Sunday, December 01, 2013

Protecting your house in winter

Winter Wellhouse (and Barn)
image credit:  Cindy

Don't drop your guard!

Summer is the time for gnats and mosquitoes, when flying insects will invade your home through open windows. However, winter brings its own pest problems, which in some ways can be worse than the summer ones. In addition to the vermin that like to live in your home on a permanent basis, there will be others seeking a retreat from the cold weather outside.

Mice

In the UK there are three species of mouse. In addition to house mice, which will make their permanent home under your floorboards or in your wall cavities if they can, other mice will find refuge indoors in the winter months. Long-tailed field mice (also known as wood mice) are recognisable by their chestnut fur and large ears. In rural districts they are a more common pest than house mice. Yellow-necked mice are also a problem in some parts of the UK, especially in cold weather.

Rats

Rats prefer outbuildings to houses, but they will look for extra food sources in winter. It's worth remembering that they are a favourite prey of foxes, so one pest may help you control another! As with mice, it's better to try to keep them out, by blocking entry points, rather than to kill them once indoors.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs were nearly eliminated from Britain in the 1940s, but more recently, international travel has led to a recurrence. They are small reddish brown insects whose bites cause irritation. They can lie dormant for months, and are hard to eradicate without professional help.

Carpet beetles

Lytta vesicatoria --Vitalfranz 14:12, 17 Janua...
image credit: freedigitalphotos
Carpet beetles (woolly bears) are also on the increase nowadays, as they love central heating and fitted carpets. They will feed on your woollen fibres and then hibernate until they pupate in the spring and then start hatching and returning outdoors in summer.

Moths

Clothes moths also feed on your textiles, and if your house is warm enough their life cycle will continue through the year. It's easier to spot their silken webs rather than the larvae which do the harm. By the time the flying insect emerges, the damage will have been done.

Silverfish

These weird-looking little insects, so named because of their tapering scaly body shape, enjoy moist dark conditions. They will eat books and wallpaper, and any other soft starchy material.

Woodworm

In the autumn, woodworm will settle down inside your wooden furniture before emerging in the spring to breed, so winter is a good time to block up the holes, in order to check whether the damage is a sign of current infestation, or just leftover damage from the past.

Spiders

Are spiders a pest? It depends on your point of view. Some people may find them scary, which is why they are considered a pest. They will catch and eat all sorts of flying nuisances, but if you can't bear to stay in the same room as a spider you will want to get rid of them anyway.