Fall Inspection Checklist
Most people assume that once winter comes, pests are no longer active or a risk for their home. This could not be further from the truth. There are 4 main categories of pest that pose substantial risk to home and property in the winter months. These pests can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage if left to their own devices, so it is important to treat them right away if you notice signs of them. For an untrained person, it is difficult to notice them before they cause issues, but if you know where to look, you can catch the issue early so you are not surprised with damages and a hefty repair bill. So what and where should you check for pests?
- Check hose faucet
- Garage door seal
- Door seals
- Vent covers
- Common food sources – pet food, grass seed, garbage, pantry
- Food sources in garage
- Trailers, campers, RVs, boats
- Walkways, sidewalks & driveways
- Check underneath decks, sheds & steps
- Bushes & small trees
- Check for mounds & tunnels
- Glue boards down in basement utility room
The first pest on our list is mice. House mice are very common throughout Alberta. Mice will get inside and often live in areas where humans do not go, so they can live for long periods of time inside without detection. The most common areas where mice live are garages, inside of walls, in the ventilation system, and in storage rooms and closets.
Your best chance of ensuring you never get mice inside is by using a preventative, exterior rodent control program, which you probably notice at neighbours homes, restaurants, shopping malls and many other places. You will see boxes like this (exhibit 1) along the foundation of the structure.
However, the next best thing to this is to complete regular inspections of your home. If you are only going to do it once, do it in the fall, however we recommend that you complete this inspection once every season (spring, summer, fall winter) as pes conditions can change very frequently. We offer this as a service for $89+GST, however we have decided to give away our checklist for free as we believe pest management should be accessible for everyone.
- Check all exterior water faucets
With temperature changes, the building materials and faucet will expand and contract differently, which opens up gaps for mice to get in. As you can see in the photo, there is a small gap at the bottom that mice can easily get inside.
- Check your garage door seal
The garage is the most common entry point for mice. A surprising number of garage doors have worn out seals that mice can easily breach and get inside. If you park your vehicle inside in the winter, you definitely do not want mice getting inside. Seeking warmth, mice can nest inside of the warm engine bay of the vehicle. When you start the car, it will kill the mice, leaving a terrible scent that will linger for months. A good trick to check your seals is to turn all of the garage lights off and see if you can see sunlight getting in. If you can – it is time to replace the seals.
- Check all of your exterior door seals
Check for gaps in the weather stripping and door sweeps that could allow mice to get inside. Mice will often chew through door sweeps as well so look for signs of that. We recommend having your door sweeps replaced with metal-lined sweeps that don’t allow mice to chew through!
- Check all of your exterior vent & exhaust covers
Another one of the most common entry points for pests is the exterior ventilation. Plastic vent covers will break after a few years of wear and tear, leaving a perfect entry point for a number of pests (yes mice can climb!). When replacing vent covers, we recommend using metal ones as they will last much longer, as well as getting one with a very fine filter in order to prevent wasps from getting inside. Every year, we deal with a number of wasps nests in ventilation. This is quite expensive to treat, and can put your home at risk of fire.
- Sheds, detached garages & other detached structures
Mice, and most other pests for that matter, prefer to live in areas with limited human contact. This makes sheds, detached garages, pool houses, and other separate structures on the property a perfect hiding place for them. Check the ground inside thoroughly with a flashlight for signs of droppings. Avoid keeping food sources for mice in here – such as grass seeds, pet food and garbage bins. This will attract mice and give them a reason to stick around. Also – be cautious entering these structures in the summer & fall as they are a hotspot for wasp nests. We find hundreds every summer while doing inspections for our clients!
- Trailers, campers, RV’s & boats
Recreational vehicles parked outside all winter are a great place for mice to hunker down for the winter. Check these thoroughly – at least every month if you don’t have a pest control service – to ensure nothing is nesting inside of here. Check in cupboards, storage areas, and along the floor for droppings. If you see some, call a licensed exterminator immediately. Mice can get inside of the engine and cause substantial damage.
If you store firewood for the winter, ensure it is raised off of the ground and kept away from the house. Mice will often hang around in these piles. If they are touching your home, that greatly increases the chances of mice coming inside in search of food.
- Seal up all food sources and keep them inside or outside – not the garage or shed!
Pet food, grass seed, and garbage are all great sources of food for mice. People often keep these in a poorly sealed garage. It is only a matter of time until mice make their way in for food and shelter. Keep pet food inside your house in sealed bins. Keep grass seed off of the ground in sealed bins. Keep your garbage inside of your house or outside in your bins. Putting it in the garage – even temporarily – will draw mice in like nothing else! Inspect all of these things and any other potential food sources for mice on a regular basis. Look for signs of chewing and/or droppings around the outside. Be especially careful with pet food. Mice will often unknowingly feed on pet food, which can transmit dangerous diseases to your pets.
- Check your walkways, sidewalks & driveways
Voles will create tunnels underneath sidewalks, driveways, patios and foundations. The tunnel opening will be about the size of a golf ball. This can be either mice or voles, but is more commonly voles. If you find these tunnels on your property, it is important to treat them right away. Voles and mice reproduce very quickly, which will rapidly expand their tunnel network and can cause shifting and cracking in driveways, patios and foundations.
- Check underneath decks, sheds & other covered areas
Voles do not like sunlight, and therefore will hide underneath anything that gives them shade. Look for tracks in the lawn, about the width of a garden house. This will show you where they are coming in and out.
- Check your lawn
This can be the most difficult to notice signs of voles, as tracks are often very light and difficult to spot in the warmer months when the lawn is regrowing. Typically signs of voles in the lawn are most visible once the snow melts in the spring and the damage is already done. Voles are active year round and feed on the grass, however the grass regrows during the summer months so it is not very noticeable. Once the grass stops growing for the winter is when the voles can do substantial, noticeable damage.
- Check your bushes and small trees for signs of GIRDLING!
Check the bases of small trees and bushes on the property for signs of girdling (see picture). This is most common in the center of juniper bushes. Voles will strip the bark off of the outside of trees and bushes at ground level, which cuts off water supply to the rest of the plant causing it to turn brown and die. If you have a juniper bush that is mysteriously dying no matter how much it rains, this is likely the cause!
- Check your property for gophers & ground squirrels
Gophers, richardson ground squirrels and prairie dogs are all common in Alberta, especially in the more rural areas. The burrows of these pests can create a tripping hazard. Richardson ground squirrels are also known to bite if you accidently startle one or corner it. These pests are all particularly harmful if you have a septic on the property. They can chew through pipes, disturb the foundation of the septic, or tunnel underneath pipes causing them to break over time. You definitely want to regularly check your septic area for signs of these pests. Gophers will push dirt above ground, creating mounds. Richardson ground squirrels will create tunnels, approximately the size of a golf ball. Prairie dogs will create tunnels, approximately the size of a tennis ball.
- Install a glue boards in your basement
Glue boards are one of the handiest tools for identifying insects inside of a home. Spiders, centipedes, and carpenter ants are all common pests that live inside of the walls of your home, so they are not often seen. In order to identify if you have bugs inside or not (if you don’t regularly spray your home I can almost guarantee you have bugs inside your home!), purchase a glue board from the store and place it in your basement. Put it out of the way in your utility room. I usually place them behind the hot water heater. Set a reminder on your phone for 2 weeks, and check back to see what you caught. Feel free to text or email us a photo of the board and we can help you identify what you caught! I recommend having a glue board down year round, and checking it once per month at a minimum. This can help you quickly identify harmful pest activity, such as carpenter ants, and get it taken care of right away.