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Dealing with pests

As winter approaches, learn how to keep unwanted visitors out of your home

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Insect infestations in the kitchen, wildlife in the attic, or rodents in the basement–most homeowners will battle an invasion at some point. The best way to protect your home is to take precautions, but if it’s already too late, protect your biggest investment by addressing the problem quickly.

This time of year, the most common problem is rodents trying to get into the home, says Andrew Wheelock, owner of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control and Truly Nolen Pest Control, with locations in Truro and Dartmouth, N.S.

“Fall and winter is rodent season,” he says. “Temperatures dip and mice and rats seek shelter and seek vulnerabilities to get in. In spring, the issue is raccoons, squirrels, and birds looking for somewhere to have babies.” Such vulnerabilities include loose siding, foundation gaps, corners where new additions meet, plumbing lines, utility spaces, even areas where new steps are built over old ones.

Nearby construction can also send pests seeking safe haven. Sonia Lear, Orkin Canada’s Newfoundland branch manager, says she’s noticed an increase in the rodent populations during development of residential and commercial areas, which disrupt the rodents’ natural habitats. “The key is to prevent and avoid potential problems,” says Lear. “Be proactive rather than reactive.”

Lear recommends eliminating spots for animals to hide (like wood piles against the house), cleaning up dog feces, and storing garbage in sealed containers. When there is a problem, her best advice is to call in the professionals. “They will assess individual situations based on the type of home and location, and recommend a program to prevent pests, or offer various trapping solutions.”

Hands down, the best line of defense is rodent proofing. Wheelock explains this means putting up barriers in the form of sealants, wire, and mesh custom fit to the home. Pest management technician Ben Legault, owner and operator of Legault Pest Management in Charlottetown, says you should seal any opening wider than a half a centimetre. “If a pencil fits, so can a mouse,” he says.

While physical barriers are the most natural (not to mention child- and pet-friendly) solution, they aren’t always possible. Wheelock cites the example of shared walls and heating systems in townhouses, and inaccessible under-home crawl spaces.

Legault says homeowners on P.E.I. should also consider their foundations. “Back in the day, 100 years ago, foundations were made with island stone,” he says. “Rodents can dig through and under it. It’s a very soft stone. You can’t proof that and you don’t expect people to be able to change their foundation.”
If you see the telltale signs of unwanted visitors, scratching or scurrying noises and droppings, it’s time to act. Look under the kitchen sink, around your garbage can, and anywhere plumbing goes into the ground or basement.

To humanely remove mice from the home, one-way doors (exit systems) are placed over entry points. With food sources properly secured around your home, the mice are forced to exit in search of food. With all the entry points sealed, the mice are locked out.

“This does not mean instant results,” says Wheelock. “It will be 12 to 16 weeks until the problem is under control.”

There are baiting and trapping solutions as well. Legault says which you choose depends on the extent of the problem. With one or two rodents, homeowners can bait or trap the pests, and rodent proof to prevent the issue from recurring. “Bait stations are tamper proof so no pets, wildlife or children can access it,” says Legault. “It’s a poison [pests] ingest and within two to four days die. Traps are instant kill.”

If you have a larger problem, outdoor bait stations are a solution. “That’s where they live, where they nest. You want to stop them before they get in.” Legault says live traps are an option, but chances are once you set a mouse free outside, he’s going to get in again.

“These rodents may look cute to some people, but the amount of destruction they can do, it’s something you want to eliminate,” he says. “They’ll chew through wires, creating a fire hazard. They can transmit diseases and contaminate food when crawling on food prep surfaces.”

Lear encourages homeowners to visit only reputable web sites if they are trying to go the DIY-route to tackle a rodent problem. “There’s a lot on the internet,” says Lear. “Be sure to use products according to labels.”

Considering all manner of solutions, Wheelock says humanely removing mice with exit systems and sealing the home exterior to prevent re-entry is the most effective and economical method. “It’s a win-win-win. Outside is for mice and rats. Inside is for people.” Legault agrees. “The main thing is to rodent proof your home. Nip the problem in the bud and get it under control.”

5 expert tips to keep your home pest-free this winter:

1. Keep anything a rodent can hide or stay safe in away from the foundation.
2. Keep the sides of the house clean of vegetation and remove soil above the concrete line, which can soften wood.
3. Use copper mesh, foam sealant, or hardware cloth to block entry where cables and plumbing enters the house or where oil tank pipes were removed.
4. Paint a one metre band of clear, high-gloss paint around any pipes coming into your home. The band should start at least one metre from the ground. This will deter climbing.
5. Clean out clutter. Monitor under the sink and where food is kept for droppings. If there are attractions, pests will establish a path and keep coming back.

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