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5 Tips to Pest-Proof Your Property This Winter

By Hope Bowman, Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services

When temperatures drop, pests, just like people, start looking for relief from the cold weather. With an ample supply of food, warmth, and hiding places, this search could lead pests inside apartment buildings.

Stink bugs, Asian lady beetles, cluster flies, and box elder bugs often gather together on the south and west sides of buildings looking for warmth. At first, they’ll use the sun but as it gets colder, they’ll migrate indoors. These types of pests often stick together in swarms, huddling together for warmth. While they typically aren’t harmful, they can be a major nuisance, especially in large numbers.

Cockroaches are another pest to look out for in the winter months. Though a year-round pest, residents may be more likely to see cockroaches this time of year because they are spending more time indoors. When it comes to cockroaches, just because you only see one, doesn’t mean there aren’t more lurking nearby; in fact, it’s often the opposite. You’re most likely to spot cockroaches at night because they’re nocturnal. If you spot one during the day, it could signal a more severe scenario as cockroaches usually don’t come out during daylight unless an infestation has caused hiding areas to be overcrowded and food sources to dwindle.

It’s not just bugs that invade apartment buildings in winter; rodents, birds, and even larger animals like squirrels and raccoons can seek shelter also. Bird and rodent feces carry a host of diseases and can cause health issues from allergies and asthma to Hantavirus, Salmonella, and jaundice. Rodents, squirrels, and raccoons can cause a large amount of structural damage very quickly by chewing and foraging within the walls, attics, and crawl spaces of the building.

Some of these pests go into hiding during fall where no one can see them, creating an out of sight, out of mind issue. By the time they’re noticed – usually in early spring as they try to get back outside – they can present a big problem, as their often sizeable populations can make simple control measures ineffective.

But, winter doesn’t automatically mean doom and gloom. There are preventive measures you can take to protect your property and your residents from unwanted winter invaders.

  1. Look for holes, cracks, or gaps on building exteriors. Any crack or gap larger than a dime is a potential rodent entry point, so the first order of business is to start sealing those areas off. Mice can sneak through holes as small as a dime and rats the size of a quarter. Use a weather-resistant sealant – you don’t want to undo your hard work with the first storm. Larger holes can be repaired using copper mesh to plug the hole before sealing.
  2. Install weather stripping and door sweeps on all doors. If you already have weather stripping, make sure it’s in good condition. Repair or replace damaged window screens. Remember even the smallest crack can allow pests inside.
  3. Clean up. Rake debris away from the foundation and unclog the gutters. Leaves and general muck make great harborage for winter invaders. Cut back trees and shrubs at least three-feet from the building exterior to eliminate easy access points and more harborage. In addition, properly seal all garbage bins and keep trash areas clean eliminating food sources for pests.
  4. Do any of the units on your property have fireplaces? If so, don’t forget the chimney. It’s a great entry point for pests and during the summer they may have built nests inside of it. Make sure the chimney is free of all debris and install chimney caps to prevent tricky raccoons from getting inside.
  5. Get your residents involved. Encourage residents to keep a tidy home, not leave any food out and properly close trash receptacles after use. It’s not just open or discarded food that attracts pests, it can be the smallest crumb. Clean kitchens and proper food storage are easy ways residents can help prevent pests. Encourage residents to contact the property manager at the first sign of a pest problem.

Just because it’s no longer the warm pest season, doesn’t mean your property should become more relaxed with its pest management plan. Work with your local pest management professional to stay one step ahead of winter’s sneakiest pests.

Hope Bowman is a Technical Specialist and Board-Certified Entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets.