|Dealing With Critters
Houseguests can be great, except when they're the uninvited kind, especially those with more than two legs, a set of wings, or a penchant for gnawing on your deck. Ants, mice, termites, and bats living inside your house are not only annoying, but can cause real damage by ruining food, chewing wires and eating through walls and wood. The best defense is keeping them out, and, if they've already set up camp, knowing how to get them out quickly and effectively. Here are some tips for dealing with common household pests.
Mice and rats
Mice and rats generally come out at night and will eat whatever food is available, including candy, cereal, and even meat. If you suspect you have might a problem, look for one or more of the following signs: droppings (they look like black grains of rice), gnawed areas on food packaging, or scratching sounds in the wall, particularly at night. You can also test to see if you have mice by dusting a spot on the floor with flour and setting a cracker with peanut butter in the middle of it. In the morning, check for telltale tracks. If you do have mice, your first line of defense is to take away their food. Don't leave pet food out. Put food up on shelves or high in cabinets, store food in tightly-sealed containers instead of cardboard boxes, and store garbage in a container with a lid. Make sure not to leave dirty dishes out and wipe up spills immediately. Remove food sources outside too, including bird feeders, fallen fruit, and uncovered garbage cans.
Rats and mice can enter through incredibly tiny crevices. Survey the interior and exterior of the house, looking for ways they might get in, including holes for cables or vents and cracks in the foundation. Block their entrances by sealing around lower window frames, putting heavy-duty weather stripping under doors, and sealing openings around pipes.
To catch rodents, mechanical traps are better than poison. Poison is more dangerous and poisoned rodents may die inside walls, creating another problem. Old-fashioned spring mousetraps work well and are inexpensive. Buy plenty of them and bait with something with a strong tempting aroma like bacon or peanut butter. Make sure to put them close to the area of infestation. Mice don't like to wander far from their preferred area.
Once the problem is under control, stay vigilant with keeping spaces clean and food covered. Keep traps for the future. Or consider the time-tested solution of getting a cat.
Termites gnaw their way through homes in every state except Alaska and cause billions of dollars of damage annually. To determine if you have termites, look for one or more of the following signs: soft wood or wood that sounds hollow if you knock on it, swarms of termites in the spring, or tiny shelter tubes made of soil. If you do have termites, you will need to call in a professional to get rid of them.