Across the country, cold weather and heavy snowfalls are not only forcing people indoors, but also driving rodents, ants, spiders, raccoons, and others to find food, water, and shelter inside the house. To homeowners, that spells trouble for more than one reason: aside from being a nuisance, indoor pests can endanger the structural integrity of the house, contaminate foodstuffs, and spread disease. Here are five critters you should expect to see inside your house this winter and some tips on how to recognize their presence.
Could you think of anything grosser than sharing your Christmas dinner with the filthy, disease-carrying rats that can cause major property damage and put your family’s health at risk? As winter closes in, rodents will enter homes more often, usually squeezing through holes the size of a quarter or climbing up drain pipes. Aside from the minor damage they cause by gnawing on furnishings and building materials, exposure to their urine and droppings can transmit serious diseases such as salmonella, hantavirus, and infection.
Signs of infestation: smell of urine, teeth marks, droppings, greasy fur marks, and gnawing on wiring and other objects.
Ants enter homes to forage for food, which is scarce especially during cold winters and dry summers. Left alone to reproduce, a few ants will rapidly turn into thousands and end up all over the house. The pavement ant is the most common ant during winter, typically nesting in the soil under sidewalks, concrete slabs, and asphalt driveways. They can easily gain access inside the house through cracks in the foundation blocks, expansion joints, weep holes, waste pipes, and other tiny crevices. Unlike other ant species, they do not cause structural damage to the house, but can surely be a pain in the neck when they start claiming all things sweet in the food cabinet, from sugar and fruit to any kind of syrups.
Signs of infestation: sightings of worker pavement ants and small piles of excavated materials inside the house or nearby.
After gorging on the seemingly endless supply of bugs available over the summer, house spiders are already heading indoors looking for shelter and preferably a mate. Now, although experts have confirmed that most house spiders are completely harmless and incapable to pierce through the skin of humans, their sight is still unnerving, always weaving their web in some dark corner of the house waiting for their prey. Large indoor populations indicate the presence of equally large insect populations, typically ants, flies, and woodlice, which serve as their prey.
Signs of infestation: sightings of spiders and their webs in dark corners, crevices, moist environments, closets, storage boxes, etc.
If you were to ask yourself: “Do cockroaches die in winter?”, the answer would probably not going to please you. Not only do cockroaches survive the freezing temperatures of the cold season, but they do so by seeking shelter as close to humans as they possibly can. And keeping them away is definitely a challenge. In their quest to find starchy foods, meats, and anything else organic, they can squirm through the smallest of openings and crawl through tiny gaps around doors and windows. They usually nest around the kitchen and bathroom, proliferate quickly, and are almost impossible to eliminate without the help of a professional.
Signs of infestation: oily or musty odors, feces resembling coffee grounds or black pepper, shed skins, egg cases, and cockroach sightings.
As if rodents in your kitchen and cockroaches in your bathroom weren’t bad enough, squirrels and raccoons can easily find their way inside your house and take up residence in the attic. Both raccoons and squirrels are excellent climbers, and they will gladly accept the warm and dry shelter provided by your attic during the cold season. They do, however, need food and water, so you’ll probably going to see a lot of them coming and going in the attic, where they will gain access via chimneys, vents, roof holes, and other openings.
Signs of infestation: nocturnal noises (growls, cries, chirps, and others) and sightings of the animals in the attic, as they climb onto the roof, or at the trashcan.
As you can see, winter is not a time to let your guard down as far as pests are concerned. They may be less active during the cold season, but that doesn’t mean they are going away completely. Quite the contrary: fall and winter are prime pest invasion periods, when the warmth and comfort of your home will probably bring in an influx of bugs, so make sure you are ready to fight back by calling your local pest control professional as soon as you notice the first signs of infestation.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.