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The Impact of Cold Weather on Pest Behavior in Your Home

Cold weather affects various pest behavior and can determine the best course for treating pest infestations.  Like much of the country, the Northeast is experiencing a cold weather snap, and like humans, pests and wildlife are looking to take cover.

Where do insects go in the cold?

According to the University of Illinois, While air temperatures can get cold enough to kill insects, most insects will overwinter in protected areas where temperatures do not get nearly as cold. For example, white grubs (like Japanese beetles) in the soil will not be exposed to extremely cold temperatures because the soil will insulate them. Others will seek shelter under leaf litter (codling moth), under bark (emerald ash borer), or even in your home (brown marmorated stink bug). All of these will provide some protection from cold temperatures.

Snow is also an excellent insulator and offers another layer of protection. Several inches of snow can potentially keep the ground temperatures dozens of degrees warmer than the air temperature. Snow also helps protect from large temperature fluctuations in the soil, which can be detrimental to insects as well as plants.

While cold temperatures will likely kill some insects, most will survive just fine. Come spring, it should be business as usual, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.

Fun fact: Honeybees are some of the few insects adapted to survive winter without becoming dormant. They will form clusters in their hives and keep warm by vibrating their flight muscles, which generates heat to keep the colony warm.

What types of pests are active in the winter?

In our previous post, “Do you need pest control in the winter?” we discussed the active pests in winter. As you can guess, the pests listed below are the most common and often preventable. Please do not discount finding one of these as an isolated incident.  The health and safety of your family and pets are important.

  • CockroachesCockroaches have been around for millions of years, evolving into some of the most adaptable creatures in the world. But are they able to survive the cold weather? Generally speaking, most cockroaches can survive year-round with easy access to a warm, moist environment. The German cockroach, for example, prefers an indoor humid habitat close to food and moisture sources. As such, this species often makes itself quite comfortable in residential kitchens and bathrooms, especially during the winter months. The American cockroach, on the other hand, will live outdoors in warmer climates. Once the temperature dips, this type of cockroach will mass migrate into homes or larger commercial buildings such as restaurants, grocery stores, food processing plants, and hospitals.
  • Rodents. According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), winter is a prime season for rodent infestations, with 24% of homeowners reporting mice infestations specifically in the winter. Rodent infestations can be more than just an annoyance. Mice bring other pests, such as fleas, mites, ticks, and lice, indoors, which can quickly spread throughout homes. Moreover, these rodents can contaminate food sources with feces that can spread Salmonella and Hantavirus.
  • Ants. You don’t always see an army of ants marching across the kitchen counter in the dead of winter. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t nearby. Ants are very successful at overwintering in the great outdoors, including our yards. During the fall months, they indulge in vast amounts of food to put on fat to survive for weeks without eating. As the winter chill arrives, their body temperature and productivity significantly decrease, so they seal their colony and hunker down in deep soil or under rocks until spring has sprung. Once the temperature rises, ants will emerge from their overwintering sites, full of energy and ready to crash the next backyard barbecue.
  • Spiders. There are many different types of spiders, but only a few are harmful to humans. So, if you find a spider in your home, it’s not necessarily a sign of an infestation. It could just be an individual that entered through an open door or window. Although spiders are often viewed as pests, some of them are beneficial. Spiders eat insects and other arthropods that are harmful to humans and animals. They can also help reduce the population of pest insects in your home. (a-z Animals)
  • Bedbugs (Hitchhikers from holiday travels) Bed bugs can withstand temperatures from nearly freezing to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes controlling them extremely difficult. However, they often succumb after a few days of exposure to temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The bad news is our homes provide the perfect habitat for bed bugs to survive during the winter months.

Protecting your home against a winter pest infestation

In an article published online, guest contributor Bob Vila discusses pest infestation during winter, especially after a storm. Household pests can cause extensive, expensive damage.

Once they gain entry to your home, insects and rodents gnaw through wood, wires, and drywall, gradually but inevitably leaving no small amount of destruction in their wake. Even their nesting—in dark, warm, often moist crevices—typically results in rotten wood and mold growth, either or both of which undermine the integrity and longevity of your home. There’s one silver lining in all this. The measures you need to take to minimize the likelihood of an infestation are the same measures you should take to maximize your home’s energy efficiency. In one fell swoop, you can pest-proof your home and help lower your monthly utility bills. It all comes down to this: In a tightly sealed, properly protected home, warm air stays indoors while cold air—and pests—stay out.

Though you may not be dealing with an infestation right now, recognize that the risk of a pest invasion never really goes away—especially in winter. So, keep a keen eye out for storm damage as the weeks pass, and sooner rather than later, consider acting on the following best practices for pest prevention:

  • Trim back trees to bar rodents from easy access to the underside of your roof overhang.
  • Declutter the basement, attic, and utility rooms to eliminate potential nesting grounds.
  • Examine the fascia board along the roofline, replacing any areas of rotted wood.
  • Repair loose mortar and replace worn weatherstripping around all windows and doors.
  • Store food in sealed containers and keep crumbs off the floor.
  • Seal any and all cracks or gaps on the home exterior with a silicone-based caulk.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet from the home, not only off the ground but also covered.
  • Avoid ice dams by using a roof rake to dissipate potentially problematic snow accumulations.
  • Hire a professional sweep to clean the stack, inspect the flue, and install a cap over the chimney.

Professional pest control services bring experience and solutions!

As the temperatures drop, many pests, including rodents, spiders, and insects, seek shelter indoors to escape the winter weather. In some cases, the evidence of an infestation or damage does not appear until it’s too late.

A licensed pest control professional will assess the problem and examine the structure for signs of entry and infestation damage. Contact us for a free quote and eliminate winter pest activity. Spring will soon be here.

We service the Central New York area.

Resources: pestworld.org, Bob Vila, a-z Animals, University of Illinois

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