Lifestyle - 27 Jul, 2020

15 household pests to look out for this winter

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While we’re used to facing scores of household pests and insects throughout summer, many of these animals use winter to shelter and breed causing you more issues when summer comes around. Knowing the signs to watch out for during winter can help you get ahead of infestations.

There are a range of pest control options, but we suggest trying the natural alternative where possible. Insects and pests exist as part of a delicate ecosystem, and chemicals can kill a range of pests, including all-important bees.

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1. Mice, rats and rodents

Although active all-year round, just like any warm-blooded creature mice, rats and rodents will seek out warm places to shelter during the colder months and our homes are often the perfect solution. They’ll look to build nests in dry places such as ceiling and wall cavities. Some signs of rodents, such as droppings or nests, can be easily spotted, but sometimes the first sign of the pests will be the noise of their night-time activities. Rodents will gnaw on timber, cladding, electrical wiring and more, and can do significant damage to your house if left untreated.

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2. Rabbits, possums and pigeons

In the same warm-blooded vein, rabbits, possums and pigeons will also be on the lookout for a cosy place throughout winter. These animals are all considered pests in Australia, particularly in regional areas, because of the damage they do to homes.

A range of repellents are available for birds and mammals. One option is a powdered repellent that can be mixed with water and sprayed around the property. You can also use electronic deterrents that emit inaudible sounds that irritate many birds and small pests.

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3. Bed bugs

Despite the name they can also travel on clothing, furniture, bedding and luggage. Bed bugs feed on blood, so waking up regularly with bugs is a major giveaway that you have an infestation. Other signs include spotting bugs on your mattress, bedframe and other furniture, brown spotting or blood spots on your mattress, and, with larger infestations, a musty, sweet smell.

Bed bugs can be difficult to treat – you can buy pesticides to kill them but with larger infestations it’s advised to call a pest control company. You’ll need to thoroughly inspect all areas the bugs can hide, including under the mattress, before vacuuming the whole area and disposing of the vacuum contents.

4. Spiders

Most species of spiders in Australia are most active in summer, however warmer winters will be likely to produce higher winter spider population. Like many summer pests, it’s best to keep on top of pest control throughout winter before they resume high breeding activity in warm months.

Many Australian homes already use pesticides to control spiders throughout the year. Be aware of how wet weather could destroy webbing and make pesticides less effective and schedule any necessary top ups of pest control for spring and summer.

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5. German cockroaches

German cockroaches will often take up residence in your kitchen, or any other hidden place where food and water is easy to find. During winter they’ll breed, meaning if they go undetected when the weather warms up you could find yourself with a big problem. Look for signs of German cockroaches under sinks, near rubbish bins and at the backs of cupboards.

While pesticides are available for visible cockroaches, you may miss some and these chemicals won’t stop eggs from hatching. Household pest control experts can offer a guarantee on their services to make sure you stay roach free year-round.

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6. Australian cockroaches

There are around 450 species of cockroaches in Australia. The Australian cockroach is around 30 to 35 millimetres, larger than the more common German cockroaches, and can fly. They are usually found outside but do enter homes during the night from gardens or nearby debris. 

Proper sanitation in your home can help reduce the chances of cockroaches – discard waste where they can hide, use rubbish bins with tightly fitting lids, empty pet food containers at night or keep them outside, and make sure to repair holes around doors, windows, water pipes and baseboards, or any other outdoor entry point.

three cockroaches being killed by an exterminator

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7. Termites

While they are known for being active throughout the warmer month’s termites, or white ants, do not hibernate through winter like some household pests. Termites feed on various timbers including ironbark and some treated timbers. Subterranean termites are the most common form, and one of the most destructive pests worldwide with a colony consuming up to five grams of timber each day. A termite infestation can devalue your home by more than 25%.

A common solution to termite infestations is a chemical barrier, which can eliminate termites and provide future protection. You can also use above or under-ground baiting stations, which allow the pests to carry bait back to the colony. However, termites often go undetected so a pest inspection should be your first step.

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8. Ants

Ants can nest in lawns, walls, roofs, and under floors and foundations, making them a big problem if left untreated. Like many of the pests on this list, the colder weather encourages ants indoors to seek some warmth and shelter. In particularly cold parts of the country ants do hibernate for winter, but nests inside homes generally stay warm enough for ants to continue activity throughout the colder months.

The best way to treat ants is with a combination of ant baits, repelling sprays, and through destroying the nests if they can be found. You can also discourage colonies by keeping on top of messes around the house. Professional services are available to treat ants, but as a general rule only 5% of ant infestations are bad enough to warrant this.

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9. Moths

Coddling moths are the ones to blame for worm infested apples, having a taste preference for apples, pears and quinces. These household pests go through their gestation period during winter, sheltering either in the soil below trees or in the nooks and crannies of the bark and buds. As the weather starts to warm they’ll lay their eggs on the tree and young fruit.

A simple way to control moths is to use the winter months to lay a thick layer of mulch around infested trees to prevent the adult moths from emerging when the weather warms up.

Hand holding a brown moth

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10. Aphids

Pests don’t only infest the house, they can also be found throughout the garden undoing all the hard work you’ve put in over summer. Australia is home to two widespread aphid species, the cotton aphid and the cabbage aphid. Both will feed on vegetables, fruits and ornamentals and can destroy plants and crops very quickly.

Look for decreased growth rates, mottled, yellowing, browning or curled leaves, plant wilting, low yields and plant death as signs of aphid infestation. Aphids are best treated by using selected insecticides or garlic spray for a chemical-free option.

11. Snails and slugs

Warm winters, common to Australia, disrupt the hibernation patterns of snails and slugs which will continue to eat and breed throughout the winter months. While snails and slugs have their uses in the garden, they can also eat 40 times their weight in a day and prefer fleshy foliage and stems.

A quick solution to stop snails and slugs getting to plants is a border that deters them. Course sand, bark mulch and copper wire will keep them out. Chemical pesticides are also available but these do kill the household pests rather than simply deter them.

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12. Caterpillars

Although caterpillars are most active in autumn and spring they’ll definitely still enjoy snacking on your vegetable patch through winter. They have a preference for cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts and any brassica, and will lay eggs on suitable leaves.

The easiest signs of caterpillars in your garden are large holes in leafy plants, but you might also spot blue-green droppings on the inside of leaves. The most-eco friendly way to deal with caterpillars is simply to pull them off plants when you spot them and throw them away, a great job to give to the kids while you’re working in the garden. There are also chemical pesticides available.

caterpillar crawling on a leaf

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13. Stink bugs

Stink bugs, or bronze orange bugs, don’t cause any structural damage but can cause widespread damage to gardens, and are particularly problematic for growers of apples, peaches and pears. Although stink bugs are not fans of the cold weather, they are best dealt with during winter to stop them breeding over spring and summer.

During winter the bugs will lay eggs on the underside of leaves. On smaller trees you can simply blast the bugs with the hose, collect in a bag and dispose of them. Larger infested trees can be treated with Eco-Oil or Confidor every 10 to 14 days to prevent the eggs growing into adults.

14. Other overwintering pests

Overwintering simply refers to household pests that survive the winter by seeking warmth and shelter and entering a type of winter hibernation. Overwintering pests include ladybugs, caterpillars, moths, flies and crickets. While these insects don’t pose much of a problem through winter they’ll emerge in spring and summer ready to breed and cause havoc.

For this reason, it’s important to stay on top of your household pest control throughout winter. Identify the warmer parts of your home (those that get the most sun) to watch for signs of household pests, and contain mess, particularly food scraps, in the home to discourage them.

Words by Danielle Austin

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