This article was crafted with the help of Matt Breda of Breda Pest Management.

Humans aren’t the only ones seeking shelter from the cold during this time of year. The warmth of your home is a perfect location for bugs and rodents looking to wait out the brutally cold temperatures. But there is no need to run a bed and breakfast for unwanted critters this winter. Matt Breda, President of Breda Pest Management in Atlanta, Georgia, walks us through ways we can safely prevent and rid our homes of pests.

Seal Out Pests

Protecting your home from pests begins with sealing areas of entry—namely, windows and doors. “It’s important to make sure you have a sturdy weather stripping threshold,” Matt says. “Weather stripping erodes quickly when you open and close doors frequently, and that’s how a vast majority of our bugs get in.” Replacing old weather stripping on windows and doors will help you guard these entryways from unwanted critters.

Keep Branches Trimmed and Mulch Low

Another common way pests find their way into your home is by the surrounding landscape. “Trim any tree or shrub branches that are touching your home,” Matt advises. “Try to leave a gap of at least six inches between any branches and your home, and avoid letting branches touch your gutters or home.” You create an effective barrier between your home and pests by keeping branches away from your house. “Oftentimes homeowners will spray their perimeter to create a barrier, but they’ll have a tree that’s touching their roof, and ants can easily make their way up the tree and into your home.”

While mulch can add a decorative element to your lawn, Matt cautions against layering it on. “Make sure you keep a thin layer of mulch around any areas close to your home. A thick layer of mulch provides pests with shelter from the elements, keeps them safe from pesticides, and allows them easy access to your home. When applying a new layer of mulch to your yard, remove the existing layer first,” Matt says.

Keep Gutters Clean

Trees normally start shedding their leaves as early as October, and gutters will often go unnoticed until all the leaves have fallen, but Matt warns against waiting too long before cleaning your gutters. “By December, two months’ worth of leaves has accumulated in your gutters, and when it starts to rain, clogged gutters won’t fully drain, which insects go after.” Since clogged gutters can prevent water from draining properly, your fascia and soffit are left at risk of water damage. Rotting fascia and soffit are easy targets for squirrels when they’re looking for a way into your home.

Treat Cracks and Crevices

Eco-friendly products are in high demand, and that demand extends to pesticides, especially in homes that house small children and pets. Reduced-risk pesticides are a safer option than traditional pesticides, but how the products are applied is just as important as the types of pesticides you use. Traditionally, pest control companies apply pesticides to baseboards, but Matt suggests that there’s a different way.

“Crack and crevice treatments hit the areas of the home where bugs tend to get in. For example, the gap between the wall and a pipe is where bugs are going to harbor, hide, and nest,” Matt explains. “It’s a critical void to treat.” He says it’s also important to treat windows, doors, fireplaces, bathrooms, the space where your countertops and cabinets meet, and other high-moisture areas. This method employs an effective preventative plan and reduces the risk of your loved ones being exposed to pesticides.

Use Humane Traps

Squirrels. Squirrels look for warm places like attics to raise their young. To kick squirrels out of your home, Matt recommends using one-way doors. “In order to set up the one-way door, you have to find their entry and exit hole and place the trap over that area,” he explains. “The squirrels won’t be able to escape once they go into the trap.” Trapped squirrels can be safely removed from the premises, but they should be taken as far away from the area as possible to prevent them from returning.

Another option is to use a one-way open trap, which keeps squirrels out of your home while still allowing them to run around outside. “But if squirrels are already used to your attic, they will typically chew a new entry point into your house,” Matt warns. If this is an issue, he recommends for homeowners to have their entire roofline sealed. “If the squirrels come back, you’ll hear some noises on your roof and gutters, but they won’t be able to find another way in.”

Bats. Bats fly south for the winter, so now is the time to check your attic for these winged creatures. “Typically, bats get in through your gable vents—the screened vents on either side of your house. These screens are usually flimsy, allowing bats to easily gain access to your attic,” Matt says. In order to protect your home, he suggests installing a heavier mesh screen or hardware cloth that will keep out bats as well as protect your home from bees due to smaller holes in the screen material.

If bats happen to find their way into your home during their breeding season—May through August—then in some states, their young are protected by law from being removed, and your pest control company won’t be able to remove them until they’re able to fly.

Let the Professionals Treat Your Interior

Many homeowners may be tempted to go the do-it-yourself route and purchase reduced-risk pesticides for their home, but Matt warns against this. “If you have children and you’re treating kitchens and prep areas, it’s important to use the right equipment and know how to properly apply pesticides because you could cause more harm to the home than good,” he explains. Instead, he recommends for homeowners to apply pesticides only to the outside of their homes and to let a professional treat the inside of the home to eliminate the family’s exposure to pesticides. When hiring a pest control company, Matt advises homeowners to ask that reduced-risk pesticides are used in their home if they are seeking an eco-friendly or “green” alternative to traditional pesticides.

The key to sending unwanted critters packing is prevention. Matt believes that by taking these simple, precautionary steps, you’ll eliminate the vast majority of bugs trying to get into your home while keeping your family safe from harsh pesticides.

This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Breda Pest Management, a Pest & Termite Control Best Pick in Atlanta. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.

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