Heritage Restoration, Inc.

The pests in our lives

I have come across many pests in my career. Sometimes I’d scream like a little girl, not because I am afraid of bugs and varmints, but because they scared the bejesus out of me. There are some I won’t touch, but I am the go to guy at home to get rid of pests and creepy crawlies. I get creative or search for help when I’m nice, or just go for the kill.

The presence of bugs and varmints teach us a lot about buildings. We don’t want them around for sanitary reasons, but a bigger problem is they can be using your building as food. The first priority is to get rid of them, then be sure to maintain the right conditions to keep them out.

Winter is great because there are few bugs. Yet varmints love houses during the winter giving them a warm haven with plenty of spaces to store stuff. Here are some common problems, pests, and solutions:

My Dad once saved a squirrel. He fed it, cared for it, and released it. Broke his heart to let him go. While I like the little buggers, there is no place for a squirrel in a house. They get in, create a nest, and become persistent creatures by chewing through almost anything; metal (even lead), wood, vinyl and other boarding up materials.

Best way to keep them out is to prevent a way in the first place. Once squirrels are in, you have to get the whole squirrel family out. Cut all limbs at least 10 feet away from the building. Fix holes with appropriate material. While you can use a temporary fill to be sure they are out, use the right materials for repair; like mortar for stone and brick, and wood for wood.

Mice are a common problem. They can get through a hole the size of a quarter so seal the house. Mice are looking for food and shelter. I use the trap in a paper sandwich bag trick, throwing away mouse, trap and bag all in one. Cover garbage and keep food scraps off the floor and sealed in cabinets.

If you have rats, I’m sorry.

You can try to get rid of them yourself, with many resources and solutions on the web. Calling a professional is always best.

Black ants, or carpenter ants, have a smooth, rounded back with no humps and have a tiny pyramid at their waist. The bigger the ant is, the older the colony. Termites feed on dead plants and trees as well as dead parts of living trees, including wood and wood in the soil. If you have black ants or termites it means you have dead, wet wood somewhere.

Powder post beetles come with the wood. Dry can keep them dormant. If the wood is moist or wet, you MUST treat for them annually.

Ladybugs or any variation of them are commonly living between the siding and the sheathing. They like light colored homes, usually older homes, and they are attracted to heat that the homes reflect. They are tough to get rid of but don’t really do any harm.

Silverfish freak me out. They like damp and dark, feeding on carbohydrates, particularly sugars and starches.

Buildings and I don’t have a problem with spiders, but it’s not up to me at home.

Seal exterior cracks. This helps prevent airflow too. Fix gutters and downspouts or install them. Replace or repair rotted wood. Be sure to fix WHY it happened. Chip stumps, and get rid of old wood or leaf debris. Never put a woodpile on or next to a building. Cut vegetation so you can walk around the house unobstructed. Allow your house to dry out by trimming trees. For basements and crawlspaces without a concrete floor, install a 6mil plastic on top to prevent evaporation. Ideally, keep soil 18” below your wood frame. If you can’t, don’t let it touch soil. If it does, consider installing a swale or French drain. It will literally save your house. Clean up food scraps and crumbs, especially in the summer. That’s why I have a dog.

There are happy and nasty pesticides, all with pros and cons. Excessive or persistent bugs need treatment. A professional has more options than you. Happy hunting.

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