It’s a little unsettling to see one of those big creepy-crawly bug things running across your nice hardwood floor. Actually if you’re my wife, it’s a lot unsettling. It’s also not nice to discover mice feces in a cupboard or a trail of ants heading towards the cereal boxes in the kitchen.
There are some easy ways to limit the number of undesirable house guests in your home. Health Canada offers several suggestions, such as using metal weather stripping under doors and windows to keep rodents and bugs out. Patch any cracks or holes in the foundation of the house and plug holes in roofing, vents and attic walls. Repair screens and caulk around windows and door jams. Cover dryer vents and attic vents and soffits with fine mesh metal screens to keep out rodents.
Rats, mice and larger pests like racoons are attracted to food sources, so it’s important to keep your garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids. Rinse off cans and bottles before placing them in the recycling bin.
If you have a woodpile, keep it well away from the house and about 30 cm off the ground. Avoid having tall grass or vegetation up against the house.
Inside, Health Canada says removing access to food and water is the easiest way to avoid all pest problems. Store "ant-attractive" food in glass jars with rubber gaskets or in plastic containers with lids that snap tight. Keep kitchen countertops clean and sweep or vacuum the floor frequently, especially around pet dishes. Empty your garbage containers frequently.
If you have an ant problem, caulk along interior baseboards, cracks and crevices to keep ants out. Duct tape or petroleum jelly can temporarily seal cracks. Health Canada says ants will not cross sticky barriers and recommends placing two-sided tape around the legs of plant stands. Place pet dishes in a shallow dish of water – ants can’t swim.
All sorts of insects like to make their way into the home, particularly in damp areas in the basement. The creepy-crawly bug things I mentioned are actually sowbugs and pillbugs, or millipedes and centipedes. They all have lots of legs and can appear to be pretty large when they startle you by running across the floor – but they are harmless to humans. Some are even beneficial, because they eat smaller bugs like ants, silverfish, bed bugs and carpet beetles.
To avoid having them come inside, make sure the ground slopes away from the house to avoid water and moisture retention near the foundation, says Health Canada. Use a dehumidifier or a small electric fan to dry out damp basement areas. If you have a lot of these bugs indoors, it may be because there is a food source such as rotting wood somewhere in the vicinity.
Wrap or insulate pipes that have excessive condensation and repair leaky faucets and pipes.
Another way that bugs get into the house is by hitch-hiking in on firewood or vegetables from the garden. Take a good look at anything brought indoors.
If all your preventative measures have failed, there are products available to control pests. Health Canada has introduced new rules for rodenticides, effective January 2013. Under the new rules, the poison is only available in a pre-packaged, ready-to-use bait station, which is designed to be tamper-resistant to children and pets. Some high toxicity rodenticides can only be used by licensed pest control professionals.
Health Canada says the new rules were brought in because existing mouse and rat poison looks like cereal or pet food, and children or pets could accidentally eat it.
To deal with ants, baits containing boric acid are recommended because they are of low toxicity to other animals. Use at least two different bait stations at the same time, along the path of the ants but out of reach of children and pets. Keep the traps in place for at least two weeks – you may need to put new baits in place. Don’t use chemical sprays at the same time as a bait station, or the bait station won’t work.
Using pesticides indoors for millipedes, sowbugs or pillbugs is not recommended. Health Canada says an ingredient called diatomaceous earth is a powdery dust that can be used in cracks and crevices as an ongoing control measure.
Pigeons are big problem in some areas, leaving behind a lot of feces and creating a health hazard. Again, the best way to avoid having pigeon problems is to remove anything that makes your house attractive to them, like roosting niches and large openings in high areas. Screen off sources of water such as rooftop air conditioners.
You may have to hang fine netting across your balcony. There are also "bristling wires" or "porcupine wires" that can be used on flat roofs or ledges to keep the birds away. Never leave food or garbage out where pigeons can get it.
For more information about controlling all types of household pests, visit the Health Canada website or phone the Health Canada Pest Management Information Service at 1-800-267-6315.