While the winter weather may vary in different parts of the country, one thing that stays the same is the affect it has on pests in and around buildings. Some critters try harder to come inside from the cold, and some indoor pests can actually become more active in winter.
Rodents, namely mice and rats, respond to the loss of leaves and other shelter outside, and the drop in temperatures, by looking for ways to get indoors.
Building managers can take some basic steps to avoid attracting rodents to their properties:
• Ensure shrubs and trees are cut back at least 18 inches from exterior walls.
• Don’t keep anything stored against exterior walls.
• Seal gaps and holes under doors, especially those leading to garbage rooms.
• Close holes around pipe penetrations, utility lines and roofline gaps (rats are great climbers).
• Roof top HVAC units create a warm zone under which pest birds will often shelter, especially in the colder months.
Rodents detect warm air currents leaking out of gaps in a building and follow them inside. Similarly, if there are hiding spots next to the warm exterior (whether bushes or items stored against walls), rodents will live there until they can find a gap in the building itself.
Food is especially scarce outside in the winter, so building managers should work to keep it that way:
• Remove all bird feeders. People love feeding the birds in the winter, but unfortunately, other wildlife, including rats, mice, raccoons and skunks, will feed at night. In Whistler, even late denning black bears will climb decks to get at bird feeders.
• Keep the garbage areas clean, and ensure nothing spilled onto the ground and that the lid of the bin closed.
• Keep organics placed in a green bin clean and dry. If bins are not kept clean and in good repair, they are attractive to rodents and other pests. In most cases, flies, maggots and nasty odours are the biggest problems with theses bins. If the green bin is stored in a warm, covered receiving area, insects may be in the bin throughout the winter, not just the warmer summer months.
To keep pest free, managers should remember to:
• Try to keep the bin contents dry. Add layers of newspaper or cardboard or leaves to prevent moisture.
• Educate tenants on how to wrap their food scraps in newspaper. Many municipalities will have free educational resources.
Don’t forget all the critters that live happily inside buildings all year, like bed bugs, cockroaches, silverfish and pharaoh ants, will all survive and thrive regardless of the weather outside. In fact, pharaoh ants are typically more active and more noticeable indoors in the winter. And if people overcompensate for the cold by turning their heat up, silverfish, cockroaches and bed bugs will all actually do better.
So even though some insects and pests go dormant in the winter, seasonal issues means that managers should adopt an integrated pest management strategy utilizing prevention, sanitation and maintenance to reduce the number of pest issues.
Finally, managers should partner with a professional pest control contractor who can provide proactive inspections, monitoring, and intelligent control services to ensure tenants and business are not unduly bugged this winter.
Brett Johnston is the president of Assured Environmental Solutions, a professional pest management company based in Vancouver. Johnston has 22 years industry experience and can be contacted at email@example.com