Unwanted home visitors can be a real problem. And we are not talking in-laws. Your home is your safe place and the thought of pests and bugs infesting it and compromising the health of your family is highly distressing. But the UK has a number of persistent offenders. If you suspect you have a problem, be aware how quickly it can grow if not dealt with. Here is a quick round of the most common pests and how to deal with them.
Causes: Mice seek food and shelter, especially in the colder months. All they need is a 5mm gap somewhere around the edges of your home to get in. Then lofts, cavities, unused drawers and the like all provide nesting opportunities. They are particularly likely to hang around if there is food available. Any crumbs the kids have left will do.
Threats: Unfortunately mice can spread bacteria and diseases like listeria and salmonella, often through their excretions. They like to mark their territory and with a high metabolic rate their excretions are plentiful! Being small they can easily get around and contaminate surfaces. They can also gnaw through your property - including piping, wiring and electrics.
Signs: If you don’t see mice directly, droppings can be a key sign. Mouse poo looks like dark brown rice. Mice can leave a strong smell of urine too. You may hear scampering noises and see shredded materials for nesting.
What to do: Act quickly. Mice breed rapidly. You will need to select whether to use traps, baiting, or rodenticides; it can be very unpleasant. This is why it’s a good idea to call in a professional such as Empire Pest Control. Experts can help ensure you prevent new comers as well as getting rid of intruders already there.
Prevention: All food should be sealed away. Ensure you dispose of rubbish in secure bins. Avoid clutter. Seal any potential entry points especially easy around pipes, windows, doors and frames.
Causes: Rats are more likely to come in just to feed. They are more cautious and fearful than mice. Rats depend on water more than mice and they like drains. But if there is a water source they may follow it in and stay.
Threats: The health concerns are similar to those for mice, but with more potential diseases. They are also more likely to cause notable damage. Their teeth grow continually and they are constantly looking to wear them down. Again wiring and piping etc are at risk, and in the worse case, they can cause fires and floods.
Signs: At a foot long, rats leave more evidence - larger excretions, more damage, more smells and grease marks.
What to do: Act very quickly! Follow the guidance as above for mice, but you should definitely consider calling a professional. Rats are harder to trap due to their more cautious nature. Decomposing rats have an incredible stench and can be a health hazard.
Prevention: As for mice or see the BPCA for more advice.
Causes: A summer hazard. Wasps build nests in dry and sheltered spots outside or very close to the outside. Walls, roof spaces, eaves, cracks and crevices and hollow wood are all ideal. Social, they like to live in colonies and aren’t too choosey where.
Threats: The biggest threat comes from stings. Wasps can be aggressive and sting repeatedly. Their stings are very painful, but not a serious issue unless you have an allergy. If you have children you may be more concerned about there presence. A nest can contain thousands of wasps.
Signs: Usually you will see or hear wasps. If you can see a nest, it’s worth checking online to be sure of exactly which type it is (there are a few types of wasps, plus hornets and bees).
What to do: Don’t try and get rid of a wasps nest on your own, it can be complex. Keep your rubbish well away from it, and be aware that even at the end of the season woozy wasps can be a particular problem. Wear shoes and encourage children to be calm around wasps (good luck!) If it’s close to the house or causing a problem, once again, call an expert to remove it.
Prevention: Seal any areas or cracks where nests could be built. Light the areas and check them regular through wasp season. Make sure your rubbish is not exposed.
Causes: Firstly lets dispel a myth. Bedbugs like all environments and don’t favour dirty ones. They are just more likely to thrive if they go unnoticed. They can hitchhike a lift into your home via your clothing or similar.
Threats: The good news is that bedbugs don’t cause diseases and allergic reactions to their bites are incredibly rare. However, they have a taste for blood and their bites can be really uncomfortable and itchy.
Signs: Bites on your skin - small white or red bumps often in clusters. Small spots of blood on your bedding, or even poo spots. The bug itself has a flat oval red-brown body with six legs and is about 5mm long. The NHS has a guide to help you identify them. They can also be found in clothing, furniture, and behind pictures and wallpaper.
What to do: It is incredibly difficult to get rid of bedbugs on your own - they are resistant to pesticides. It’s best to call an expert or your local council. Nonetheless you should boil-wash any bedding and clothing that could be affected and vacuum frequently and thoroughly.
Prevention: Regular vacuuming and vigilance are the best you can do.
Artist, Baker and Blogger. Mum to my two beautiful, cheeky girls. Muddling my way through parenthood with equally cheeky Husband.