Ticks, bedbugs and squirrels – oh, my! And those are just three of the pests that look for a way inside your home. To find out how to protect your abode, we reached out to Glen Ramsey, Senior Technical Services Manager and board-certified entomologist for Orkin Pest Control.
Glen earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in entomology and works behind the scenes at Orkin with pest identification and problem solving of unique home situations.
Watch the latest episode of the vipHome Podcast now and read on to learn DIY home pest control tips.
Why pests invade your home
“We’re trying to prevent harm,” says Glen, who has worked in pest management for more than 13 years. “There’s obvious harm that some pests can do to people, but there’s also harm to homes.”
As the weather cools, homes face two major category of pests – 1) rodents that try and migrate inside, so they can survive the winter months and breed at the same time and 2) occasional invaders that don’t typically feed or breed in homes, but try to escape cold weather or high heat.
So, how do homeowners begin to combat these pests?
“The first thing to do is walk around your house,” says Glen. “Look for things that don’t look right such as scratch marks, bent gutters, and popped shingles. Those types of things are indicative of another problem.”
Make note of these areas and then seal cracks and crevices, install screens on windows and make sure they are tight. Also, caulk around plumbing lines, air-conditioning, HVAC lines, and where your cable line enters your home.
When it comes to your trees, you should cut away any branches that are overhanging or touching the home. This prevents pests from being able to jump or just walk right onto the house.
“If your bushes are 12 to 18 inches away from the foundation of your home and you cutaway on the backside, you can’t tell,” says Glen. “It still looks beautiful, but it keeps ants from being able to walk from the bush onto the house.”
The same goes for overhanging trees, which allow squirrels and cockroaches to drop onto your roof and enter your home.
Home remedies to get rid of ticks
“There is definite evidence of new ticks being introduced into the United States, and people are being exposed to more and more tick-borne diseases,” says Glen, who lives down the street from a CDC tick specialist. “It’s extremely important for homeowners to wear repellents when they go outside.”
The CDC website has many useful resources for homeowners, but one of the most important tips is simply to cut the grass.
“Tall grass is notorious for ticks,” says Glen. “Ticks do what’s called ‘questing.’ They’ll stick out their front legs while their back legs hold onto the top of the grass stick. As you walk by, they’ll grab your pant leg or your dog, and go with you. It’s important that you keep grass cut short, so they can’t do that.”
Another suggestion is creating ecotones in the yard. If you have a wooden area and your grass leads up to it, consider adding a gravel barrier in between.
“That harsher break between the wooded area and the grass is a huge deterrent to ticks,” says Glen. “It also keeps your lawn better protected from anything that might be coming through the woods.”
Deer will transport ticks, so avoid planting vegetation that will attract deer and other animals, as well.
How to get rid of ladybugs in your house
Ladybugs are very beneficial, especially in your garden. They eat aphids, which are pests of plants. However, you want to stop a ladybug infestation from happening inside your home.
“Those lady bugs can die in the attic, in the wall voids, in places where you can’t get to them easily,” explains Glen. “Those bug carcasses, for lack of better term, can attract other pests.”
You also shouldn’t smash ladybugs on your wall or your curtains, as they produce an orange stain.
“It’s a chemical that they exude to try and ward off predators, but it will stain wallpaper, paint, and fabrics,” says Glen. “By sucking them up with the vacuum cleaner, it doesn’t let them stain the surface.”
Most bugs you can suck up in the vacuum cleaner, Glen adds. It’s the ones with a pungent odor, like stink bugs, you should capture and release outside.
How to get rid of bed bugs in your home
“Bed bugs really need to be managed professionally,” says Glen. “I never recommend a homeowner try and control bed bugs themselves.”
Glen has seen homeowners try to curb a bed bug infestation themselves. The situation only grew out of hand.
“It was to the point that when you walked in, there were bed bugs on the ceiling and dropping on your head as you walked through the room,” says Glen. “They could sense the carbon dioxide that you’re breathing out, and they were trying to find a food source.”
Let professionals know as soon as possible, so they can get rid of the bed bugs. The longer it goes, the more expensive it’s going to be, and the harder it’s going to be. As soon as you see bugs as small as apple seeds upon your bed or in the usual infested areas, call a professional.
And homeowners should not be embarrassed by bedbugs.
“People pick them up from travel, from going to camp and coming back. Hotel rooms and airports might have them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not that your home is dirty.”
Beware of scorpions
If you live in the southwest United States, you may need to protect your home from scorpions. They are notorious for getting into rock piles, gravel and woodpiles, so getting rid of those around your home is key. Unfortunately, gravel around your house is recommended to keep insects out since they don’t like to cross that barrier.
“Scorpions like it, though, and they’ll hide and nest in them,” says Glen.
Seal your home with chalking or weather stripping and use door sweeps.
“Scorpions can smash really flat and get in,” says Glen. “Make sure that your door sweep touches the doorframe and when the door is closed, you can’t see light around it.”
In the unfortunate event that a scorpion does enter your home, you shouldn’t try to grab its tail.
Notes Glen, “Trained professionals do that; other people don’t. They can sting you.”
The best course of action is to scoop the scorpion into the dustpan and throw it out the front door.
When to seek assistance for your home
Homeowners should use integrated pest management (IPM) that monitors all year long.
“IPM is an ongoing repetitive process where you assess the situation, implement control measures and then monitor the situation for any new activity,” says Glen.
It’s a proactive way to handle pests. Orkin generally sees homeowners bimonthly, monthly or quarterly basis.
“If you’re in a really cold climate, you may not need it as often, so the technicians may come quarterly,” says Glen. “But it is important that somebody is looking year-round because there’s different pests that will come in the fall, then the spring, then the summer and finally the winter.”
Most companies, including Orkin, do free inspections. They provide a comprehensive overview and may uncover something a homeowner missed.
“Maybe it’s the squirrel in your wall, or we may make a recommendation that we could really help with mosquito control.”
Orkin also realizes that some homeowners may not have the funds to fix certain areas of their homes at this time.
“We’ve seen the struggles that people have had during this time with continuing service, and we’re working with them to keep themselves pest free,” says Glen.
Take a proactive approach to your pest problems with the help of Orkin Pest Control.
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Originally published July 29, 2020; updated April 23, 2021