5 Nasty Common Household Pests And The Best Ways To Get Rid Of Them

How to deal with the most common household pests

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Is it just me or is it getting cold outside? The sweatshirts have come out of the closet and I’m starting to argue with my fiancée what the temperature of the air conditioner needs to be.

But beyond that, even my kitchen has started to host the most dreaded of all Fall issues: ants. Ants are just one of many household pests that you may see this time of year.

Fighting household pests is, unfortunately, just a part of basic homeowner maintenance. Of course, there are some pests that are worse than others. Honestly, I feel bad for people who are afraid of spiders this time of year.

The important thing is to know what causes each of these critters to come into your home in the first place and how to get rid of them. It’s best to keep these animals from coming inside in the first place. If you fail at that though, you better know how to get rid of them.

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Sugar/Grease Ants: The Most Common Household Pest

If you are somebody who hasn’t dealt with these ants, count yourself lucky. The small ants that form trails on your countertops and next to your pets bowl are sugar ants or grease ants. They are the most common of all household pests and a yearly occurrence for some people.

What Attracts Small Ants?

These ants are aptly named because they crave sugar and grease. Does it make more sense now why they’re frequently found in kitchens and around food?

Sugar ants are drawn to anything sweet. The jam that your kids dropped on the floor is perfect for them. They’ll go crazy for sticky messes, regardless of where they are.

Grease ants are also pretty obvious since they are drawn to fatty, greasy messes. Bacon grease left in the pan overnight, pet food, and any other slick, fatty mess.

How Can I Tell If I Have Ants?

Sugar ants and grease ants are similar enough in they can be grouped together. Both are small ants, roughly the size of a grain of rice. You’ll see them travelling in a line across the house.

They get in via a small hole usually. If you follow the line back, you can always find their single entry point.

How Do I Prevent Ants?

Grease ants and sugar ants, like most household pests, are prevented by keeping you home clean. Again, they are drawn to grease and sugar as a food source, so if you keep that picked up, they won’t be drawn in as much. A clean home is an ant free home.

Pet food should be kept in plastic containers, like this cat food container and this dog food container, rather than the paper bags that they come in.  Ants can’t get to it then and you take away the source of food.

You can also prevent these ants by keeping the foliage trimmed back around your home. They use the foliage as an easier way to climb up.

Any cracks, gaps, or holes on the outside should be plugged up with caulking as soon as you see them in order to keep household pests out. When you follow the trail of ants back to the hole they came in from, you should also plug that hole as well.

How Do I Get Rid Of Ants?

When all prevention measures fail to keep ants out, you need to know how to get rid of these household pests. You should start by plugging all the holes with caulking, interior and exterior that they may be coming in from. Then, deep clean your kitchen, next to the kitchen trash, and next to any pet food.

If that doesn’t get rid of these guys, I swear by Terro ant bat stations. So much so that they are a required fixture on my pantry shelves year round. I’ve tried the off brands and they are less expensive but they don’t work as well in my opinion.

These bait stations are easy to set up and if you hide them under or behind furniture and appliances the kids and pets leave them alone really. You need to know on thing though:

You will see an increase in ants for the first 24 hours because these bait stations have to attract household pests to kill them. If you set these stations out near the ants and you see more ants initially, they are working!

After the first 24 hours, you should notice that you see fewer and fewer ants every time you look. After about 72 hours, the ants should be gone and your home should be pest free!

Termites and Carpenter Ants: The Household Pests That Eat Your Home

While sugar ants and grease ants are small, carpenter ants are enormous. For the most part, you can treat termites and carpenter ants as the same creature. They are both attracted to similar things, wood, and they will both do major damage if left untreated.

What Attracts Termites And Carpenter Ants?

These household pests are attracted by wood, especially if the wood happens to be damp. They will both literally eat you out of house and home as they snack on the wood that your walls are made out of.

Carpenter ants are large, black ants that can be up to 1/2″ long. They don’t normally have wings. I found these household pests on my parents cedar fence last year and told them to treat them before they ate the house.

Termites are lightly colored with large heads and bigger mandibles, the chewy mouth parts, than carpenter ants. They usually have wings as well. More than anything, I always think of the word…squishy…when I see termites.

How Do I Prevent Termites And Carpenter Ants?

These household pests are prevented by a fairly simple method. Keep any wood around your home, aside from trees that is, dry. So if you have a log pile or a scrap lumber pile, put a tarp over it.

Repair any areas of damaged fascia or wood damage around windows and doors. Anywhere that water may sit and rot wood can be a risk for termites and carpenter ants.

There are companies that can help you to treat your house if you do end up with these household pests. If you live in an area where you are likely to have wet wood, the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest for example, you may want to consider other building materials. Pressure treated lumber, cedar, and metal options are all viable.

What Do I Do If I Have Termites Or Carpenter Ants?

The moment that you see one of these household pests inside your house, you need to investigate. If you see only a single one, than it isn’t a problem to kill the thing and ignore it. If you see several, you need to address the issue immediately.

To try treating these at home yourself, you can get a broad spectrum insecticide and follow its directions to apply it. My personal preference is Ortho Home Defense. This product is simple to spray around base boards and the foundation to keep insects out.

If you apply an insecticide and you still notice these household pests, you need to call an exterminator. Your home is a major investment and you could have major structural issues if you don’t get rid of termites and carpenter ants.

Spiders: The Household Pests Everyone Hates

I’m going to start with an unpopular opinion: I like spiders. There are no pet spiders in my home, though I wouldn’t oppose them.  But I firmly believe that since spiders eat other bugs, they are my friend.

An enemy of my enemy is my friend as the saying goes. The only time I don’t like them is when I’m in the shower. Then, those bastards die a quick and watery death.

But that’s besides the point. If you don’t like spiders, there are a few things that you need to know. To a certain degree, you will probably have to figure out more specifics on which type of spider you have.

How Do I Know Which Spider I Have?

When you see the spider that is now your roommate, take a picture of it. You can then look up photos on the internet to see exactly what you have and treat it appropriately. If you can catch this household pest, you can usually take it to the local extension office to get it identified.

What About General Prevention?

For general prevention of these household pests, you need to follow similar methods to the others and keep the foliage back from your house. You should also plug any holes that may be entry points for a spider with caulking. A clean house will also help to keep spiders at bay.

Spiders are fairly intelligent creatures and you should keep that in mind when you are trying to prevent them. They like to hide out in dark, undisturbed corners of your home. If you have rooms that you don’t go into frequently, you may consider setting some basic preventative traps.

How Do I Get Rid Of Spiders?

When you fail at preventing spiders, there are a few things to get rid of them. If you are like me and these household pests are not that frightening, you can always just put them outside.

If you truly hate them, you could always consider trying bug bombs. Just make sure that they are labeled to help with spiders as well as the other household pests that could be present. Make sure that all people and pets are cleared from the house before setting off the bug bomb.

There are also a few different traps for spiders and if you need a general one, this is an excellent spider trap.  If the general one doesn’t work, try getting one labeled for the type of spider you have, which again relies on you identifying what household pest you have.

I would not suggest most sprays for spiders since most of them are not going to work well against spiders. Sprays are made more for insects. Even if spiders are listed on the label, most of my customers tell me that sprays just invite in larger spiders.

Mice: Household Pests Drawn To More Than Cheese

When you have mouse issues, you need to remember that mice are just like you. Mice don’t like to be cold and wet; they want some good food; and they want a warm place to sleep. Because they are so similar to us, mice are common household pests at this time of year.

The first sign of mice tends to be droppings in the corner or holes in your food packages. If you are really unlucky, you’ll find a mouse running across your food while you’re making dinner.

What Attracts Mice Anyway?

Mice come inside looking for food and a place to sleep. Similar to other household pests, the cleaner you keep your home, the less likely you are to have a mouse problem. Clean homes are harder for mice to find food.

Mice also love to make nests in large piles of stuff because it offers a lot of hiding places for them to feel safe. Piles of fabric, stacks of paper, and unused furniture are all likely targets.

How Can I Keep Mice Out?

Mouse trap

Preventing mice is fairly simple. The main thing they’re after is food so I recommend keeping pet food in plastic, chew-proof containers like this one or this one. Keeping pet food in the paper bags it comes in is just not a good idea.

If you have any big holes that mice may get in those need to be blocked as well since mice can fit through any hole their head fits through. Steel wool is an excellent way to keep mice out without blocking air flow.

How Do I Get Rid Of Mice?

If you failed to keep them out in the first place, there are several ways to get rid of mice in your home. In fact, you’ll find more solutions for these household pests than most others.

A good, inexpensive option for mice is the classic snap trap. You can usually get a couple of these for only a few dollars. I prefer to use the snap traps with covers like these. They are more effective and safer for kids and pets.

If you aren’t opposed to them, there are glue traps that are quite effective at getting rid of mice. They are a tray of strong adhesive that mice get stuck to and starve. They are very safe for your family but many people see them as unethical.

You can always use a poison to kill the mice as well. There are a few issues with poison however. First, it is incredibly dangerous to both kids and pets. That’s why most rodent poison comes with traps that keep it away from your family.

Second, if a mouse eats poison, it will also poison anything that eats the mouse. You are not only killing the mouse but also sentencing any cat, fox, or owl to death as well. The downstream affects of using poison need to be considered before you use it.

Rat problems

Rats: The Worst Household Pests

If you can tolerate mice because they’re at least cute, that’s a small bonus. However, rats are not cute. These larger rodents can grow more than a foot long and weigh over a pound.

Rats tend to live in large colonies and it’s a pretty reliable guess that if you see one rat, you have hundreds somewhere. They are highly intelligent and they can be difficult to get rid of because of it.

What Do Rats Want?

Just like other household pests, rats want shelter and food. Similar to mice, you’ll notice large holes in food packages and nests made of pieces of fabric and paper.

Rats tend to nest in the dark corners of unused rooms and garages. That way it’s easier for them to hide from you. These household pests are much bolder than mice and you will be more likely to see them, especially at night, out in the open.

How Do I Prevent Rats From Coming In?

No rats

You can prevent rats most easily by keeping a clean house. Are you noticing a pattern with preventing household pests yet? Keeping a clean house and making sure that you don’t have anywhere they can hide is the most effective way to keep rats away.

If you do have rooms and spaces in your home that you don’t go into often, at least check them every once in a while for signs of rats. The sooner you notice a rat colony the more likely you are to get rid of them.

How Do I Get Rid Of Rats?

Just like mice, you have similar options to get rid of rats. Since rats are highly intelligent, you will have to be even sneakier at setting the traps for them.

Just like getting rid of mice, I suggest that you use the traps that have covers on them so that the rats are less likely to get the bait from the side and avoid the trap. There are also standard traps and glue traps for rats.

If you have tried setting multiple traps for a month or two and you are still having trouble, it’s worth the investment to call an exterminator. Most companies will at least be able to give you some tips or do a less expensive one time treatment.

Final Thoughts

When the seasons turn and it gets cold and wet outside, you are more than likely going to find a few household pests in your home. The basic things that you can do in order to keep them out are keep your home clean and plug up all the holes.

Fall and winter are the time of year you are most likely to see pests in your home. Keep an eye out for droppings, chew holes, or lines of insects that may be running across your floor.

If you do develop an issue with household pests, you need to make sure that you are willing to try new tactics. If you try to get rid of pests one way and it doesn’t work, you need to be flexible enough to try new things.

Try new traps and new baits or contact a professional if you realize that you are out of your depth. When you go to the hardware store, you need to be prepared to tell them what you are fighting and what you’ve tried before to get rid of them.

Your home is an investment and household pests can destroy it quickly. Don’t let them get out of control and keep an eye out for these freeloaders as the weather gets cooler. If you have other pests you are trying to treat, be sure to contact me and I’ll give you tips on dealing with them.

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Head Homeowner

Hey everybody! I'm Sydney, the head homeowner here. Let me know if you have any questions you didn't find the answer to. Tell me what projects you're working on. I love to hear from all my readers.

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