3 Common Winter Pests to Guard Your Home Against

A mice peeking out from a a shelf.

Winter brings a laundry list of inconveniences. From having to bundle up every time you leave the house to icy roads, it can be a tough season to stomach. To add to the list of small bothers during the snowy months comes another potential problem: an increase of pests in your house. Because of the cold temperatures, bugs and rodents alike are drawn into your home more than usual to take advantage of the warm temperatures. While these unwelcome house guests can be tough to manage, there are thankfully warning signs that they have made an entrance, methods to rid your home of them, and ways you should utilize that prevent them from infesting your home altogether.

1. Termites

Termites on a piece of wood.

Although termites are typically thought to be a warm weather pest, they are likely to strike in the winter months as well. This is because certain classes of termites swarm into houses in the fall months and then reproduce until around February, creating colonies that could contain millions of bugs and potentially cause pricey damage to homes. Termites could also travel into your home via firewood piles they reside in that are brought indoors during the cold months. To prevent a termite infestation in your home, do what you can to cut down on moisture, which allows the bugs to survive above ground. This includes fixing any leaks or ensuring the gutters are properly draining. Another helpful measure preventing a termite infestation is to keep soil away from your home’s siding by at least a couple inches, and to ensure proper ventilation in all crawl spaces.

As with almost any pest infestation, there will be signs of termites in your home. First, an infestation may lead to termite feces, which would look like mysterious piles of pellets. Another sign to look out for is the swarms of termites themselves, which you would know if you saw—and it is quite an unpleasant sight! Winter termites are better treated with bait than they are in other seasons because winter forces them to stay closer to their nest. This makes baiting termites to kill them a highly effective and quicker than usual method in the cold months. If that method fails, it's best to enlist a professional exterminator's services.

2. Mice and Rats

It's very common to have a mice or rat infestation during the winter as these critters are looking to escape the cold and take solace in the heat of your home. And while they may enjoy their stay, we are willing to bet that you don’t want them as guests. To prevent these animals from entering your home, you should be sure to seal and secure all possible entry points at the beginning of the season before the cold weather even hits. Any and all small spaces should be sealed as mice can fit into spaces the size of a dime and rats can squeeze into openings the size of a quarter. To seal holes or cracks, use a hardware cloth to cover the space and then use either caulk, drywall, or siding to seal the openings completely.

There are some telltale signs to look out for if you suspect you have a mice or rat infestation. First, you may notice droppings around your house. Even if you only notice droppings and have never seen an actual mouse, this is still a problem that needs addressing since mice breed very quickly. Another sign is small holes in furniture such as desk drawers or cabinets. Mice frequently chew through furniture and make small holes that they burrow through to create their new home. Finally, if you begin hearing strange scratching noises in the walls or around the house, this is an important sign. These noises are more likely to be heard at night as mice are nocturnal.

If you discover you have a mouse problem, it’s important to address it as soon as possible. Mice and rats carry many diseases that can be spread to humans and pets, so you don’t want to let these critters linger in your home. The most popular method of rodent elimination is to use mouse traps. These traps should be placed close to where the mice are living, assuming you know their location. Another good spot to place them is behind furniture, as mice and rats are more likely to check out foreign objects in a spot where they feel safe.

Besides traps, there are more natural ways to rid your house of rodents. A common method is to use strong smells to drive these rodents away. Peppermint and kitty litter are frequently associated with scents that encourage mice to leave your home.

3. Bedbugs

A bedbug.

Since people tend to travel a lot during the winter between the holidays and escaping the cold winter weather, bedbugs are not uncommon during this season. These bugs travel from one location to another on clothing and luggage and are frequently found on airplanes or in hotel linens. To prevent transporting these bugs back to your home after a winter holiday, avoid unpacking clothes into hotel drawers and always hang clothes rather than place them on a bed, carpet, or sofa. When you get home, vacuum out luggage and wash all clothes in hot water.

To identify bedbugs in your home, check mattresses, headboards, and box springs. Look for dark blood spots, which are telltale sign most frequently spotted around the piping, seams, and tags of a mattress. To treat your home for bedbugs, all of your linens—including sheets, comforters, blankets, and even curtains—should be washed in hot water and dried at the highest possible heat setting to kill the pests. When the sheets are off the bed, use a stiff brush to scrub the mattress. Finally, vacuum the entire space thoroughly and repeatedly.

While winter pests can be tough to deal with, prevention is key. Being aware of the looming threat of these creepy-crawly critters may be unsettling, but will allow you to take the measures necessary to protect your home this winter.