Finally, fall is here. All insects and animals have a sense of urgency to prepare for tough times ahead.
Cool fall nights are a signal to all of God’s creatures to store food or add body fat, wean off young, and find adequate shelter. Adequate shelter for some of these creatures might be barns, or even attics, wall voids, or basements of our homes.
Snakes, like other reptiles, are cold blooded and regulate their body temperature by changing to warmer or cooler environments. When they are cold they try to find a warmer place to hide.
Snakes love to find holes or openings in foundations of houses in the fall to seek shelter. A hole ½ to ¾ inches in diameter is big enough for a snake to enter.
To keep these critters out of your house seal cracks, holes or openings in the foundation (around pipes or air conditioner lines) with mortar or expandable foam. It is important to keep foundation vents open even in the winter so make sure these vents have screen or hardware cloth to keep out snakes. Once in your basement, snakes have an uncanny ability to find cracks and crevices to climb into the living area of your home or into the attic. According to Dr Jeff Jackson, retired UGA Wildlife Biologist, there is no proven repellent, toxicant or fumigant effective for snakes.
Of course there are commercial formulas available for sale and some home remedies used such as sulfur powder but all of them are about as effective as the Georgia Bulldog’s offense in the first few weeks of the season.
If you feel you have done all you can do to keep snakes out of your house, then you will probably sleep better at night. If snakes enter your home the best way to catch them is with sticky glue traps intended to be used for rats. Put several of these traps out where you have seen the snake or a shed skin. Once you take the sticky trap outside with an attached snake, go several hundred feet away and poor vegetable oil on the sticky trap to release the adhesive.
Mice and rats also try to enter around the base of a house. They will come in through open crawl space doors, or around other openings. Now for me the best way to catch the very naive house mouse is with the good old snap traps that can be purchased at any grocery or hardware store in America. Buy and put out several traps always around the wall.
Mice have a very small home range and will not travel far for food. Due to their shyness, they like to travel along walls. I like to use peanut mixed with oatmeal (or sunflower seeds) to attract these little pests. Due to the fact that mice run along the wall, always place the end of the trap with the bait treadle next to the wall and the spring mechanism should be pointing away from the wall. Never use poisons in the house for rodents. No matter what advertisements claim, dead animals do stink.
Rats are a totally different creature and take more skill to capture. Rats are excellent diggers, climbers, chewers and yes swimmers (don’t ask). Rats will also travel further distances to grab a snack and are much more wary of traps or poisons.
Maybe you should seek help from a pest control company on rat problems but always do a check around your yard to see why the rats are infesting your house or property. Many times rat problems are caused by neighbors leaving dog food out in bowls for long periods of time or improper sanitation practices at a nearby store or restaurant. Do your home work to find the source of food for these pests. Removal of the food source plus sticky traps or bait (poison) stations in pet proof containers will help eliminate this problem. If the food source is determined to be associated with a store or restaurant possibly call the health Department for their assistance.
Of course bats, squirrels and flying squirrels try to enter your home higher up. These critters look for gable vents with rusted wire, or rotten wood around the soffits and boxings of your house.
Usually if you hear running, chewing or noise in the attic in the day time it is probably gray squirrels. Ridding your house of gray squirrels will take some detective work. Early in the morning or late in the afternoon walk around the outside of your house paying particular attention to the over hangs. The goal of this effort is to determine where the pests are entering your attic. Once you know where they enter and leave, next you need to repel them out of the attic.
Usually human activity is enough to drive them out. Once out of the attic, gray squirrels can be live trapped in small cages which cost about $15 – $20. When it comes time to release them carry the little creatures several miles from your house to let them go. Bait traps with peanuts, pecans or peanut butter mixed with oatmeal. Squirrels, like rats, are nervous so tie the doors open, with food inside the trap so the darlings get used to your handouts. When you feel the squirrels are used to coming into the trap, untie the trap door so it will catch the little home wreckers.
Noise in the attic at night would indicate a problem with flying squirrels. These tiny squirrels rarely come into a live trap. Instead, invest in several large (6–8” long) wooden rat traps baited with pecans, peanut butter or even apple pieces.As soon as the gray squirrels or flying squirrels are gone from your attic take the time to repair their entrance holes.
Repairing boards, siding or screen wire usually keeps the critters from returning. Remember, get the pests out before you complete your repairs.
Bats are another type of pest that inhabit our homes. Bats almost always look for homes that have rusted wire in gable vents or gaps or splits in siding.
Again do some detective work right at dark to find where the bats are entering your house. Most of the time there is a dark, greasy stain where the bats land and slide into the attic. Again, make sure all the bats are out of the attic before attempting to seal their entrance holes. Install a bat excluder on the outside of the house to let the little flying rodents out but not back in..
Do this by installing a large sheet of plastic (or maybe even a large plastic bag ) and staple or tape it on the siding about 12 inches above the hole and around it. Basically you will attach it to the house on three sides of the plastic except on the bottom.
As the bats go to exit from the attic they will hit the plastic and slide down until they make it past the plastic sheet where they will find freedom.
As they return to their hole they hit the plastic on the outside but are not smart enough to crawl back down and slip under the plastic. Scare the bats out of the attic with flood lights (bats hate lights) and loud music left on all day long.
Contact your local county Extension Office if you need help solving the pest problem at your home.
Britt West is the Barrow County extension agent. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.