Posted by: SherlockHomesSY | 11 Jan 2011

Common Complaints: Pests (2 of 2)

TermitesPESTS

– Vermin
– Rodents
– Birds
– Snakes
– Insects
– Spiders

Bugs, rodents, snakes, and other vermin like to live at the same humidity level and temperature we do.  We invite them in by our house cleaning habits, holes, and by feeding them the house.  The problem with these critters is they make us sick and sometimes make it hard to breath.  Some destroy things.

This blog post is more about how to effectively keep pests from getting in the house in the first place or limit their numbers, rather than how to get rid of them.  We’ll leave vermin removal to pest control experts.

This is the second of a 2-part post on pest complaints.  In the first one we covered keeping animals out: rodents, birds, larger animals, and snakes.  In this one, we cover the creepy crawlies: insects and spiders, including those that fly.

Biology. Know your enemy!  To effectively defend against any kind of pest, you need to understand something about their biology and habits.  Thankfully, to live in a relatively pest-free home doesn’t require a PhD in bug-ology, bird-ology, rodent-ology, or snake-ology.  Introductory biology offered in high school is enough for most of us.  If nothing else, it teaches us when to call in experts.

Insects. Insects are a different story.  There are over 60,000 different kinds.  Thankfully, most of them are of no concern to us, never mind we’ll probably never see them because they don’t live in North America.  But, there are enough to be annoying.  Termites considered separately.

Most insects can be kept out of the house by air sealing cracks.  Unfortunately, we and our pets have an unintentional habit of bringing them into the house with us.  They will only survive with food and moisture.  Remove one or the other and their population is limited.

Food management seems to be our most effective control.  Keep the dishes and counters clean. Store dry goods in air-tight containers.  Store refrigerated food in the frig or freezer.  The ones that get us the most is fresh, unrefrigerated fruits and vegetables.  Typically, I don’t let them stay long in the house.  However, I have seen commercials for bags that keep food fresh longer.

Fleas and cockroaches are harder to deal with.  Protecting pets against fleas helps a lot.  When there’s an infestation, we’ve used botanical insecticides effectively and efficiently.  Humidity control works with cockroaches, but that’s most effective by air sealing the house too.

Contact a pest control professional for problem insects.

Flying Insects. Flying insects in the house don’t have to be tolerated!  Air curtains installed front of entryways will go a long way toward keeping them out.  Air curtains provide air drafts flying bugs would rather not zoom through.

Screens work in for operable windows.  They also work for closed doors.  If a door has to be opened, air curtains help!

Termites. Thankfully, for the most part, termites don’t choose to enjoy our living quarters with us.  When they do, they’re swarming and are more interested in setting up another colony than they are living in the house.  They like wood and moist, dark places.

In a crawlspace, use a vapor barrier over the soil.  Better yet, it conditions permit, enclose the crawlspace and make it part of the conditioned space of the house.

An effective control for termites outdoors is to make the first six inches those beasties have to cross before they get to the house Is concrete.  Termites don’t like being exposed, so they figure crossing this distance is a bridge to far.

I’ve heard lights in the crawlspace are effective too.  If you go that route, use compact fluorescent lamps or LED lights to reduce energy consumption.  It doesn’t have to be very bright either.

Pesticides. I surrender.  I know we might need them on occasion, but it shouldn’t be our first choice.  If it happens they are needed, do it in an environmentally friendly way.  Look for ways to avoid the use of hazardous ones.  If there are other ways to control pests, try them first.  I’d rather you didn’t twitch in your old age.

Having said that, whatever is done must be effectively and to some extent, efficiently.  If the best we can do right now is use a certain pesticide, so be it.  However, know your enemy.  Find effective and efficient ways to control pests without screwing up something else.

I realize humans aren’t born knowing how everything about this planet works and we have to figure it out.  Let’s get on with it while leaving the environment intact at every opportunity.

Spiders. Good news.  The only two spiders we’ll encounter here that can hurt us is the brown recluse and black widow.  I cringe while crawling around in a crawlspace, but I do it for my clients.  For the most part, controlling spiders is like controlling insects.

Having said that, spiders eat insects.  They will also let you know they’re around.  No insects, no spiders!

My favorite use of spiders is their webs.  Why? Because when they’re present in a house, I know there‘s an active air leak nearby.  Air seal the leak and the spider will disappear!

Resources

We’re not pest control experts.  We do our best to help you recognize opportunities to avoid them.  Some of us even have some training in inspecting for wood destroying organisms in Georgia.  We’re experts on what pest control features are in the building code.  However, when pests invade, call a local, licensed and professional pest control expert.

When I want pest control information on-line, I ask the pest control expert!  His blog is fun to read and easy to understand!  As such, he has the honor of being on our blogroll!

If you’re worried about spiders, check this out from the EPA.

In Conclusion

Have I made our point yet? Air sealing goes a long way toward limiting pests.  Screen required openings through the building too.

I wrote this blog post at Cooper Mountain, home of the 10th Mountain Division during WWII, near Leadville, Colorado.  There are two more topics in the Common Complaints series: peeling paint and our next topic, ice dams!

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