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I expected that rural living in the high desert of California would bring its share of critters. Boy, was I unprepared for what was ahead. We learned fast about keeping our home and property as critter and pest free as possible. It was a constant battle though. With the help of professionals, advice from the locals and some reading, we were able to arm ourselves for the constant battle of the bugs and rodents. In an emergency situation, what would you do to protect yourself from the pests and rodents? Here is what I learned.
Pests to Watch Out For
Pests are one of the enemies of food storage you must be on guard against.
One insect that loves to eat is termites. You can count on them dining on your home 24 hours a day, every day. They eat constantly. In the spring they swarm and begin looking for a buffet- and it could be your home. The darker and damper the better. The only way to really treat termites effectively is by hiring a professional.
In an “end of the world” situation, this may not be an option. But it is necessary to protect and maintain the integrity of your shelter. Diverting water away from your home is one of the simplest and free things you can do. Also, trimming and cut back any trees near your home can keep termites at a distance. Check that none of the roots or branches are touching your home.
The long grass around your home is the perfect place for bugs to hide. One way to cut down on the population is to keep the grass cut short. Certain types of bugs can die before maturing, due to exposure to sunlight. Short grass allows the sunshine to kill them.
Owning a push lawn mower and using it regularly is a simple way to keep the bugs at bay. If you live on a property with tall grasses and plants, a machete is your best. These plants tend to grow fast and a machete will help you cut them down quickly. It is recommended to have a machete that you can easily sharpen and won’t corrode. Gerber has a good quality machete that would fit this purpose.
Rats and Mice
It is always good to know your worst enemy! Rats and mice carry 35 different diseases and are tricky to keep out of a home. You only need a hole the size of a dime for a mouse to squeeze through. Rats only need a hole the size of a nickel. Neither rodents has a collar bone. If their head can fit through the hole, so can the rest of their body.
They have sharp teeth and will gnaw through just about anything, including electrical wires, which could result in a fire. We experienced a mouse who crawled under our dishwasher and made a small hole in the water line. The slow drip caused damage that resulted in us replacing our recently laid new flooring, along with the subflooring. It is hard to believe that one little rodent can cause so much damage.
As for the irritating mosquito… Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so it is essential that you remove or minimize any standing water on your property. Walk around your yard and check trash cans, buckets, planters, playground equipment and anything else that could collect standing water.
If you are in a long-term disaster circumstance, you may not have the benefit of a cool air-conditioned home to avoid mosquitos. An open window may be your only relief from the heat. Check all the screens in the windows and doors, repair or replace any that have holes. If you need to sleep outdoors, a mosquito bed net is a must. They are inexpensive and lightweight. There are mosquito net tents for pets or small children too!
Read this post for a few more tips for keeping mosquitos away.
Sealing Your Home Against Pests
Another step to prevent pests from entering your home is to seal it. Walk around your foundation and look for any cracks. Check for gaps around windows, the frames, and doors. You should hire a professional to seal and double check your home for you. In a long-term disaster scenario, you will be on your own.
It’s recommended that you stockpile some expanding insulation and rolls of thick metal screening. You can find the insulation and screening here. The insulation will seal small holes and can be used to reinforce the metal screening and prevent rodents with sharp teeth from entering through the hole. Steel wool is another option for filling in small holes. You can buy a steel wool kit for your home here.
Inside your home look for holes and small crevices:
- Inside, under, and behind kitchen appliances and cabinets
- Inside closets along the bottom and corners.
- Around the fireplace and doors.
- Around the pipes under sinks, water heaters, furnaces, and washing machines.
- Around any floor and dryer vents.
- Inside the attic, basement or crawl space.
- Any drains in the basement and laundry room.
Make Food Inaccessible
Another method to eliminate rodents is to make food inaccessible. Keep your food in metal or thick plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Also look for trash cans with that same standard. Clean up any outdoor grills, cooking spaces and spills. Once you are done cooking, wash dishes and put food away. Reduce food waste.
Don’t leave any pet food or water bowls out overnight. If you do have a bird feeder that you can’t bear to part with, use a squirrel guard on it. Any other food for animals needs to be at least 100 feet away from your home. The farther away, the better. And just like your food, keep all animal feed in heavy plastic or metal container.
Elevate any trash cans, hay, and woodpiles at least one foot above the ground. Woodpiles should be placed as far away from your home as possible. Aim for at least 100 feet. Clearing the property of old vehicles and equipment means that rodents will look somewhere else for a home. If you can eliminate rodents from having nesting sites outside your home, you can decrease your chance of a new generation trying to move in.
Protect Your Garden
Your garden needs to be protected because it could be your main food source. Plant mint and marigolds around your garden and property, the bugs don’t like the smell and will avoid the area where those plants are at.
Crop rotation is another way to reduce insects in your garden. You want to throw them off each year by what you are planting. If they don’t see what they like, they will leave. Don’t forget to clean up after you have been in the garden. Something simple, like washing your garden tools when you are finished using them, can prevent the spread of bug eggs. You don’t want to take the bug eggs that may be on your tools and deposit them into the dirt where you are planting.
Read this post for gardening tips from a master gardener.
Homemade Bug Repellent Spray
Here is a homemade bug repellent spray you can make to help protect your garden.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of hot sauce or red pepper oil, two tablespoons of Baking Soda and 3 drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid to a gallon of water.
- Mix well and pour into a spray bottle or a sprayer.
- Wet the top and bottom of all the leaves on your plant.
- If it rains, reapply.
Deer, rabbits, and insects detest this. This recipe works all year long to keep your garden bug free.
Protect Your Food
It doesn’t matter how much food you store, if it becomes infested, it isn’t any good. And you want to be careful when using poisons near your food.
Food grade diatomaceous earth may be your best bet. It is a fine powder, like that of baby powder. The powder is made ancient fossilized shells and silica. When it comes in contact with an insect’s body, it cuts through the outer wax coating. The bug dehydrates and dies because there is not any coating to help hold water in its body. Diatomaceous earth does not have a shelf life date. It will stay good as long as you own it.
Be sure you have food grade, not chemical or pool grade. They can be toxic and should be kept away from all food. Check out this organic, pure 100% diatomaceous earth. It is safe around pets and children, will help protect against insects that are looking for your food.
Simply sprinkle the powder anywhere that you may think bugs will crawl. Consider the pantry, storage closets with food in it, the tops of cabinets and under cupboards. Diatomaceous earth can also be sprinkled on your carpet to kill fleas. Learn all about using diatomaceous earth for preparedness uses here.
For ants, you need to add sugar or cornstarch to the diatomaceous earth to make it attractive to them. Make a mound of diatomaceous earth and just sprinkle the sugar or cornstarch on top. The ants will dehydrate from the inside out when they eat it. Another ant killer is sugar and powered borax mixed together. You can find a roach and ant killer in one bottle right here! Or make your own with this recipe.
Homemade Ant Killer
- Mix 1 tablespoon of borax with 1/4 cup hot water.
- Add 1 cup honey or corn syrup.
- Mix together well and pour into small plates, jar lids or other small containers.
- Place the container where you have seen ants. You may need to add a few drops of water to the containers every few days to keep the syrup hydrated. Ants will eat this stuff up and die.
Homemade Roach Killer
- Mix two parts flour, one part of powdered boric acid, and one part powdered sugar.
- Sprinkle the powder mixture around the areas where they live. (They love damp places.)
- Place on lids or small containers and place them in the cabinets and on your counter tops. The roaches will eat the powdered boric acid, they will die not long after.
Pesticides and Traps
Pesticides are one option to eliminate pests. They have a shelf life of 2-7 years. When you purchase them, check the shelf life and at home check your inventory every 2 years.
Along with using poisons, have a non-chemical method available. Look for mouse, termite and ant traps here or in your local hardware store. If you live in an area where larger pests will be a problem, look for traps specifically designed for them.
Natural rodent predators are non-poisonous snakes, hawks and owls. These animals cannot get rid of all rodents, but they can decrease their population.
Snap Traps and Peanut Butter
Another way to reduce the number of rodents in your home is with a simple snap trap and some peanut butter. Why peanut butter? It is sticky and won’t fall off if the trap is knocked over. The rodent is going to have to get very close, if not onto the trap to eat the peanut butter. You only need a ¼ teaspoon on the trap to attract the vermin. Read all the instructions when setting up your trap. (Read more reasons you should stock up on peanut butter here.
Place it along the wall with the short end of the trap touching the wall. It should look like the letter “T”. Rodents often run along the edges of walls, so this placement will either get their attention with the peanut butter or snap them when they scurry by. Rats and other rodents are cautious. It may take a week before they decide to check out the traps. Be patient. Other rodents, such as house and deer mice, aren’t cautious and could be trapped faster.
Remember to put traps in any sheds or outbuildings you have on the property. Avoid live traps and the glue traps. When animals get caught in them, they often become afraid and will urinate. The urine has the possibility of containing germs. To minimize the risk of being exposed to a disease, killing them before they pee is best!
In an extended emergency situation, we will have to deal with annoying pests and critters, but we don’t want to invite them to move in and dine with us. Look around your home and property and find improvements that you can make to minimize the pests that could bug you.
How do you like to handle pest and rodent infestations?