Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Pests need to be eliminated early

March 30, 2003


Children's stories often relate the adventures of furry rabbits or frolicsome mice with human-like qualities. They "speak" to each other, get "married" and raise their babies. Their lives are much like ours. And their homes are our homes. These storybook creatures go about daily life within the walls, attics, basements and chimneys in the houses of humans. Rarely, are homeowners mentioned in these delightful stories.

While these friendly creatures are enchanting in a child's bedtime story, they are unwelcome boarders in real life. Squirrels, birds, mice, snakes and raccoons are known to squeeze their way into homes, occupying attics, crawl spaces or walls. When these critters scurry around in the vacant spaces of your home, they sound like a heard of elephants.

Typically, these unwanted houseguests squeeze through vent holes or openings caused by loose or warped eaves. If they can't squeeze through these ready made holes, they will pry apart the wire guards in front of vent holes, peel back roofing or gnaw through weakened shingles. They take advantage of roofs with missing shingles, uncapped chimneys, open doors and windows and torn screens.

To prevent wild critters from taking up residence in your home, follow these tips:

  • Trim back tree branches that drape onto the roof. Not only will this help protect your roof, it eliminates the convenient path to your roof and possible openings. Remember, squirrels can jump 5 to 6 feet.
  • Block any openings through which they may gain entry. Inspect your home for gaps and holes along the roof and eaves. Check to make sure the customary openings such as gable vents, soffit vents, dryer vents and chimneys offer no entry. A study wire mesh screen may be necessary over vent openings or hinged one-way doors that allow exit, but not entry.
  • Place a cap on your chimney to prevent birds and raccoons or other animals from getting into it. Once they get in, some creatures cannot climb out of chimneys without help.

l Keep food sources out of reach. Your pet's food and water dish should not be available for wild creatures. This encourages them to prowl your home for more food and to stay around in search of other comforts, such as lodging.

If critters are already in the house, you will want them out before they wreak havoc. Squirrels, for example, can damage wiring and siding; raccoons will scatter insulation and gnaw holes through the walls. Plus, their droppings can pose health hazards and odor problems. So, it is best to get them out as soon as possible.

Remember that in spring and summer, you may find an entire family of critters living in your attic. Some home owners are indulgent and let the family stay until the babies are ready to leave the attic retreat. The main thing is that eventually you will want all of them to vacate the premises and stay out. Follow these tips to ridding your home of unwanted creatures:

  • Sit outside and watch how they are getting in and out. Then, barricade or close all entrances except one. After all, they need a means of escape. You don't want to trap them inside. They will starve to death, creating a major odor problem.
  • Make their resting place uncomfortable. Place a bright light in the space and leave it on to disrupt their sleep.
  • Play loud music 24 hours a day. The more annoying the sound the better. While it may drive you wild, it will drive them out in a few days.
  • Noxious odors, such as that produced from mothballs, can be helpful in driving away critters.

Once you are sure the last of the critters has left, seal up all entries in to the attic space to prevent their return. Then, continue the preventive measures listed earlier.

Note: The Journal-World is looking for gardens to feature throughout the spring. If you have a feature idea, e-mail Garden Spot columnist Carol Boncella at

-- Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and home and garden writer for the Journal-World.

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