The Battle of the Bugs: How To Prevent & Get Rid of Pests

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A couple of weeks ago I helped my brother pick out an apartment in Northern Virginia. We found a great one-bedroom in an older apartment complex, recently remodeled, it has ample storage, a large patio, and it's close to his work. One little problem: we started to move him in and found a roach hanging out in the kitchen cabinet. Then we found another by the sink. And a tiny one was running across the pantry door. Uh-oh, there's a bug problem.

Fortunately a bug problem is not the end of the world. There are ways to prevent and manage pests so my poor brother won't be kept up at night worrying about whatever creepy-crawlies might be taking up residence in his new home.

There are two phases of handling bug problems, prevention and action. Hopefully your preventive measures will mean you'll never be faced with handling an active pest problem, but it's good to be prepared in the instance that prevention fails, or you move into a new place with an existing problem.

PREVENTION

Clean Up

  • Wash dirty dishes and clean up any areas used to prep meals. Tiny crumbs and that little sticky spot where a drop of fruit juice spilled are an appetizing meal for roaches and ants.
  • Store food in airtight containers, preferably heavy plastic or glass. This includes pantry staples like flour and sugar (I even kept these in the refrigerator when I lived in Houston as an extra precaution), as well as any pet food items. As a word of warning, if mice are a concern, they have no problem with and will not hesitate to chew right through plastic storage bags to get what they want. My college roommate and I were rather upset when a mouse found our stash of chocolate squares, ripped open the bag, and then took exactly one bite out of each and every piece of chocolate.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables In the refrigerator. This is a tough one for me because I really enjoy peaches and apples at room temperature, but it's better to keep these items in the fridge and let them come to room temperature before eating, rather than invite a swarm of annoying fruit flies into your home.
  • Vaccuum, sweep, and mop regularly. It might not be visible to us, but pests love all of the little bits that fall into carpets and collect around corners and baseboards. You can frequently find insect eggs lurking in all that accumulated dust. Gross.

Dry Off

  • Don't leave standing water in your sinks, bathtubs, or showers. Roaches can go weeks without eating, but need to find sources of water regularly.
  • Check the pipes under your sinks to be sure there aren't any drips or leaks. Water damage in the cabinet is a telling sign of a leaky pipe. Water and a dark cabinet to hide in is an appealing home for an unwelcome pest.

Seal Up

  • Grab some caulk and seal up any cracks between the baseboards and the floor or wall, and any gaps around the cabinets and walls.
  • Larger gaps where pipes come through the wall can be stuffed with steel wool to prevent critters from getting through.

ACTION

Identify

Identifying the pest you're dealing with is the essential first step in creating a plan to eliminate them from your home.

  • Here's a great guide for identifying the pest that's plaguing you.
  • A look at the Assassin Bug, an unpleasant pest that can be a real problem in the Southwest.
  • Here's some info on the House Centipede. They are freaky to see running across your walls, but they're not harmful and can actually help take care of other bug problems!

Get Rid of Them

With a lot of prevention and a few targeted strikes against the existing pests my brother's bug problem should be under control.

Have you ever moved into a new place and found that it had an infestation? How did you deal with it?

(Image credits: Kimber Watson)

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