household pest removal part 1
Most people can relate to the surprise, shock and revulsion of coming across pests in their homes. After their presence is detected, one can’t help but wonder how many of the troublesome creatures exist and how difficult it may be to get rid of them. Once settled inside your apartment, pests can threaten your sanity, your health and your home. Do not ignore the presence of a cockroach or another pest and hope it will disappear. Deal with pests immediately before they multiply into a problem that you will be unable to handle.
Common household pests include insects, such as ants, cockroaches, termites, flies, moths and wasps. Urban wildlife, such as rodents, raccoons, bats and birds can sometimes become problems in buildings as well. Insects are the most common and troublesome pests found in apartment buildings and this article focuses on them.
Pests can creep inside a grocery bag from the store or a suitcase from travels abroad. They can move into your home, from the apartment rental next door or the one above or below. Apartment buildings have many “highways” for pests to follow. They crawl along heating ducts or water pipes and they squeeze into tiny cracks and gaps in floors, walls and doorways.
Once inside your apartment, a pest can probably find everything it needs to survive and multiply quickly. No matter how neat and clean your apartment is, the pest will likely locate the food, water, warmth and dark hiding places it needs to live and breed.
In apartment rental buildings, landlords are responsible for dealing with pests — usually in co-operation with the resident of the apartment. If the resident is unable to eliminate a pest, the landlord may have to hire a professional exterminator to deal with the problem. In individual condominium suites, dealing with pests is likely the responsibility of the owner. If the pests come from common areas, it could be the responsibility of the condominium corporation.
There are steps you can take to make your apartment less inviting to pests. Before taking any actions that might affect other areas of the building, obtain your building’s management approval.
find and seal pest passageways
Pests will take various routes to find their way into your apartment. Insects enter apartments through poorly sealed or open windows and doors, cracks and crevices in walls or foundations, and openings around pipes and other penetrations. Insects can squeeze through extremely small openings. Vents and air ducts can provide an entry point for birds, rodents and insects. Insects can also attach themselves to pets, or to people and the items they are carrying.
Look under the kitchen sink and you may see a gap between the sink drain pipe and the wall or floor. Holes in window screens, gaps around window trim and cracks between the floors and the walls may all offer travel routes for pests. Try to seal off these roadways by:
• Sealing holes in walls around plumbing and electrical lines between apartment units. Look for penetrations in utility closets, under kitchen sinks, behind toilets and sinks in bathrooms. Usually these holes can be sealed with caulking or spray foam.
• Caulking cracks and crevices in cupboards and walls.
• Ensuring window screens are properly fitted and are in good repair to keep flying and crawling insects out.
• Sealing the gap under the corridor to suite door with weatherstripping (Note: this may adversely affect the air quality in your apartment. If you note lingering odours, stale air and high humidity, you may have to remove the weatherstripping.)
what pests need to survive and thrive
Pests seek out our homes as they need the food and shelter. By understanding the conditions that give pests an opportunity to survive and thrive, you will be better prepared to develop an action plan to remove or limit these conditions, making your apartment a less welcoming place for pests.
Climate: The optimum temperature for many insects is between 20 and 30°C (68-86° F). Most insects will die if exposed to temperatures below -2°C (28°F) or above 45°C (113°F) for a period of time. They generally proliferate at humidity levels between 60 per cent and 80 per cent. Insects need moisture to survive, and some (such as silverfish) thrive on high humidity and standing water.
Water Sources: Many pests are attracted to damp areas. Sources of water and potential insect habitats include kitchens, bathrooms, water pipes in concealed spaces, water in the building envelope, custodial closets, water fountains and climate-control equipment. Standing water in refrigerator condensation pans and air conditioner drain pans can provide water for pests to live on. Water on a roof near a ventilation system intake louver or in other locations can raise humidity levels and provide an excellent environment for insects.
Food sources: Open foods and food waste, dander and dead skin represent food for all types of pests. Potted plants and cut flowers, water in vases and over-watered plants, dead and dying plants, and the nectar and pollen of flowering plants all encourage the presence of pests.
Habitats: Several common pests thrive in small, dark, undisturbed spaces. Insects like to live in dark, tight spaces (such as corrugated boxes and cracks in walls), and are attracted to piles of boxes or other materials left undisturbed for long periods. Insects also live in quiet spaces like concealed corners in cupboards, the undersides of bookcases and behind furniture. Dust and dirt are hospitable environments for many pests. Dead insects or insect debris can also attract other insects. Dirt and clutter make it difficult to see pests, so a problem may go unnoticed for some time.
making your apartment hostile to pests
The following list provides tips on what you can do to make your apartment a less desirable residence for pests:
• Wipe counters, tables and other eating surfaces after meals and snacks.
• Avoid leaving dirty dishes overnight; if you need to do so, rinse the dishes first. If you must soak a pot overnight, fill it with hot, soapy water.
• Avoid leaving dirty dishes in a dishwasher overnight.
• Wipe stove top every night.
• Rinse cans before recycling.
• Clean food spills promptly, especially on carpets and furniture.
• Put garbage and compost in containers with lids and dispose frequently.
• Store food in sealed containers or in refrigerator.
• Keep cupboards tidy and clean.
• Store paper bags in cupboard or drawer away from kitchen; don’t stuff in space beside refrigerator.
• Use bathroom fan or open window for half an hour after every bath or shower to reduce humidity.
• Empty your dog’s or cat’s water bowl at night and fill it again in the morning. Empty and wash pet food dishes daily.
• Clean your apartment frequently and thoroughly to remove dust and insect by-products.
• Improve ventilation to reduce humidity and eliminate damp areas.
• Clean hard-to-clean areas regularly; pull out refrigerators, stoves and other appliances. Clean and vacuum behind, beside and under appliances.
• Don’t let water stand in houseplant dishes or in pan under refrigerator.
• Check water faucets for leaks and ensure plumbing under kitchen or bathroom sinks is not leaking.
• Caulk gaps around sinks and tubs to prevent water from entering walls.
before you rent
To avoid moving into an infested home, inspect the apartment carefully for traces of pests. If you suspect pests, ask to view the apartment after dark when many household pests are active and ask other residents if there are any problems. Also, inquire with the building manager or landlord about their policy relating to pests and the use of pesticides.
maintain your apartment
Poorly maintained buildings can be a very attractive shelter for pests. Buildings with cracks, holes and other openings to the outside practically invite pests to stay. Report any openings you may find to the building management. Also make sure your landlord or condominium corporation is made aware of water leakage through roofs, walls and windows. The previous list of housekeeping tips can be adapted for the common areas of the building as well. If you find the housekeeping in your building is not well done, report it to the property management, condominium board or tenant’s association for action.
spread the word
Pest proofing your apartment works best when the tenants and owners in your building do likewise. Pest problems in one apartment, if left unchecked, can spread to neighbouring apartments and common areas. If everyone joins in a common effort to eliminate food sources, establish good housekeeping habits and reduce entry points for pests, the potential for a pest problem is reduced. Discuss a pest-proofing strategy with your building manager.
Pest proofing the common areas of your building is equally important. Encourage your building manager or building maintenance committee to establish a pest-proofing strategy for the building’s common areas and mechanical rooms. Areas with standing water and high relative humidity are a particular concern as are leaky walls, foundations and roofs.
— CMHC, www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca