Friday, July 20 , 2018, 11:14 am | Overcast 66º


Ants Are Everywhere, But They’re Not Alone as Pesky Home Invaders

Keeping your house pest-free is an ongoing challenge, but your best defense against insects and rodents is a good offense

Argentine ants are ubiquitous this time of year. Fortunately, the objects in your kitchen are smaller than they appear here.
Argentine ants are ubiquitous this time of year. Fortunately, the objects in your kitchen are smaller than they appear here. (D.H. Choe file photo / UC Riverside)

As temperatures finally cool (in theory), the skies turn gray and long-awaited rains arrive (again, in theory), we are not the only ones who will be focused on the great indoors.

Perhaps, like many across the Central Coast, you’ve had the misfortune of hosting an invasion of Argentine ants in your home the last few weeks of summer and early fall.

Pest-control experts pin the proliferation partly on the chronic drought plaguing California. In truth, however, the ants are not fans of either dry, hot weather or wet, cold weather — so they head indoors in search of water and food.

In short, if we get some real weather with El Niño rains this winter, don’t expect your six-legged problem to go away.

While invading pests remain resourceful and creative at finding ways to get into our homes and are the reason that pest-control businesses continue to thrive, acting proactively now may help keep your house pest-free this winter.

So, if the sound of scurrying rodents in your walls and attic, gnawed electrical lines and exposure to the hantavirus isn’t your thing, you may be interested in the following steps to better ensure that your home is yours — and yours alone — this winter.

Many of these pest deterrents only require a trip to the hardware store. Some may be as easy as a trip to your own pantry.

No Easy Access

Branches leaning on the house and unscreened rain pipes are conveyor belts for pests to your roof and attic. Trim back branches and buy a screen to put at the top of downspouts to keep pests from having easy access to what’s above.

Keep Woodpiles a Safe Distance from the House

There is a design trend right now that looks great — piling firewood in the house.

It gives an interior a rustic, natural feel, but it must be noted that it is a trend for people who do not mind living with a critter or two. Think of a woodpile as an apartment building for all different kinds of pests: mice, rats, spiders, termites, beetles, you name it.

If your woodpile is kept close to the house, these pests will quite naturally want to upgrade into the house.

Make this social climbing a bit more difficult for them by keeping your woodpile a good distance away from your home.

Cleanliness Matters

This should perhaps go without saying, but leaving food on counters, in pet dishes or open in pantries is as good as a written invitation to pests.

While free feeding dishes are tempting for your household pets, they’re also tempting to rats, mice, skunks and raccoons. Food and crumbs left outside on patios or decks are a draw and a clue that there is more of that good stuff inside.


White vinegar is perhaps one of the great mysteries of the universe when it comes to taking care of a home.

Use it to clean your windows; use it to wipe down your counters in your kitchen if you have ants; put it in a fountain to keep your water clear and safe for thirsty birds and bees; spray it on your dog every so often to deter fleas; and put a little in a bowl with a teaspoonful of dish soap to draw flying insects away from the places you want to hang out.

At just a couple of dollars for a gallon, good old white vinegar is as good and as versatile as it gets as a natural and safe home enhancer.

Mind the Gap(s)

A hungry mouse is a master at squeezing through the tiniest of spaces. Grating any open gaps, especially in basements, crawl spaces and attics, is crucial to keeping mice, rats and squirrels out of your house.

Baking Soda

Baking soda, another pantry staple, is a great tool for keeping critters like mice and rats at bay.

If you see signs of such rodents, sprinkle baking soda in the area. They’ll run through it and then lick it off of their feet.

If you remember what a small amount of baking soda does to a cake, you’ll realize that the result is not comfortable — at all — for a mouse or rat.

Mothballs Can Do More Than You Thought

Mothballs are great for doing what their name suggests: keeping moths away, especially from linens, but it turns out that they’re also useful in the attic.

Apparently, mice and rats do not like the smell of mothballs. Opening a few packs of mothballs and placing them strategically throughout your attic may cause unwanted rodent squatters to move onto the neighbor’s house.

If the smell of mothballs is not to your liking, the good news is that smells generally float upward. Unless you’re in the attic, you’re very likely not to smell the mothballs at all when below.

For those precious linens (why does it seem they always go for the cashmere sweaters?), cedar balls and sachets of lavender are more appealing, and also effective at keeping those pesky clothes moths and carpet beetles from ruining your fall wardrobe.

— Noozhawk contributing writer Hilary Doubleday can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

(UCIPM video)

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