Where Household Pests Go During the Winter and How to Prevent Them from Coming Back

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Written by Guest | Last Updated December 2nd, 2019
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Spider

The winter months represent something different to everyone, but for most of us, the season is both a time of reprieve and a time of giving. As wintertime relates to pest control, these sentiments could not be more true — the gift winter brings us is a reprieve from most common household pests.

A recent look at Google's trending pest control searches reveals something interesting. Searches for how to get rid of common household pests spiked every year during the summer, and were almost non-existent during the winter months. But these trends may not necessarily come as a surprise to you. Think about it: If you live in a part of the world that actually dips below freezing during the winter, how many ants do you see?

The fact is, people aren't searching for "how to get rid of" any of these pests during the winter months, because for the most part, they're largely nowhere to be found. But why? It's not like they all get killed off when the weather gets too cold. If that were true, we wouldn't see such huge spikes during the summer, right?

These trends reveal a problem with how we approach pest control: we don't really care about prevention so much as addressing the symptoms of pest control. Really the best way to get rid of common household pests is to stop them from even gaining entry into your house. And wintertime is the perfect season to do so.

So where do they go? And more importantly, how do we prevent them from coming back the following summer?

Spiders

Ranking among the most fear-inducing household pests is spiders. What many people fail to realize, however, is that spiders might also be the answer to how to get rid of other household pests. Spiders tend to set up shop on the ground, in corners, or behind furniture not to seek refuge, but because they are ideal hunting and trapping spots. The main thing attracting spiders to your house is all the other pests and insects that sneak their way inside. So, if you want to see fewer bugs, let the spiders stay. But if you want to see fewer spiders, we can help you there as well.

Where they go

Of the roughly 35,000 species of spiders throughout the world, only a small percentage of them are adapted to indoor climates, meaning they are dependent upon a constant temperature and shelter from the elements for their survival. While some spiders simply die during the winter months, most other spiders will burrow into the ground and enter a hibernation-like state until the weather warms up again.

Kristiana Kripena from InsectCop.net shares information about spiders that are seen within the home during the cold winter months: "Since spiders are cold-blooded creatures the spiders you're seeing inside your house in the winter most likely have been there all year. As for where do indoor spiders go in the winter when spiders sense the cold season approaching female spiders seek more secluded areas of your home with less foot traffic such as crawl spaces and storage areas to lay their eggs there."

How to keep them from coming back

The best way to keep spiders from coming back is to make sure your home isn't a target for the critters that spiders like to eat. Remember, spiders are nomadic predators; they go to where the food is. So, keep out the bugs and you'll keep out the spiders. 

Alexander Crawley, an Entomology consultant at Fantastic Pest Control, shares another effective method to prevent spiders in your home: "Many love the smell of peppermint, eucalyptus and tea-tree oils, but spiders do not. You can spray around windows and doors. You can also plant peppermint and spearmint and place the containers in strategic locations. Lemons, oranges and grapefruit smell is also terrible to spiders. You can use peeps and spread them around the house. Keep in mind, you need to replace them every few days, as they dry out and lose efficiency."

Cockroaches

While less common than spiders, cockroaches are nevertheless a major problem in most southern states, California, and of course, New York. To many, roaches are synonymous with both filth and the phrase "hard to kill." Unlike spiders, cockroaches largely rely upon tropical or humid conditions for their survival. Simply put, even though you might not seek roaches in the wintertime, they are likely in hiding, awaiting warmer climates.

Where they go

A humid, tropical climate is crucial to a cockroach's survival. So if you live in a place with colder winters, chances are household cockroaches will hang out in shower drains, interior walls, or in basements. Like spiders, some species of cockroaches are able to hibernate should temperatures drop below 50 degrees. Really, the best way to keep cockroaches from infesting your home is to identify these high-traffic areas and work to keep the roaches out of them. The only way cockroaches can survive the winter is by living inside your home.

How to keep them from coming back

Something important to understand is the incredibly robust nature of the cockroach. Most insect sprays will not work on them, which is largely how they've developed a reputation as unkillable. Cockroaches come to your home seeking food, shelter, and a place to lay eggs. By eliminating these necessities, you'll be able to enjoy a cockroach-free summer:

  • Food — We can't emphasize enough the importance of cleaning up after yourself. Cockroaches will eat anything a human will eat and more. Any traces of food (in the microwave, in the sink, on the floor, etc.) you can be assured the cockroaches will find. If you can successfully cut off the food source, you can at least shorten the cockroach's lifespan.
  • Shelter — As mentioned above, cockroaches like warm, humid climates, like bathrooms. Clean your drains regularly. And if you have a boiler room or furnace, spot-check those locations as well. You might not be able to access your interior walls, but you can at least keep these other areas clean, or use approved traps, etc. to catch cockroaches that way.
  • Eggs — Cockroaches usually mate during the winter, most often in the places mentioned above. These are the locations you'll want to inspect for eggs or evidence of roach activity.

close up of bed bug

Bed bugs

"Good night, sleep tight . . ." You know the rest. Bed bugs are difficult to see, and even harder to get rid of. Despite the measures you may take to eliminate bed bugs from your home, there is always a chance that the bed bug populations will not be removed completely. Expert exterminator services are usually required to fully eradicate bed bug populations from a home.

Where they go

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about bed bugs is that they don't really appear to go anywhere for the winter they're simply less active in colder climates. Tim Sherrer, owner of Expest Exterminating, states that although bed bugs are less active during the winter months, “they can still remain a threat when other insects are not.”

Like cockroaches, bed bugs like warm, humid climates; however, when exposed to cold temperatures, bed bugs can still survive for several days in dormancy. Chances are, if you had bed bugs during the previous summer, and your home didn't undergo a proper pest elimination inspection, you will almost definitely have bed bugs again the following summer.

How to keep them from coming back

Thankfully, there are some preventative measures you can take to prevent infestations, or at least catch one early. First, cleanliness is next to non-bed-bugliness. Wash your bedding regularly and invest in a bed frame to keep your mattress and boxspring off the floor. Some experts even suggest using double-sided tape to your bed legs and room perimeter, to keep bugs from crawling onto your bed. And contrary to the name, bed bugs will also infest your kitchen if an open food source is available. The best means of prevention here is the Ziplock bag, as well as your fridge/freezer.

Ants

Sooner or later, we all deal with ants in some measure, whether it's the occasional black ant we see crawling across the kitchen floor, the carpenter ant scurrying under the threshold, or the all-out ant-infestation in our pantry. Ants are perhaps the most common household pests, mainly because they are very small and can access nearly every nook and cranny of your home, and they are incredibly organized. Seeing only a few ants at first does not mean things will stay that way; these ants are scouts leaving a scent trail for the rest of their colony to follow. During the summertime, a small ant problem can quickly become a big one.

Where they go

The parable of the industrious ant and the carefree grasshopper holds true. Ants both prepare for and hibernate during the winter. Prior to the winter months, ants will increase their fat stores to ensure their survival during the cold weather. Ants will take refuge under the bark of trees or with their nests underground. The entrance to these hideouts is usually closed during the winter, so you don't usually see ants during the winter because they're not able to leave their own nests. However, if you spot ant activity in the cold winter months, this may suggest that a colony is living within the wallboards of your home. 

How to keep them from coming back

Since ants have little need for the shelter your home might provide other household pests, their only objective in coming to your house is food. Once the winter is over, ants have a voracious appetite and will find a food source wherever it may be. 

Cracks in the home are a good place to start to prevent future bug infestations. Alex Berezowski, GM at The Foundation Experts Inc, shares common ways that pests can enter a home: "A common reason why pests find a way in your home can be due to cracks in your foundation. Cracks in your home's foundation are not always the most obvious but can be extremely problematic. If you have any cracks that extend from the floor to the ceiling in your basement or have any walls separating from the ceiling, these might be exactly where these pests are coming from. They can also enter from any cracked tiles, misaligned or sticking windows and doors, baseboard separation, as well as cracked chimneys. However, as said earlier, these cracks aren't always apparent, as they can be minuscule. On that note, other signs of foundation and structural damage can include mould or strange smells."

The cold months of winter provide homeowners plenty of time to seal any cracks and crevices in their home and prepare against the larger bug populations of spring and summer months. 

Mice

Of course, when it comes to mice, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is disease. Mice can carry all sorts of diseases (including the bubonic plague) as well as parasites.

Where they go

Mice are mammals, like us. And like us, they need to stay warm during the winter or they will die. The fact of the matter is, statistically speaking, your home either has been or currently is the residence for mice. Mice are incredibly resourceful, and unlike the other household pests mentioned in this post, mice are strong enough to chew their way through drywall and don't often have to rely on pre-existing holes or cracks to gain entry into your home.

How to keep them from coming back

One of the best ways to keep mice from getting into your house is to make sure your baseboards are both strong and have no gaps. Baseboards are more than just a fashion piece; they have real practical value in keeping mice out. Look for potential weak spots along the bottom of your walls, including behind appliances and furniture. And while you may not be able to prevent all mice from entering your home, you can certainly make their stay less enjoyable by cleaning up food, and leaving D-Conn or other mouse poisons in strategic places. 

Brad Leahy, owner of B.O.G Pest Control, advises homeowners to prep their garden as a means to prevent mice problems in the winter: "When it comes to your garden, make sure your mulch isn't touching the foundation of your home. Mice look for warmth and coverage and gravitate toward your leaf-covered mulch. Spread out your mulch and remove any debris. Rule of thumb — no deeper than two inches."

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