Photo: Tiago Louvize / Unsplash
When the leaves start to change color, you know that soon enough winter will be here. And the pests know it, too. Here’s a checklist of some simple steps that go a long way towards keeping pests out of your cabin during the long, cold winter ahead.
- Move woodpiles far from your cabin. Carpenter ants, mice and other critters think that woodpiles are fine places to spend the winter. Woodpiles near your cabin increase the chance that the critters camping amidst your firewood will stop by your cabin for an unwelcome visit. Bonus: Keeping woodpiles at least 30 feet away from your cabin and other structures can also help protect your place from a spreading wildfire.
- Inspect the caulk around pipes, dryer vents, gas lines, and other openings, and apply fresh caulk as needed.
- Check the gap under your siding for any openings. Mice only need a 14-inch opening to get in.
- Clean debris out of gutters. This not only prevents water from freezing in your gutters and causing damage or ice dams, it also makes sure there’s no place for bugs to live. Also, ice dams lead to water damage under your roof, which can invite a carpenter ant problem in the spring.
- Shut off water to any outdoor water spigots if your cabin is in an area where you get subfreezing temperatures. Water leaks from damaged pipes will only attract pests.
- On exterior doors, inspect the sweeps and thresholds (the area where the bottom of the door meets the ground). If you can see light or feel a draft, you should either lower the sweep or install a new one to keep pests out.
- Check any basement or crawl space windows, vents and doors to make sure they seal tightly, so pests can’t sneak in through gaps around them.
Ladybugs, cluster flies, box-elder bugs
Do you have problems with Asian lady beetle (aka lady bugs), cluster flies and box-elder bugs each spring? A common error is to try to control these pests in the spring. By that point, these bugs have already found their way inside and controlling them is difficult. Instead, in the fall, work to prevent them from coming inside in the first place. Check out the caulking around your windows and re-caulk as needed. Also, look at the screening on any attic vents and make sure they are still in good shape.
One of the telltale signs of fall is seeing more spiders inside. An easy, natural way to get rid of them is to use your vacuum and suck them up. This is especially good for the ones up in corners, where you can use the attachments on your vacuum to reach them. A pesticide application in the fall can help prevent seeing spiders inside at all. Look for a spider pesticide for use inside homes. You should apply it to your baseboards, upper corners of ceilings, and anyplace else where you commonly see spiders. Read the label for any safety considerations – wear latex gloves and safety glasses (especially for overhead spraying), and keep kids and pets away until it dries.
Some cabin owners run into larder beetles, especially if they have an older cabin that’s difficult to seal up. These beetles aren’t a problem unto themselves, but are often a sign of another issue. They feed on dead animals or insects. Finding larder beetles probably means that mice, ladybugs or other pests have come inside your cabin and died.
Energy Efficient and Pest-Free
Photo: David Bartus from Pexels
What does energy efficiency have to do with pests? Actually, a whole lot. On a cold winter day, when a mouse is looking for a warm place to hide, if you have a draft of warm air from your cabin, the mouse exploring outside is going to follow that draft right in. Mice can squeeze in through a 14-inch opening. If it’s smaller than that and surrounded by wood or insulation, a mouse will start chewing on the opening until it becomes large enough for it to get inside, which also makes the air draft even worse. Once inside, it’s going to look for a warm, cozy place to make a home. An ideal location is your insulation – easy to burrow into, out of sight from your pet cat, and, well, insulated. The problem is that as it digs holes in your insulation, your insulation becomes less effective. If you have an infrared camera, you can easily inspect your cabin for areas where it is losing heat. Sealing these areas up will make your cabin more energy efficient and less attractive to pests.
Keeping Mice Out
Some people think that putting up with mice in their cabin during the winter is just part of life. It doesn’t have to be. The best way to stop mice problems isn’t trapping or poison. The trick is to find and seal off the opening they are using to get in. Start off with the Fall Pest Prevention Checklist (above), looking for any gaps 14-inch or larger.
How do you seal off the openings? Here are the pros’ tips for mice exclusion:
- Do not use steel wool! Steel wool is very effective – until it rusts and falls out of the opening. As an alternative, use a copper pad, such as a Brillo Pad or Stuf-Fit Copper Mesh.
- Seal up small openings with caulk.
- Expanding foam can be used for larger openings, but make sure to cut it down flat once it dries. Not only will it look better, but mice will have a harder time chewing a new opening.
- The largest openings can be closed off using pieces of sheet metal, concrete patch or wood.
- If you still have a problem with mice, call in a professional. Insist that they do not just put out traps or poison, but find the opening that the mice are using. A good pest control professional has the knowledge and experience to find openings that might elude the layman.
About the author: Ted Snyder is a board-certified entomologist and pest control expert of 20 years.