While the close of summer means an end to certain pests like mosquitoes and fleas, the pending cold weather heralds the beginning of a new battle against pests – the ones that seek refuge from the cold in your home. September is the perfect time to start building defenses in and around your home because, while the days may still be warm, the nights can dip into temperatures that signal to the insect and animal kingdom that it is time to move indoors. Fortunately, there are natural and humane ways to keep critters from trespassing year after year. When implemented regularly, these tactics can reduce the frequency of invasion because, just like people, insects and animals communicate with each other, sending warnings of dangerous or inhospitable situations. Of course, new generations and new foreign invaders are born everyday, but they, too, will learn in time that they are better off taking up winter residence somewhere else.

Think Perimeter
Too many pest control experts concentrate on dealing with the problem inside the house. This approach makes sense once pests have moved in. However, focusing on the perimeter of your house can prevent an invasion in the first place, and the best defense against pests like mice and other rodents is predator urine. There are several products on the market specifically formulated to fend off a variety of different creatures. Select the product developed to repel the specie or species seeking entry into your home. Because things like rain, snow and time diminish the effectiveness of predator urine products, they generally need to be applied more frequently than indicated. When placed around the perimeter of your home at least once per month, they signal danger in a natural, effective way.

Blocking Access
Mice are perhaps the biggest perpetrators of fall and winter home invasions and are tricky to catch in a humane way. A very effective way to keep them out of your home, in addition to placing predator urine, is to block access. By carefully going around your home and stuffing all cracks and holes (especially around pipes under sinks) with steel wool, you can block the majority of mice from entering. The steel wool pokes their noses acting as a strong deterrent to entry. Be sure to fill all of the cracks and holes that you see – even if they seem small – because a mouse can flatten their bodies to 1/4".  It is important also to make sure that all windows, screens and doors are free of gaps and holes to keep flies and beetles from camping out during the winter. If you are not opposed to killing bugs, sprinkling boric acid around the interior perimeter and in the cracks of your home is a safe, effective way of killing ants and roaches.

Be a Bad Host
By keeping a clean, dry home you give pests another good reason to find a more hospitable winter residence. Centipedes, for example, are drawn to moisture, so be sure to wipe bath and kitchen surfaces frequently and secure any leaks right away. Running dehumidifiers in basements and crawl spaces can greatly reduce the number of moisture seeking bugs. Mice require very little water to survive, but even the smallest crumb can be a veritable feast. By being alert to any crumbs that are left around your home – especially in spaces between counter tops, sinks and stoves where crumbs can easily fall – you can let these little critters know that they are not going to have a bountiful winter.

The most important part of ensuring the effectiveness of these measures is to be sure that they are done in early fall and that they are implemented regularly. While the steel wool barriers will stay put for years, treatments like boric acid and predator urine lose effectiveness in about 2-3 weeks. Being vigilant about controlling moisture and food debris is a daily task but crucial to keeping a bug and rodent-free home. All of these measures are certainly year-round solutions to controlling pests but are most essential during the months when critters need to come in from the cold.

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