Garden Variety: Traps, minimizing entry points key to keeping pests out

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A mouse standing on a trap.

Fall’s cooler temperatures and shorter days have many creatures preparing for winter and spending more time indoors. Unfortunately, that means some of them are hoping to move into your house for shelter, especially mice, spiders and a variety of insects. The next few weeks are a good time to check and fix entry points for these unwanted visitors, and if you do get these pests in your house, here are a few tips for removing them.

A mouse can slip through a hole the diameter of a pencil, and spiders can get through even smaller holes, so exclusion can seem like a monumental task. Start by checking window screens and repairing or replacing the screens if there are any holes. Next, check seals around exterior doors. Weatherstripping and door sweeps keep more than cold air out, so install, repair or replace them as needed.

Next, check the exterior framing around doors and windows, entry points for utility lines and vents, seams on the siding and exposed foundation. Fill small gaps with caulk. Larger gaps may need additional material to fill the gap prior to or in lieu of caulking.

Mice that make their way inside may announce their presence by leaving droppings; building a nest out of toilet paper, facial tissue, or other choice items; or by running across the floor at an inopportune time. Trapping is the most effective option for control. Classic snap traps and box-type traps are easy to use and inexpensive.

Another option is to use glue boards/traps. These are plastic or cardboard trays with a thick layer of sticky glue on them. If a mouse (or other creature) steps on it, they get stuck. The idea is nice, but if it works, you will have a live squeaking mouse of which to dispose.

Baits and fumigants are a final option. They should be avoided in the presence of pets and children and are only warranted for large mouse populations.

Spiders are a little less obvious than mice and may go unnoticed most of the time. Most of them are harmless and are doing us a favor by eating insects and other spiders. However, brown recluse spiders pose a human health concern, making it and other spiders aversive to many people.

Brown recluse spiders are hunters, meaning that they do not employ webs to catch food. They hunt insects and other spiders but are timid to humans, biting only in defense. They can survive for several months without food or water.

Wolf spiders are similar in size to brown recluse with a thicker body. They are also hunters and are more likely to run across the floor in daylight to announce their presence.

Sticky traps are the best bet for both of these spider species and any other mobile spiders. There are flat glue boards/traps and ones that fold up like a little open-sided box. Opt for the enclosed ones if you have children or pets. Place traps behind furniture and in other potential hiding places, especially in corners and along baseboards near exterior doors.

Web-building spiders are controlled by sweeping/vacuuming webs away regularly. Check corners (floor and ceiling), around exterior doors and windows, and under/behind furniture.

Chemical treatment is an option for spiders also. Dust formulations are most effective and can be applied to baseboards or interior spaces with a specialized duster than leaves an unnoticeable trail. Dusts can also be applied outdoors to foundations, seams, etc. Liquids and aerosols provide quick relief inside and out, but they must come into direct contact with spiders to be effective. Apply them directly to the creatures or in a place where spiders are likely to walk through the chemical soon after application.

Insects such as crickets, lady beetles, stink bugs, and the many others that try to sneak in for winter can also be caught in sticky traps labelled for spiders. Vacuuming is the next best bet. If you vacuum live ones and use a vacuum that takes bags, be sure to remove the bag and take it outside as some insect species will be able to chew their way out.

— Jennifer Smith is a former horticulture extension agent for K-State Research and Extension and horticulturist for Lawrence Parks and Recreation.


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