Identify, Eliminate and Prevent Insect and Animal Infestation
Infestation by insects or animals can be little more than a harmless nuisance, or it can have serious consequences for house structure. It is therefore important to be aware of the telltale signs of infestation, how to recognize the particular animal or its traces, and how effectively to treat and rid yourself of the problem. The table opposite lists some of the pests and the dangers they may pose to a house structure.
Many of the chemicals used in dealing with infestation are toxic or poisonous. For this reason, adhere strictly to manufacturers’ guidelines. Make sure that all such products are stored out of the reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet). Similarly, make sure that children cannot come in contact with poisons once they have been deployed around the house.
With all insect and animal infestations, the general rule is that if you find one (or evidence of one), there are likely to be more. Early identification is key to dealing with the problem before it can escalate into a far less manageable situation. Fortunately, most problems can be brought under control without professional help.
A group of wood-boring beetles, commonly known as woodworm, can cause serious structural problems. Obvious signs are small flight holes in lumber; dust around the holes confirms that the worm is active. Immediate treatment is essential.
This small brown beetle is generally found during the summer months. It is usually about 1/8 inch (4mm) in length.
This gray-brown beetle prefers old hardwoods. Up to 1/4 inch long, it lays its larvae in wood; years later the larvae emerge as beetles.
House Longhorn Beetle
This is less common than the two above, but is equally destructive. It can be up to 1/8 inch long.
This has an elongated snout that it uses to bore into the wood. Weevils are found in a range of colors and sizes.
Poor hygiene can cause fly infestations. They pose no structural problems, but their body fluids can stain decorated surfaces. They also pose a general health hazard by spreading bacteria. To prevent infestation, keep food covered; promptly dispose of garbage; use insecticides.
Silverfish can indicate a moisture problem. They are nocturnal and enter the house looking for food and moisture. Among other things, they feed on paper and adhesive, and so can damage wall coverings. To remove, treat excessive moisture and use insecticide on infested areas.
As well as attics, bees tend to nest in inaccessible areas such as wall cavities. They can enlarge holes in mortar and burrow into wall structures to gain access to a cavity. Some repointing may be necessary. Insecticide can be injected into nests; large nests should be removed professionally.
Wasps commonly nest in attics. If situated above a ceiling, a nest can drip an unpleasant secretion into the drywall, breaking it down and staining the ceiling. Sections of drywall may need to be removed and replaced. Inject special insecticide into the nest, or have the nest removed professionally.
Cockroaches appear when hygiene is a problem. This may be due to blocked drains, food debris on surfaces, or lack of cleaning in cabinets. Poisons are available, but professional help may be necessary.
Ants are mainly attracted by food debris on work surfaces and on floors. The nest can normally be traced by following the line of an ant column. To remove, pour boiling water into the nest, then apply insecticide. Insecticide lacquer can be applied to thresholds.
Woodlice feed on damp wood, suggesting a damp problem. They also destroy plants, both indoors and out. Treat dampness and use insecticide on plants and thresholds.
Earwigs are easily recognizable by the pincers on their abdomen. Though harmless, they are scavengers and eat kitchen waste and plants. To remove, cut back vegetation from doorways and windows. Use insecticide spray or vapour strips.
Moths tend to feed on natural fibers, damaging clothing, carpets, and upholstery. Clean stored clothes, vacuum all cracks and crevices, and use insecticide or mothballs.
Bats are likely to be found in attics or in basements that have exterior access. They pose no structural problems. Contact a professional for removal.
Rodents, especially rats, are disease carriers and should be kept well away from the home. Rats and mice chew all manner of items, including wires, woodwork, plastic, and even metal pipes; damage to all of these can cause serious problems. To prevent and remove, keep food covered, promptly dispose of garbage and use traps and poisons.
Squirrels tend to live in attics, where they can chew plumbing, wiring, and insulation. Physical barriers are the best deterrent; various vent meshes and fillers are available.
Birds can nest in the eaves of a house or in attics. The damage they cause is limited, but in large numbers, droppings can stain painted and masonry surfaces. Like squirrels, birds are best discouraged with physical barriers.
Signs of Common Pests
There are various ways of identifying which pests have entered your home. Some distinctive signs of common pests are shown below.
Apart from the flies themselves, maggots (bluebottle fly maggots) are the most obvious sign of fly infestation. They may be found in decaying food or in any rotting organic matter.
A wasp nest is the obvious source of a wasp problem in your home. It may be found in the open (e.g., in an attic), or hidden in a cavity wall.
Some bees live in nests, while others are solitary and live alone. They tend to nest in enclosed spaces.
Frayed wires, gnawed woodwork, holes in woodwork, nests in attic insulation, and rodent droppings all signify a rat or mouse infestation. Rodents cause minor structural damage, but gnawed electrical wires and cables can cause considerable trouble.
Nests can be found in cracks and crevices in masonry, as well as in attics, or attached to downspouts and soffits. Bear in mind that some birds are protected, so tampering with nests and eggs can be illegal. It is best to discourage nesting before it occurs.