Pests Threaten Your Home & Your Health
Inspect your home for pests
A professional pest inspection is a good idea and normally costs $100 or less. This is not only important when you buy your home, you should have your home inspected annually. Be on the offensive. Identify pests and treat your property as often as necessary to rid them and prevent them from returning. Don’t let pests threaten your health or your most important investment – your home.
An ounce of prevention
Household pests can be more than a nuisance; they can be a threat to your property value. Pests can invade your home and cause damage to walls, floors and structural supports. Damage from pests can impact your value or disrupt the sale of your home in the future. Pest control is an important ingredient in owning a home. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Did you know that the most common pest – the termite – can be difficult to spot? Signs of termite infestation may be hidden to you unless you know what to look for, and where to look. Did you know that termites can tunnel hundreds of feet to reach a feeding site? A feeding site could include the support beams, floor joists, wall studs or even the siding on your home.
Cockroaches can wreak havoc on your home
Cockroaches can enter your home through cracks, crevices, vents, or sewer pipes. You can even carry them into your home unknowingly, in grocery bags, moving boxes, or possibly when moving furniture. Cockroaches can reproduce quickly. For each one you see, many more may be multiplying where you can’t see them. It requires know-how and proper treatment to eliminate them. Call your local expert.
Mice, ants, rats, fleas, ticks and bees are a few more pests that can be a threat, cause damage or bring disease into your home. Take the time to have an annual inspection. Identify if these pests are residing in your home or on your property. The cost to treat your property if done regularly is minimal. It’s really a maintenance function. Deal with pests routinely to ensure significant problems are not in your future.
Warranty plans differ in price, but spending a few hundred dollars for ongoing treatments is better than spending thousands in the future if pests cause serious damage to your home. Inquire with your local pest control service. Compare several leading brands and review service plans and warranties carefully. Select a reputable company and a comprehensive warranty plan and you’ll likely remain pest-free.
Prevent Pests, Inspect and Treat Your Home
A Pest for Every Season
Homebuying and pest inspections
When you’re buying a home, you’re more likely to focus on a home inspection that will reveal potential structural problems, moisture issues or an aging roof. In some areas, a termite inspection is also a legally required part of a purchase contract. Whether you must have a termite inspection or not, addressing the issue of pest control should be another part of your due diligence before buying a home.
"People usually know what’s common in their area at different times of year, but if you’re relocating it’s a good idea to find out what to expect," says Chelle Hartzner, a board-certified entomologist with Orkin. "When I moved from Kansas, where there are four seasons, to Florida, I realized I had to deal with a much longer pest season. All that warm, humid air gives all kinds of pests more time to develop and to expand their population."
Hartzner says there are yearly fluctuations in the types and volume of insects that can be hard even for scientists to predict. "The number of insects we’ll see depends on the temperature, food and water supplies and other insects," says Hartzner. If you’re concerned about a particular pest, you can contact a pest control company to do an inspection and evaluate whether you need some type of treatment. "Termites are more of a problem in the Southeast, but ants, cockroaches and mosquitos can be a problem anywhere," says Hartzner.
While termites and carpenter ants can cause serious structural damage, other pests can be unsanitary and dangerous to your family’s health.
"A significant change in the way we address pest control today is that we’re not just about spraying a lot of stuff to get rid of pests," says Hartzner. "Instead, we’re looking to prevent infestations rather than treat them after they occur. We also try to treat issues as soon as they start so they are less likely to get out of control."
For example, to prevent rodents from entering your property, you can inspect the outside of your home and make sure that vegetation and trash are well-managed and less likely to attract rodents. You can also check the seals of your doors, particularly the bottom seals, to make sure they are tight.
"A full-grown mouse can get in through a space that’s the size of dime," says Hartzner.
While spiders are beneficial outside since they eat mosquitos and other pests, you don’t want them inside your home. Checking your window and door seals and making sure your window screens don’t have any torn spots can prevent spiders from coming indoors.
A pest inspection, while not always required, can be a good way to begin your pest prevention process – in any season of the year.
Getting Rid of Pests
Learn to keep unwanted creatures away
Even before you sign on the dotted line, your home should be checked for certain uninvited visitors--pests. They can show up and dig in for the long haul. Termites, cockroaches, mosquitoes, ticks, carpenter ants, and rodents can wreak havoc on your home’s infrastructure, both exterior and interior. They can also be a danger to your health. There are many steps you can take to rid your home and yard of them.
In terms of disease and death, mosquitoes now are considered the number one most dangerous pests. At first, it was concern about West Nile virus, then malaria, elephantiasis, dengue and yellow fever, and now the dreaded Zika virus. "So many governmental agencies are trying to figure out how to handle the challenge," says Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association in Fairfax, Va., which represents 7,000 pest management companies.
Second on the list of health risks are ticks--and Lyme disease, and no longer just along the East Coast, but also in the Midwest. "It was such a mild winter, which makes the ticks come out more. To date there have been 300,000 reported cases of Lyme disease in this country, and that's just the number of reported ones. It could be far greater," Mannes says.
As we tick off pest problems, let's not forget termites, considered the top threat to wood-based structures and ahead of fire, floods and wind damage. They cause more than $5 billion in property damage yearly, which isn't always covered by homeowners insurance, says Mannes. Of course, there are many other pests that cause problems, even fatal ones. "Cockroaches can spread 33 different kinds of bacteria, plus a e-coli and salmonella, as well as trigger asthma and allergies," she says.
Where do you begin? Follow these steps:
Do research. Learn what bugs and animals are most prevalent and troublesome in your area. Stink bugs thrive in the mid-Atlantic, kudzu bugs congregate in the South, and Asian lady beetles are everywhere! Make note of their habits. Some animals migrate South when the weather gets colder, and many such as rodents may seek shelter in your log pile. Learn to recognize different species since prevention and removal vary. The Association's website offers an illustrated Pest World glossary and information about where different species are prevalent.
Hire a professional pest management company. It can provide regular maintenance, according to your home's needs and pocketbook, or when you spot an infestation. Choose a firm that's licensed through your state's Department of Agriculture and is a member of a trade association to make sure it's up on best treatment and prevention practices. "You want to buy value rather than price," Mannes says. And know that if you live in the South, you may need more regular service--perhaps, monthly or every other month rather than quarterly, since they can be more prolific there because the temperatures are warmer.
Practice cleanliness. Food left on counters--even crumbs, and dirty dishes in a sink are big invitations for which the pests didn’t RSVP. Use a disposal or trash can with bag and lid, and regularly clean pantries and appliances.
Tackle home improvement. Leaks in pipes, gutters, and hoses are a huge come-on to many pests that love water and moisture, (mosquitoes thrive in standing water) as well as shelter. Also repair doors, windows, screens, walls, chimneys, and loose mortar since many bugs will find holes and enter. Rodents can squeeze through under doors and openings as small as a coin.
Prune branches and shrubs near your home. Squirrels are skilled trapeze artists and will find openings in roofs and walls for warmth. Keep branches 6 feet to 8 feet from your roofline.
Store fire wood and mulch away from your home. These are inviting nesting places because they provide cover. Also keep them 6 feet to 8 feet from your foundation. "Squirrels do severe damage and not just in an attic or garage. They can eat through wires and cause electrical fires," Mannes says.
Observe your community's regulations. They vary. For example, some stipulate that a groundhog must be removed and released. But some reflect nationwide guidelines. Certain bat species are protected as Endangered Species by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. A pest control company and local or state extension services can provide key additional information.
Share with us your pest control issues.
Barbara Ballinger is a professional writer, author, blogger and speaker who has long focused on real estate, design, and personal finance. She has co-authored many books, including Successful Homebuilding and Remodeling, The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space, and The Garden Bible: Designing the perfect outdoor space. She regularly contributes to the National Association of Realtors® Website and magazine.
Margaret Crane is a nationally known freelance writer, blogger and journalist who has co-authored with Barbara Ballinger several books and articles on real estate, design and family business. Her byline has appeared in Realtor® magazine. With more than a half-dozen titles to her credit, Margaret’s latest design book is The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space.