As temperatures drop and we head indoors for the next few months, so do our two-, six- and eight-legged friends. Sometimes they scamper into our living spaces, but more often than not, these house pests hide discreetly in the cracks, crevices and other unnoticed areas of our homes. As we sip cocoa by the fire, these creepy crawlers seek shelter in attics, basements, forgotten boots, corners, under beds and just about anywhere else. Thanks to a little research and some expert input from Erica Brister at U.S. Pest Protection, we’ve rounded up all the facts, tips and tricks to help you rid your home of spiders, mice and ladybugs and sleep a little more soundly at night.
Ladybugs are historically lovable critters that evoke pleasant images of warm days in the grass. However, they are more like houseguests that tend to overstay their welcome. Ladybugs and their close friends, stinkbugs, are attracted to the warm, bright areas of your home. During hibernation, ladybugs gather in groups and can usually be found on the north side of your house where the sun hits in the afternoon. Don’t let their fun red-and-black motif fool you; they actually may enhance asthma symptoms, attract more of their friends and leave pheromones that destroy the paint on your walls. Plus, ladybugs eat aphids (aka plant lice), which make them beneficial additions to your garden, not your attic.
Tips to rid: Start with prevention. Seal up all the cracks around your windows, doors, pipes and vents to block the ladybugs from coming inside. If you find ladybugs in your home, vacuum up the ones you see and call the professionals if they return.
Mice bring a new level of fright because we can’t squash them like we do spiders. A common reaction upon spotting a mouse is to jump on the nearest piece of furniture and scream. In reality, we should be more afraid of the damage mice leave behind than the sight of them scampering across our living room floor. Not only do they carry and spread more than 35 diseases according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but they are also known to chew through wires, trail urine and contaminate your food.
Tips to rid: Store food in secure containers, clean any areas that are ideal for nesting and set traps. To prevent reproduction, call the professionals.
CULPRIT: Brown Recluse Spiders
Fear of spiders consistently lands in the top 10 list of fears, behind the fear of public speaking and the fear of death. Brown recluses instill a higher level of fear because of the horror stories that circulate when someone is bitten. Terrifying tales of the spreading of the poisonous venom, lost limbs and even death caused by its bite give these spiders their bad reputation. (NOTE: It is only in rare cases that a bite from the brown recluse can lead to the flesh-eating process; it’s not the norm.)
Brown recluse spiders are not aggressive. As their name suggests, these eight-legged, six-eyed creatures prefer undisturbed, dark places and only bite when they feel threatened. After coming in through cracks and crevices, brown recluses make homes in undisturbed corners of your home.
How to spot them: Brown recluses are completely brown (uniformly colored with no spots or stripes) and have a darker brown fiddle on their backs. While most spiders have eight eyes, brown recluses have six eyes arranged in pairs. They are also relatively small; their body grows no larger than an inch.
Tips to rid spiders in general:
Make your home undesirable. As always, start with proactive prevention. Cracks and crevices can be sealed to keep spiders out. If they happen to sneak in, make sure your home is an undesirable destination. To do so, keep your home clutter-free; avoid the use of bedskirts, which act as a pathway into beds; keep woodpiles and trashcans away from the house and keep your floodlights off at night, as flying insects that are attracted to light will cause spiders to spin webs around the food.
Use glue boards. Control of spiders can be challenging, because they are not always in one specific area. Glue boards can be used to catch brown recluses, which allows you to identify them and see the hot spots in your house. Place the glue boards in corners and spots where the walls meet the floor (this is where spiders like to hang out).
Give a shake. Brown recluse spiders can survive up to a year without food or water. They are insectivores, so they will not snack on the cardboard boxes in which they are living. Shake out boxes, clothes and boots that have not been disturbed for a period of time to prevent a surprise encounter with a brown recluse.
Call in the pros. Don’t let fear of these spiders keep you up at night. Call a professional if you see more than a couple of brown recluses in your home. Companies, such as U.S. Pest Protection, in an effort to educate their clients, will come out and identify the specimen, as well as determine the severity of the problem at no charge. It’s important information for homeowners that won’t cost a thing.
Stop swatting. If a brown recluse is found on your body, do not swat it. The fangs of a brown recluse face downward, and swatting at it may cause the spider to drive its fangs into your skin to hang on. Gently blow or rake it off. If you do get bitten, wash the bite and the surrounding area, keep the area dry, use ice to alleviate the pain and consult a medical professional. According to Tennessee Poison Center Medical Director Donna Seger, M.D., the venomous bites usually heal well if left alone, though they can be more threatening for children under 12 years of age. Ointments and antibiotics are not recommended.