if you see any droppings on the mattress case or the bed, be wary.” So, the word of caution is that you can bring the insects into your home from other places.
It sounds like rodents are more of a problem than bugs in winter, is this true? “Yes, as well as other wildlife: skunks, opossums — it’s their nesting time and breeding time,” Caso said.
Can bugs such as moths and bed bugs get into the vents in high rise buildings? “They can get through a vent. It’s a possibility. Mostly what you see is them getting into the unit next door. Bed bugs can go through the wallboard. They are attracted to carbon monoxide therefore they will continually search for a place where there is carbon monoxide. That’s usually in the bedrooms. Bedrooms are usually connected to the wall of another unit next door or a common wall,” he explained.
What are the classic signs of an infestation of bugs, rodents, small mammals or bats? “Bats are seasonal. That’s between April and October. You’ll notice droppings from where they hang on the side of the houses. Their droppings have a distinct pear shape. With rodents you will see droppings in different places where they’re eating. For example, kitchen, bathrooms, and utensil drawers. They’ll be attracted to dog and other pet food. You’ll also see insulation or curtains ripped apart,” he said.
So pet food is a problem? “Yes. Rodents are basically looking for any easily accessible food source,” Caso said. He also gave a tip to use a tamper resistant trap that has a lock and key to keep pets safe.
What is the best approach to protect a building through the cold months? “Tighten up any holes. You can put bait stations outside if you live in a wooded area or high activity area. We try to feed them before they get into the actual homes,” he explained.
Any closing words or tips? “An annual inspection is always good, especially in the spring. Before the winter comes check for any exit holes or potential areas where rodents could come in. Close up any holes with steel wool. A professional inspection is the best way to assess the situation. Additionally, seal up everything including food in the cabinets especially rice, sugar and cereal, and make sure your door sweeps on the garage doors are good; also, make sure to keep the garbage away and inaccessible to pests and wildlife. Remember, if you can stick a finger under it, a rodent can go under it as well,” Caso said.