Anyone who’s lived in the midwest long knows two things above all else. One, road work is never truly “finished”. Two, winter is brutal. This time of year, it can seem like your whole life revolves around attempting to stay warm. You change the way you dress, your daily routine, even the food you eat! And you’re a human being (probably. Almost certainly?)! Imagine how much of your life would be devoted to winter if you weren’t.
Contrary to popular belief, most pests can’t hibernate, nor can they naturally survive thanks to heavy fur. The only way pests can really survive winter is by acclimating to it, just like us. In fact, unless we’re careful, they’ll acclimate to winter a little too much like we do. They could even use the same shelter you use: your home! You don’t want that. Here are the pests most likely to use your home for a winter getaway, and how to keep them out.
As soon as they feel the temperature begin to drop, mice start looking for ways to stay warm. Unfortunately for us, they’re very good at finding those places. Mice use their whiskers to sense minute changes in air temperature and wind direction. If they feel warm air leaking out through a draft, they’ll follow that warmth back to its source. Mice can fit through dime-sized gaps, so they usually don’t have any problem squeezing through any opening they find.
There are two primary ways to keep mice away: food control and draft control. Mice have incredibly keen senses of smell. They’ll smell the food in your home and follow the scent until they’re close enough to find drafts. Clean up after meals, take the garbage out, and store food in hard plastic to dissuade mice. Locate possible drafts by finding cracks or holes around door and window frames, molding, and baseboards. Seal any gaps you find with caulk.
Cockroaches slow down over the winter, but most species don’t hibernate. German cockroaches, the most common midwestern species, can actually continue to reproduce throughout winter in warm environments. These pesky pests overwinter in any location where the average air temperature stays above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They commonly infest walls, floorboards, basements, attics, and other out-of-the-way places. The warmer they are, the more they move around, eat, and reproduce.
Cockroaches require three things of their shelters: access to food, moisture, and warmth. Cockroaches aren’t picky eaters. They’ll help themselves to sweet foods, grains, and starches first, but they don’t mind eating pretty much anything else. Cockroaches need trace amounts of moisture to survive and remain active. They naturally seek out humid places where they can find leaks or condensation. Roaches tend to like darkness and confided places that are easy to hide in, as well. If you can deprive roaches of the things they want this winter, they’ll seek their residential opportunities elsewhere.
Different species of spider survive winter in all kinds of different ways. Some make webbing shelters, some burrow into the ground, some produce natural antifreeze, and some simply die off. Lots of spider species prefer to get through winter by finding warm shelters. These spiders get into warm homes by climbing sheer vertical surfaces to find gaps and cracks. They usually enter around windows, doorways, or baseboards.
Spiders need to eat to sustain themselves, even in winter. Most common species will spend winter hunting for prey, even if they’re inside your home. They’ll build webs near access points where other pests may get inside. Look for webs near windows, corners, ceiling edges, and the baseboard. Most spiders seek out shelter where they can remain unnoticed by humans or their prospective prey. Like most pests, spiders are also attracted to humidity. Vacuum up spider nests as you find them, and try to deprive the pests of possible food sources.
Don’t panic; we’re not actually saying skunks enter your home. They will, however, create their burrows near it. Skunks enter a hibernation-like state called torpor for long periods of time during winter. To enter torpor, they need a warm, enclosed location where they won’t be vulnerable to weather or predators. They’re capable of creating their own burrows by digging, but they prefer to use existing structures. That’s where your home comes in.
Skunks very commonly burrow under decks or porches to keep warm during winter. Several different skunks may inhabit the same burrow at once in order to keep warm together. They will remain in the burrow until either temperatures warm up or they have to forage for food. When they wake, skunks may react to perceived threats defensively, by spraying or biting. Keep skunks from burrowing under your home by installing barriers between the ground and deck or porch. Make sure this barrier covers several inches underground, as well.
With how brutal midwestern winters are, you may feel sorry for the pests on this list. Don’t. There’s a reason midwestern pests continue to plague us, year after year: they always survive winter. Even if they can’t get into your home this season, they’re going to be just fine.
Few things are worse than a pest infestation in your home during winter. If you end up with one, give Varment Guard a call right away. We’ll be out to you faster than you can say “below zero”, and we’ll have your pests gone just as fast. Happy holidays!BACK TO BLOG