These unwanted critters come in all forms and can steal into your home through the chimney, garage, roof, basement, walls, windows and vents. Even worse, these toxic insects and wild animals can wreck havoc on your health by contaminating food, spreading parasites, transmitting viruses, and even causing dangerous – sometimes deadly – allergic reactions.
Entomologist Billy Bretherton, star of A&E’s The Exterminators, refers to the 4 most common home invaders as the 4 R’s: raccoons, roaches, rodents and reptiles. “These are creatures I see everyday,” says Bretherton. “They’re common all over the country, and they could be living under your roof right now.”
Raccoons sometimes enter houses via clogged gutters, where excess moisture rots wood and makes it easier for them to gnaw holes. Raccoons cause all kinds of damage including chewing through sheetrock, wires and garbage cans. They like to nest in attics and crawlspaces and can give birth to a litter of 6-8.
Some signs you could have a raccoon living in your house:
Gnawing or scratching noises
Fecal matter slightly bigger than a cat’s
When raccoon feces dry up, particles carrying diseases like raccoon roundworm become airborne and can damage your central nervous system. Raccoons also carry rabies, a virus spread via scratches or bites. Rabies infects the central nervous system, diseasing the brain and sometimes causing death. Early symptoms include fever, headache and weakness.
Exterminators use special traps baited with cat food to capture raccoons.
People often bring roaches into homes on paper bags or cardboard boxes, since these insects are fond of starchy materials, paper and glue.
Roaches carry bacteria like E.coli and salmonella that can contaminate food, cooking equipment and food surfaces. Roach allergens can increase the severity of asthma.
The best defense against roaches is to caulk and fill cracks and crevices with copper mesh; avoid steel wool because it rusts. Roach-specific bait traps and boric acid, which are safe for the environment, exterminate effectively.
Rodents often have no trouble entering homes since they have very flexible cartilage and can squeeze through holes the size of a dime.
Rodents spread over 35 diseases worldwide. Humans become infected via bites, consuming food or water contaminated by feces, or breathing in germs also contaminated by fecal matter and urine. Diseases directly transmitted through rodents include salmonellosis, and rarer illnesses such a plague and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), a deadly lung disease.
Snap traps are best to exterminate rodents; they can be baited with a little peanut butter or cotton balls. Glue traps cause unnecessary harm and suffering to the animal.
Snakes enter the home through cracks like those under doorways. Additionally, firewood, shrubbery and bodies of water all attract snakes.
Even if they’re not poisonous, some snakes carry deadly bacteria in their mouths that can get into your blood stream and cause serious illness. Even though most snake bites are harmless, have them checked immediately by a doctor, to be safe.
To get rid of snakes, moth balls are very effective both indoors and outdoors. Less toxic methods include liquid garlic spray or repellents that contain cedar oil, cinnamon, clove and sulfur.
Now that you know who the perpetrators are, here’s how to ward them off:
Enforce a Bird Feeder Safety Zone
Bird feeders attract many animals – from rats, squirrels and raccoons to coyotes and bears. Some animals climb up to the feeder while others eat food that’s fallen to the ground. Keep bird feeders 50-60 feet away from your house.
Establish a Tree Line
Tree limbs act like bridges, creating a passageway for squirrels, rats, snakes and raccoons to enter attic vents. Plant trees about 20 feet from your house. If trees are already planted, cut limbs off at least 10 feet from the roof line. Put a Lid On It Animals, especially raccoons, tip trash cans over to get what’s inside. Use heavy plastic or metal cans and secure lids with a bungee cord across the 2 handles. Clean cans on a regular basis since smelly ones attract critters; pressure washing works best. Enforce a Lockdown Prevent infestations by caulking all cracks and crevices indoors and outdoors. Check ceilings, floors, outlet covers and piping entry for openings and caulk as well. After a few days, check caulking application for shrinkage. Use galvanized hardware cloth or screening on vents and around windows. Anything else will rust out and allow animals in. No More Mulch Mulch provides a food and water source for both ants and termite. Instead use rubber much, available at home improvement stores, or rocks to attract less insects.
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