First and foremost, let's briefly mention the obvious: Cleanliness. In general, this is not an issue in most situations. Residences do not need to be kept as if they are not even lived in. Children and pets can make keeping a home spick and span difficult, and that’s okay. The occasional cheerio under the couch or puddle of water/drool next to the dog’s water bowl likely won’t be the deciding factor for whether or not one has a bug problem. All that said, a certain level of cleanliness is necessary so as not to invite pest issues, and is particularly important once you’ve decided to hire an exterminator to help.
Turn the lights off
Outside lighting is like bait for insects, and not just the little flying gnats and moths you probably already know about. Those small flying creatures are typically at the bottom of the food chain, the pests above them in that chain find easy pickings when their all clustered together around a light on the side of a garage. Spiders in particular take advantage of this ready-made meal. Leaving exterior lights on will guarantee a thick buildup of unsightly cobwebs nearby. More worrisome, large ground spiders such as the wolf spider take advantage of this easy prey. Because lighting is usually placed above entryways and near garage doors, these lights not only provide a food source but also draw these large intimidating spiders to places where they can most easily gain entry to homes.
Understandably, many people want exterior lighting because they believe this provides additional security. Whether or not this is true, lighting with accompanying motion sensors can solve both problems at once. The lights turn on when people approach without baiting your home for insects for 12 hours every night. This may seem like a rather small measure but it absolutely will make a big difference in the pest control needs around your home.
Make sure there are no unused drains
This is a very common oversight by seasonal and part-time residents. Underneath any sink or drain you will find a sideways S shaped curve in the pipe. This curvature in the pipe serves the important purpose of holding water so that gases and odors from the sewer don’t seep into homes. It also serves a lesser known purpose. Cockroaches that live in the sewer will not swim through this water barrier to enter a home. However, many snowbirds are gone for 6 months at a time or more, leaving their drains unused. More than a couple of months without use and the water traps under sinks can dry out providing free reign for these pests.
Even minor moisture issues can create major problems
It’s easy to overlook a relatively small crack or separation of the tile in a shower area. Just another thing on the honey-do list to get around to. Though from a property damage perspective this may in fact be a small issue, from the perspective of a pest, this hidden moisture is all that’s needed to set up shop and start a family. American Cockroaches, or as they are more commonly referred to, Palmetto Bugs, cannot live without a sufficient supply of moisture. In fact, they are so sensitive to moisture that simply running the A/C to reduce humidity is enough to kill these bugs (more on that later). A leaky pipe underneath a sink, a crack in the wall near a shower, a poorly sealed dishwasher, all provide enough moisture for these otherwise sensitive cockroaches to not only survive, but thrive inside of a home.
Keep the A/C on
Understandably folks wintering in South Florida or other places along the Sun Belt are going to try to avoid unnecessarily high utility bills while they’re away for the summer. With that in mind, homeowners will sometimes turn the central air conditioning system off all together to save on electricity. This is a serious mistake for a number of reasons. First, in Florida and throughout the South, humidity is very high, particularly in the summer. Running the central air removes humidity from the home preventing mold and damage to the home and its contents. Second, and important from a pest control perspective, lowering the humidity makes for an inhospitable environment for pests. Conversely, leaving the humidity unchecked will provide an ideal environment for all varieties of bugs. From silverfish, earwigs, cockroaches, and spiders, all of these pests thrive in highly humid environments where they can avoid direct sunlight and natural predators. Many seasonal residents from the north have returned to their winter homes infested with all manner of insects because they turned their central air off or set the temperature up too high. This can easily be avoided by setting the thermostat no lower than 80 degrees throughout the summer.
Trim landscaping far back from structures
Like the other items on this list, trimming back foliage may seem like a small step unlikely to make much of a difference, but ignoring this would be a mistake. Rodents, particularly rats, are extremely prevalent in South Florida. Golf course communities, popular with seasonal residents, typically have lakes and ponds on the courses and near homes. Vermin thrive in these areas and are always looking for ways to gain access to homes nearby. Overgrown trees and bushes near homes make for easy access to attics were rats and mice find shelter for offspring and eventually access to the living areas of the home.
Six legged pests as well benefit from overgrown landscaping. Insects can thrive in extremely small ecosystems such as a singly bush or tree. When a plant is growing up or along a structure this structure becomes a part of the insect’s home by extension. Like rodents, insects will readily move into attics where they find shelter and protection from predators. Once an arthropod population has set up shop underneath insulation and other hard to reach areas, extermination becomes more difficult. This becomes compounded but the fact that the problem goes unnoticed and unaddressed for months until the homeowner returns.
It is estimated Florida welcomes nearly a million seasonal “snowbird” residents each year. They come to our great state seeking warm weather and sunshine during what is often a harsh winter for much of the country. And while young and old alike enjoy the great Florida weather, insects and vermin do as well. Nevertheless, bugs aren’t something people have to live with. Often pest prevention is a simple matter of preparation and knowledge, and while hiring a professional exterminator is always recommended, these simple and free steps will go a long way to keeping your home pest free!