Chirp, chirp, chirp. In my mind, the hum of crickets chirping away outside is very relaxing. In the spring we open our windows and sleep with the soothing sounds of the night outside. Chirp, chirp, chirp. Something changes when that lone cricket enters our house. Instead of a nighttime symphony, we have a cricket solo. Chirp, chirp, chirp. Like the erratic beeps of a smoke detector with low battery, a lone cricket in the house can drive us mad.
As the weather gets cooler, our homes become more desirable to many forms of wildlife. Let's examine what we can do to keep us from encountering wildlife in the house, by preventing them entry in the first place.
Lady beetles, boxelder bugs, and of course crickets – these and many other insects will be searching for a warm and dry place to spend the winter. What's nicer than our homes? Sure beats caves and dead logs. The essential item for keeping insects out is caulking and sealing cracks and crevices that would allow access to the indoors. Inspect your foundation and around windows, vents, and other openings. Keep doors and windows closed. It is wonderful to open up the house on crisp fall days, but always have a screen in place to prevent insects from coming inside. Also, make sure to repair any holes or tears in screen doors and windows.
Sticky glue traps are very useful to strategically place inside in room corners, basements, laundry rooms, and so on. Many times that pesky cricket will wind up on the glue trap along with any friends that follow. Sticky traps are an excellent way to monitor for insects in the home and take appropriate action when necessary.
Chemical controls would include perimeter spray on the outside of your home, which will eliminate many nuisance indoor insect pests, but not all. Keeping an 18-inch gap around your home foundation clear of plants, debris, and mulch is one of the best deterrents to insects moving indoors.
Our only flying mammal, bats are peaceful little insect eaters. If a bat unwittingly drops in on Sunday dinner, they are not rude, just confused. If a bat flies into a bright room, they will often hide behind something. Dimming the lights will help calm them. If you can, simply dim the lights and open a door or window for them to fly out. Or carefully get the little guy in a shoebox with a gloved hand and take it outside.
If visits from a lost bat become routine, try to find where they are entering and cover it with a wire or steel mesh. Chimneys and roof vents that do not have a screen are good entry points. If bats decide to take up permanent residence in your home, work with an exterminator to humanely remove the unwanted squatters. Most of the time a simple one-way excluder can be installed so the bats can fly out, but not back in.
Snakes and Mice
The primary entry for our rodents and reptiles is the garage. While the rubber flaps on the side of the garage door will keep out snakes, a mouse can easily chew through. By installing aluminum strips over the rubber flaps at the bottom of the garage door, you will keep rodents out. Snakes find garages desirable on hot days when the cool floor of the garage helps regulate their cold-blooded bodies. Make sure there is not an open gap where the garage door meets the ground.
Another route of entry for mice or snakes is climbing behind the corner siding of the home. On chilly days a garter snake may be looking for a nice warm area to lie and be protected, and a home with a southern exposure and loose siding makes for a nice spot. As the weather cools, snakes and mice follow the heat and may end up in attics. From there, your warm ceiling light fixture is very appealing and every once and awhile someone frantically calls with a garter snake hanging from their ceiling fan.
You can prevent rodents and snakes from crawling up behind your siding by installing siding guards on the bottom row of siding. The guards easily snap on the underside of the corner siding and can be found at most hardware stores.
Protect your dryer vents. The heat coming out of dryer vents is very attractive to snakes and rodents. Use vent guards found at the hardware store which are designed to be used in conjunction with dryer vents. Avoid the use of a screen or mesh as these can catch lint and block airflow.If you are interested in deterring critters from taking up residence in your home, a little prevention will allow you to avoid dealing with unwanted home dwellers this fall and winter.