We’ve had our share of bug issues in the home recently. Most notable we’ve had a constant stream of ants in the kitchen all summer long. It seems every morning – no matter what we do to clean – we find a few scurrying through our kitchen.
I know that most bugs have been identified as being either harmless or beneficial to our world. We need them to maintain environmental balance. However, that doesn’t mean I want critters that buzz, fly or have more legs than I do creeping through my home all the time.
Our first inclination when that long line of ants goes streaming through the kitchen is to follow the traditional method for eradicating pests – reach for the spray can (or call in a professional if it’s severe enough, which of course can cost a lot of money). However, these methods only treat the symptom not the fundamental cause as to how bugs enter the home. Additionally, pesticides can contain chemicals that could have lasting effects on children or pets that live inside the home.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests an environmentally friendly, common sense approach to controlling pests. The goal is to eliminate the use of pesticides by focusing on prevention. In essence, you will want to stop all the conditions that entice and allow pests to enter the home.
Inside the House Steps to Bug Proof Your Home
What do humans need to survive? If you answered food, water and shelter you would be correct. It’s interesting that bugs need all three of these as well. No wonder they like your home so much.
Since that’s what bugs need you should work on correcting those issues. Follow these best practices in each area to bug proof your home:
With respect to food:
- Clean up spills with soap and water.
- Take out garbage and clean trashcans of residual food scraps.
- Place all fresh fruit in the refrigerator.
- Keep dirty dishes from piling up on the counter by washing them in a timely manner.
- Sweep up crumbs, vacuum and mop your floors regularly.
- Seal all boxes and bags of food and store all open food like flour or sugar in a plastic bag or container.
- Avoid leaving food in the pet dish overnight.
With respect to water:
- Drain dishwater from the sink after each use.
- Clean up all spilled liquids and wipe water off the countertops.
- Fix leaking plumbing and dry out damaged wet areas.
- Use a humidifier to reduce the amount of moisture in the air, especially in basements.
- Empty water seeping into trays under houseplants.
With respect to shelter:
When it comes to shelter, you should focus on sealing up entry points. Bugs can find their way into your home through the tiniest of openings. Conduct a thorough inspection of your home and fix these issues if found:
- Make sure windows, doors and ventilation openings in the attic and basement have screens or a wire mesh covering.
- Notice whether any light is showing underneath exterior doors and garage doors. If needed, install a threshold, door sweep or rubber weather stripping seal on the base of the door. Make sure the seal comes in contact with the floor.
- Fill cracks and holes around windows and doors and in drywall, brick and siding. Use caulk, silicone or a construction material that matches the existing structure.
- Locate and seal all utility openings where pipes and wires enter the home.
- Keep all doors shut when not in use or install a self-closing screen door.
Outside Steps to Keep the Bugs Away
There are also additional steps you can take outside the home to help keep bugs away. First, work on eliminating clutter by doing a general yard clean up. Remove leaves and grass clippings that might be bunched up against the foundation or laying on window ledges. Trim weeds and rake back mulch or pine straw that might be piled above the foundation.
You should also cut back all tree limbs and shrubs. Keep them at a distance of at least 18 inches from the house exterior. Place firewood away from the house so pests can’t climb up and in.
Also work on eliminating breeding sites outside the home. You should clean up pet droppings that attract flies and spread bacteria. Eliminate litter or garbage from piling up outside and place all items in a sealable trashcan. Make sure all water drains away from the home and remove standing water, as that can be a breading ground for mosquitoes and other pests.
Finally, if you have a garden, flowerbed or fruit trees keep them healthy and thriving. According to the EPA, healthy plants resist pests better than weak plants, thus lowering your pest control needs.
All of these steps will reduce the need for pesticides, save you money from calling exterminators and help you keep the bugs where they belong – outside your home.
Questions: Are you OK with a few bugs inside the home? What’s the biggest bug nuisance you deal with? What other tips can you offer to clean up and seal up the home? What’s your craziest “bug-inside-the-home” story? What else have you done to bug proof your home?