mouse getting out of her hole in a luxury old-fashioned roonThe weather turning colder means two things. First, you’ll soon be welcoming friends and family into your home to celebrate the holiday season. Second, you might be inviting rodents and insects in as they seek shelter, food, and warmth indoors. This means that we end up with creatures in our homes that we might not even notice until the infestation becomes a significant problem.

The National Pest Management Association suggests that over 21 million rodents enter U.S. homes during the winter months. That means if you’ve been putting off dealing with your pest problem for a while now, it’s a good time to start thinking about taking some important steps before the annual family gathering.

Know Your Enemy

Preparing your home to fight back against winter pests begins with learning which kind of creatures you might be dealing with. Some of the most common pests in the colder months are ants, cockroaches, and mice:

  • Ants: Though ants are often a bigger problem during the summer, some species remain active year-round, and they will invade homes in search of water and food. Keep food covered, counters clean, and floors swept to prevent an ant problem.
  • Cockroaches: A common problem in California, cockroaches live behind walls and in hidden areas. The small German cockroach is often the hardest to find. Many breeds are most active at night, so you may not notice the pest until you have a major infestation.
  • Mice: Rodents such as mice can enter your home through tiny gaps. Make sure that you keep your home clean, seal up holes, and reduce available shelter, water, and food to reduce a rodent problem.

Sealing Your Home

Winter pests are sneakier than you might think. For instance, cockroaches frequently hide in the walls around your property, making them impossible to find. On top of that, mice can squeeze into holes the size of a dime, while rats can enter properties through gaps the size of a quarter. Anything from damaged brickwork to broken weather stripping can act as a door for unwanted winter guests.

The best way to start protecting yourself is to seal up any cracks or holes. This might involve using caulk in any gaps, installing screens over vents and openings, and replacing loose weather stripping around your doors and windows.

Clean House for the Holidays

There’s a good chance that you were planning a thorough cleaning before your guests arrived anyway, so take the opportunity to really dig into your home in the hope of preventing guests that you don’t want. Garbage and crumbs can let pests know that food is nearby, so make sure you take the following steps:

  • Remove any clutter that could provide a nest for mice and rats
  • Empty garbage that contains packaging and food regularly
  • Wipe down counters where you prepare your food
  • Vacuum furniture and rugs thoroughly
  • Sweep and mop the kitchen floors

Make Sure You’re Storing Food Properly

The holiday months are a perfect excuse to start stocking up on some of your favorite foods. Unfortunately, this can also increase your chances of crumbs and food particles that attract pests. Although strict food storage might not prevent pests from getting into your home, it can mean that they’re less likely to stay. Seal all your food in airtight containers, and don’t rely on plastic packaging, as rodents can chew through it.

Remember, storing food properly also means taking pantry staples into account like sugar and flour, as well as any pet food items.

Keep Firewood Away from the Home

As tempting as it might be to create a festive look in your home with piles of winter firewood, remember that wood piles can be a common method of attracting pests — particularly ants, termites, and cockroaches. A fire in the fireplace is great this time of year, but you should keep your firewood stacked away from your home.

Protect Yourself with a Professional Inspection

In the winter, there’s a good chance your focus is on preparing for the time you’re going to spend with your family. However, it’s worth recognizing that the survival instinct of insects and rodents can lead to problems with even the savviest of homeowners. If you see any signs of pests, including gnawed wires or droppings, or you notice the pests themselves, it’s best to get help from a professional inspection company.

Experts in pest control can identify the invaders in your home and remove them safely, so you can avoid a significant problem during your festive celebrations.