As spring approaches, homeowners won’t be the only ones opting for stay-cations. Insects that hibernate during cold winter months reappear in the spring, setting their sights on a location closer to home than you think – the safety and warmth of your house. Hundreds of thousands of pests breed and hatch in large numbers in early spring. For example, most spiders live either one to two seasons and one female spider may produce as many as 3,000 eggs.
“Hidden places in your home could be the breeding ground for pests that hatch in spring,” says Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), a national organization representing the manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticide and fertilizer products used in and around homes and businesses. “Once these pests hatch, their numbers quickly increase, and food sources and shelter often determine the length of their stay.” Pests like bed bugs and stink bugs that have found their way into homes across the country often stay year round, as long as they find food and shelter.
Also, as the spring real estate market heats up, many lenders are requiring re-inspections that could reveal pest-related health and safety hazards. At least buyers and sellers are on the same page about one thing: the importance of taking preventive action to avoid or manage pest infestations. Ask any pest management professional to share horror stories about problems new homeowners have experienced with pests, often with repercussions for sellers who neglected to fix a problem.
What can homeowners and sellers do? Take these easy-to-follow steps, suggested by the acronym I.N.S.P.E.C.T:
Investigate – Become a pest detective and investigate your home or a potential new home for pest problems. On the inside of your home, open food containers, look for cracks in interior walls, look for signs of droppings, check vents to the outside, holes in window screens and know that pests like to hide in cool, dark places like attics and basements. On the outside of your home, make sure the cold temperatures aren’t causing cracks in your exterior walls, and investigate for holes, unsealed garbage cans, woodpiles and plants that may be too close to the home. Also, check any structure that can hold standing water, which is a favorite breeding ground for mosquitos. Also check for stinging insect nests on the ground or in your gutters.
Study – Identify your pest problem so that you can use the proper method to solve or control the issue. Take time to search reputable online sites to identify pests. You can also contact a university extension office, or visit a local garden store that may have insight on common pests in the area.
Prepare – Think about the tools you’ll need to solve your problem, including gloves, caulk and insecticides or herbicides. “One of the most common problems homeowners have is that they aren’t sure which products to use or who to call to solve the problem,” says Janet Hurley, integrated pest management specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. “Doing your research, talking to professionals and correctly using the products are the quickest ways to effectively end those pesky pest problems.”
Eliminate – Take the time to eliminate access points and other inviting entryways for pests lurking outside. Remember to seal windows, caulk gaps around windows and doors and fix any water leaks. Be ready to tackle neglected or overgrown shrubs and trees near your home. These areas encourage ticks, fleas and stinging insects to stay, increasing your risk for Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and infections and allergic reactions resulting from bites and stings.
Clean – Pests need a place to live, food and a source of water, so make sure you aren’t providing them with room, board and all the comforts of home. For example, store cereals, crackers and other food items in plastic containers with secure lids. Without easy access, pests won’t be able to find their way into your food.
Treat – Treating pest problems with the responsible use of pesticide products will help keep your home, lawn and community pest-free. This includes purchasing the right products for your problem. For some significant pest problems, such as termites, calling a certified pest professional is the best option.
To make inspecting your home easy, visit www.debugthemyths.com/inspectandprotect for a step-by-step checklist. You’ll also find additional resources including regional fact sheets, kids’ activities and other helpful information to help you protect your family’s health and your property value from pests.
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