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DALY: Simple ways to keep pests out of your home

Recently I discovered a trail of ants crawling across my kitchen floor. I began to question how they are coming inside, what can be done to control them and to prevent their entrance into my home. Many people mistakenly believe these pests are only troublesome during the warmer weather but not during the dead of winter, but they can also be a problem then too.

The sight of ants, roaches, spiders and other pests can be unsettling to homeowners. Why are these pests coming inside in the first place? They are attracted to the warmer temperatures along with the many sources of food and water available in your home. There are several control methods available, but preventing their entry in the first place will go a long way to keeping their presence to a minimum. By implementing some simple preventative tactics, you can reduce the likelihood of these pests of invading your home.

Walk around the perimeter of your home and remove any piles of leaves, firewood, bricks, stones, or other similar material which can provide an excellent habitat for pests. Cut back any plant material touching the outside of your home by at least 12 inches and pull the mulch away from the foundation the same distance. Do not allow vines to grow on the sides of your house. Your gutters can provide the ideal environment for pests and also a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Periodically clean them out and repair or replace the ones that are in poor condition.

Avoid storing firewood, which can be full of insects and spiders, inside your home. Once inside, the warmer temperatures causes the pests within the logs to think spring has arrived. The firewood acts as a "Trojan horse" for the insects. Within a few days homeowners will observe these unwelcomed guests infesting their homes. Only bring inside the wood that will be used right away in fireplaces.

Check the outside walls of your home and the foundation. Seal any cracks and holes which are a source of entry for pests. Be sure all doors and windows are properly sealed with tight-fitting screens and weather stripping. Install door sweeps under all doors.

Clean up spilled food and drinks, and keep food material in tightly sealed containers or in the refrigerator. Keep the top tightly on garbage cans. Fix any leaking pipes or leaks in your basement or roof. This source of moisture attracts pests.

Some pesticides can be applied for control. They include sprays, dusts and baits. Make sure the pesticide is labeled for applications indoors or around the perimeter of your home. Follow all of the directions and safety precautions listed on the label. Use the pesticides in conjunction with the other control methods listed above to minimize pest problems.

Hire a professional pest control company to regularly inspect your home in order to detect pest activity and treat accordingly. To find reputable companies and additional information on pest control, go to the Georgia Pest Control Association website at www.gpca.org/.

Yes, even in cold weather insects and other pests can invade your home. You can keep your home relatively free of these unwelcomed visitors by using a combination of tactics to keep them out. By doing so, I was able to rid my kitchen of ants.

Winter is a good time to decide on what to plant in your yard next year. The Gwinnett County Extension Plant Sale has some excellent plants are available for sale this winter. Go to the Extension website at www.gwinnettextension.org to download the order form or call the Gwinnett County Extension office for a form to be mailed to you. The deadline for ordering is March 16, 2012. The order pick-up day will be Thursday, March 29 from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds.

Timothy Daly, MS, Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent, Gwinnett County Extension. He may be contacted by phone at 678-377-4010 or by e-mail at timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.

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