Just like humans, bugs need three things to survive: Food, water and shelter. If you're facing persistent pests, don't just hope for the best. "Think like a bug," says board-certified entomologist John Bell of TruGreen. "Figure out what that little guy needs to eat, drink and live in."
Deterring unwelcome intruders comes down to an integrated approach. Cutting off as many of those resources as possible will make your home less attractive to creepy-crawlies in the first place, stopping potential infestations before they start.
Eliminating stagnant H20 — like pet bowls, buckets and birdbaths — not only fends off most insects, but also cuts down on skeeters too. "Any standing water that is undisturbed for more than a week can be major breeding spots for mosquitoes," says Doug Webb, a manager of technical services at Terminix. Don't forget to dump toys and planters too.
After emptying or flipping basins in your yard, don't forget to check the roof. Backed-up gutters provide mosquitoes with another easy watering hole. "All they need is half of an inch to breed," warns TV host and spokesperson for the National Pest Management Association Bob Vila.
The key to avoid garbage-loving pests is managing the odor. "Not only is it important to 'take out the trash' before it builds up, but also be sure the trash containers are clean and dry," Webb advises. Tidying up any overflow or spillage cuts done on those enticing aromas.
It may be convenient, but stacking firewood against the exterior of your home is a no-go. Both logs and plants can form a literal bridge for termites and critters looking to get inside, Bell says. Maintain at least a 6-inch gap between siding and foliage, and store nothing against the walls.
That backyard barbecue was fun while it lasted, but lingering food on the grates will draw bugs long after the party's over, according to Bell. Another common cookout mistake: Emptying leftover soda in the yard. The sugary pop attracts ants like none other, Webb warns.
Pet food feeds more than just pets. Keeping the bowl perpetually full may make your dog happy, but it's an easy meal for a lot of insects (as well as squirrels), Bell says. The same goes for bird seed, indoors and out.
While you can buy electronic bug killers that will zap nearby mosquitoes, the lamps don't always work as intended. "Many species of insects are attracted to bug light devices, but not all make it into the trap," Webb warns, "meaning pest populations in the area can actually increase." Install security lighting farther away from your home, or choose special bulbs that emit less-attractive rays.
While ants and cockroaches can squeeze into the smallest spaces thanks to their exoskeletons, a few strategic fixes could make a big impact. "Where I see the biggest concern when I look at customers' house is door sweeps," Bell says. "They have the tendency to give out over time." Replacing the rubbery bottom of exterior entrances can stop ants, cockroaches and crickets in their tracks.
They may seem small, but get torn screens repaired right away. "Holes in screens allow a slight increase in airflow, which allows food or other attractive odors to slip through," Webb says. "This can actually help insects find a tear in the "protective shield" of a seemingly well-maintained home."
Sealing every crevice around your home isn't realistic (especially if it's old), but applying clear caulk to an obvious entry point could shut down a major ant avenue, Bell advises. Steel wool can also fill mortar gaps in a pinch.
No, you don't have to store all of your food in the fridge. It's nearly impossible to prevent fruit flies from entering your home (they'll come down the chimney!) but produce past its prime will give off ethylene gas, a major bug magnet. Eat those bananas before they turn brown and you'll be fine, Bell says.
Here's the motivation you need to finally clear out that clutter. Termites will feast on the glue that binds cardboard boxes, and cockroaches and silverfish love paper products too. Webb recommends storing necessary files in hard, plastic boxes with tight-fitting lids instead.
Don't forget to attack bugs' H20 supply as well. A silverfish or springtail infestation often signals that you have a water leak, or that your home needs a dehumidifier. "Rectifying those problems that are causing the pest to show up will work better than buying a can of insecticide and spraying them," Bell says.