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Real Estate

Bug out!

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 03:20 PM

Bedbug invasions may hog the headlines (in addition to the covers), but summer's hot weather brings out a host of other pests looking for a new home – like yours.

Ants, cockroaches, fleas and termites are among the most common unwanted house guests when temperatures rise. Aptly named stink bugs are the new kids on the block in many mid-Atlantic and Eastern Seaboard states, and they're likely to show up in more geographic areas as their numbers increase, according to Missy Henriksen, spokesperson for the National Pest Management Association, Fairfax, Va.

The good news is that this year's crop of insects may be smaller and emerge later, thanks to harsh winters in many areas of the country, said Dawn H. Gouge, associate professor and associate specialist-entomologist, University of Arizona-MAC, Maricopa, Ariz.

The best way to get rid of crawling insects, she advises, is not to let them get inside in the first place.

"Most of these critters come into our homes the same way we do, through the door," she said. "If the weather stripping or the door strip isn't sealing, [insects] can and will come in."

Other effective bug deterrents include sealing entry points for utilities and pipes, trimming trees and shrubs, and directing moisture away from your home's foundation.

"Check to make sure your screens are intact after the winter months," Henriksen said. "As you're gardening, keep mulch at least 12 to 15 inches away from your home."

Another area pests may gather is the kitchen. To keep the bugs away from your own food supply, "keep your counters cleaned, make sure your trash is sealed, and don't let pets graze all day on pet food [on the floor]," Henriksen said. "It's a very tempting pest buffet too."

NPMA offers more pest-proofing tips for consumers on its website at pestworld.org.

When insects get in despite your best efforts, you can limit or avoid using chemical pesticides by thinking strategically rather than spraying indiscriminately, suggested Gouge.

"Baits and gels are relatively safe and can be used very effectively" in places where bugs are more likely to live, such as behind the refrigerator, she said.

Gouge also recommends lightly sprinkling food grade diatomaceous earth, a garden product, in cracks and crevices. "It's a very safe product that has been used for decades in all different cultures for managing crawling critters," she said.

Not sure exactly where unwanted pests are making themselves at home? Set out sticky monitoring traps around the house at night, when insects are most active, and then target your efforts in the areas where the traps catch bugs.

If you've got an infestation that just won't go away, however, you're better off calling in a pest management professional rather than trying stronger over-the-counter chemicals, Gouge said.

"You can actually make the problem worse by using the wrong pesticide tool," she said.

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