For many, winter offers a time of blissful reprieve from common household pests like flies, mosquitoes and the myriad of other creepy crawlies that we all love to hate. But before you kick back in anticipation of a pest-free winter – think again. Although some pests seem to all but disappear, others continue their activity through the colder months – even venturing inside structures and homes in search of a warm and protective spot to hunker down until Spring.
In fact, a recent look a Google’s trending pest controls in South Africa reveals some very interesting results. While searches for how to get rid of common household pests spiked in the Summer, specific searches of known active winter pests also shows peaks of popularity in the time period from April to July.
This is doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise. Think about it: we live in a climate that rarely dips below a freezing point that is low enough to kill off most pests. It all comes down to seasonal activity and visibility.
Here are just some of the pests that could become more active indoors during winter.
Nearly half of all rodent issues take place during autumn and winter. Rats and mice are not natural hibernators, which means that they are generally active throughout the year. And while breeding activity generally slows when the weather gets colder, a lot of houses and properties will see an influx of these disease carriers as they flock indoors for warmth and shelter.
Besides being an unsightly nuisance, rats and mice can cause damage to property and create very serious health hazards. Here’s a few tips to keep them from getting in:
- Use door sweeps: a rat can get through a space just 12mm high
- Trim or remove any high grass, weeds, bushes or tree limbs away from structures
- Close off any entry points, even very small holes or cracks (pay special attention to places where utilities or pipes lead indoors)
Cockroaches thrive in hot and humid conditions, so when the cold rolls in, they tend migrate to the climate-controlled bliss of our homes and offices where they can carry on foraging for food and water, potentially spreading disease as they go along.
In South Africa, there are four common types of cockroach species that we generally deal with:
- American cockroaches: the largest of the cockroach species, generally found in dark, damp places such as drain pipes and sewers.
- German cockroaches: the most concerning and common of cockroaches. Not only can they quickly become a nuisance, but they are also known to spread diseases and cause outbreaks of illness and allergic reactions in many people.
- Oriental cockroaches: this species is very dark in colour and have a short lifespan. The winter months find very few adults among the population.
- Brown-banded cockroaches: the banded markings for which these cockroaches are named are more distinctive in the early ages, fading with age in both males and females.
Although termites can become less active in the winter, because of the more moderate climates experienced in most parts of South Africa, it isn’t unusual for termite colonies to continue infesting nice, warm homes.
These are just some of the signs of a termite infestation:
- Wood that sounds hollow when tapped
- A temporary swarm of winged insects in your building or from the soil around your property after rain
- Mud tubes on exterior walls, wooden beams, or in crawl spaces
- Any cracked or bubbling paint or frass (termite droppings)
- Discarded wings from swarmers (alates)
As with many of the winter pests we’ve already mentioned, bed bugs may be more active in the warmer summer months as they search for food and water, but this doesn’t mean they completely disappear in winter. Bed bugs will generally remain active as long as there is a food source close by and a place for shelter – and your mattress is the perfect place for both.
Here are some handy tips for keeping bed bugs out of your bed for the winter:
- Vacuum your mattress and upholstery frequently to remove any hitchhiking bed bugs
- Make sure your mattress is professionally cleaned at least every six months to a year to eliminate dust mites, bed bugs and other allergy-inducing contaminants