Category Archives: Pest advice for homeowners

Do Rats hibernate during the Winter?

You might think that pest control work quietens down during the winter, because quite a few nuisance animals and insects go into hibernation.

But lots of household pests, including rats and mice, remain active all year round. The longer and colder winter nights make your home, garden and workplace more attractive to these rodents, who are always looking for food, and for somewhere warm and dry to nest.

Wasps and other insect pests might become almost invisible during the winter months, but they’re simply dormant and will be back next spring. Colder weather gives you a chance to deal with holes and gaps where they may have nested this year, helping prevent their return.

Pest control during the winter months

Taking action to prevent rats and other pests is as important during the winter as at any other time of year. The most basic precautions include not leaving any food outdoors overnight, and keeping food preparation and storage areas clean and tidy.

Leftover pet food or food spillages, indoors or out, are hugely attractive to rats and mice looking for something to eat.

Another simple pest control task is to tidy up your garden or other outdoor area. Piles of wood or dry leaves can quickly become comfortable homes for rodents. Compost bins are particularly popular, especially if you put food scraps into them.

Outbuildings, such as sheds and children’s playhouses, can also become places of safety for rats and mice. Here they can live undisturbed for weeks at a time, protected from the extremes of the British winter climate. Make it part of your winter routine to check these buildings, and to fill any obvious cracks or gaps through which rodents could get in.

Indoor pests thrive during the winter

Fleas, moths and bedbugs are common indoor pests that don’t pay much attention to what the weather’s doing outside. Whatever the time of year, they continue breeding and spreading themselves around your home or workplace.

The cooler temperatures slow down their reproduction, but our centrally-heated buildings protect them from the cold. Because they live off us and our pets, fleas and bedbugs have more opportunity to spread during the winter, as we spend more time indoors.

Cockroaches, the scourge of many kitchens, also continue to be active during the winter months. In the event that they find themselves short of food, they can, like many pests, survive for a long time on virtually nothing.

Many people think that because pests are not seen so often during the winter, they are less of a problem. Some even believe that rats and mice do hibernate. But experienced pest controllers know that winter is as busy a time of year as any, and that it’s also a good time to act to prevent more serious pest issues from occurring in the spring.

How common are Rats in houses in London?

Every few months sees a new story appear in the media about rats in houses in London. These tales can be worrying, particularly if you know that rats are a problem in your area. Unfortunately, rats can be a common issue in houses where the basic principles of pest prevention are overlooked.

The Norway rat, also known as the brown rat, lives all over London. They make their nests anywhere they can find, including old drains, in burrows or in buildings. They have an excellent sense of smell and they are always looking for food. Being extremely agile, they can climb, jump swim or dig their way into places where they think they will find something to eat.

Problems rats cause in houses

Rats are not just unpleasant to look at, they also damage property and carry disease. They can get into London houses of any age, although it’s usually easier for them to get into older properties. Broken pipes, gaps in brickwork and the spaces between floors and walls can all become real rat runs. Here the rodents can scurry out of sight, finding their way all over a house.

Out of sight in these places, rats can do considerable damage. They can chew through wood and electrical cables, as well as into containers, causing a variety of different problems. They also spread the germs that they carry.

The most common infection associated with rats is Weil’s disease, which is potentially fatal. They can also cause food poisoning by contaminating surfaces and stores with their droppings.

Rats have been known to bite people in houses. The rodents can be bold in their search for food and have sharp dirty teeth that they will use to defend themselves.

Signs of rats in houses

When rats are a common problem in a house, there will be no shortage of evidence. Even if the rodents themselves remain out of the sight, they will leave obvious signs of their presence, such as gnawed boxes of cereal and other foods, smeary marks on surfaces and footprints. They also leave a distinctive, unpleasant smell.

If you are concerned about rats getting into your house, take a look at all the possible entry points. Small gaps in the walls and old pipes are common ways for them to get in. A professional pest controller will have the experience to spot potential entry points, and will know the signs of rat activity.

Rats Pest Control in London houses

By taking a few simple precautions, you can dramatically reduce the chances of a rat getting into your house. The most basic is to make sure all sources of food are in sealed containers that rats cannot get into. It is the smell of food, including food waste, that attracts the attention of these unpleasant rodents. So keeping your house clean and not leaving food lying around, either for you or your pets, is a big step towards Rats Pest control.

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How to prepare the house for Flea Fumigation

Flea problems are more common than you might imagine, particularly in homes shared with cats or dogs. Your pet only has to brush against an infected animal for fleas to hop from one fur coat to another, giving you a pest control problem.

While minor Flea Infestations can be solved by treatment of the affected area or pet, if your home seems to be teeming with fleas, fumigation is the best solution.

To get the most effective results, it’s important to know how to prepare the house for flea fumigation.

If you are moving into a new property where the previous residents had pets, you may want to consider fumigating before moving in. Whether you do it yourself or employ a pest control expert, it will be easier to carry out when the property is empty.

Preparing your house for flea fumigation

If your pets are likely to be carrying fleas, these must be dealt with before any fumigation is carried out. Use all appropriate flea treatments and perform regular checks to ensure the problem has been effectively dealt with. Change or clean pet bedding regularly.

With your pets cleaned up, you can focus on preparing the house by carrying out thorough vacuuming of all carpets and hard surfaces. Take care to vacuum right to the edge of floors, as flea eggs often fall into crevices in skirting boards. Empty the vacuum cleaner immediately after each clean.

All rugs should be taken outdoors and beaten and, if possible, washed.

Make arrangements for alternative accommodation for yourself and your pets on the day of the fumigation. It will take several hours for the entire process to be completed.

If you are conducting the fumigation yourself, read all the instructions of the products carefully some days before you use them, in order that you can be fully prepared. When a pest control expert is involved, seek clear instructions in advance and take care to follow these.

Some of the chemicals used in the fumigation process could be harmful to your pets, so do all you can to ensure their safety.

On the day of flea fumigation

There are a number of different products which tackle serious flea pest control problems. Sprays can be applied to carpets, killing fleas hidden in the fibres and leaving a residue which inhibits their return for several weeks.

An alternative to spray is the flea bomb, which sounds more dramatic than it is. The flea bomb is a device which fills the air with a fine spray of pesticide, which disperses across a room over a few hours.

These fumigation techniques can be combined for maximum effect, but both require you to be absent from your home for several hours. Upon return, you’ll need to carefully follow the instructions about cleaning surfaces, for your own safety and also to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment.

If you have any questions or concerns about how to prepare the house for flea fumigation, talk to a pest control expert. Eradicating fleas can be a time-consuming and frustrating process if not conducted correctly, and you’ll want to do all you can to reduce disruption and inconvenience in your home.

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Can pharaoh ants live outside in summer in the UK?

Small and yellow, or light brown in colour, the Pharaoh Ant presents a Pest Control problem all year round in London and across Britain. Pharaoh ant nests are found in big buildings, such as hospitals, and have a reputation for being difficult to get rid of.

These tiny, fast-spreading pests are attracted to large, warm buildings because of the heat given off by their huge networks of radiators and hot water pipes. No one is quite sure where the pharaoh ants first came from, or when they arrived in the UK, but experts agree that they came in from more tropical climates.

Because of their origins, the ants love warm and humid conditions. This makes blocks of flats, hospitals and similar buildings ideal for them, because they are kept warm all year round.

Can pharaoh ants live outside in the UK?

The British weather, with all its variety, makes it virtually impossible for pharaoh ants to live outside for very long. If you spot light brown or ginger ants outdoors in Britain they are highly unlikely to be of the pharaoh variety.

There are about 30 species of ant living in UK, many of which thrive outdoors all year round. While they can be irritating, particularly when they get into your home or office, these ants perform a useful task, cleaning up waste material and controlling other pests.

However, all pharaoh ant nests are located inside flats and other buildings, because they simply cannot live outside in summer. Their tropical origins prevent them from establishing ant colonies outdoors.

Pest control for pharaoh ants

These almost invisible insects are more than just a scurrying nuisance, running up and down the floors and walls of hospitals and other large buildings. Pharaoh ants have been blamed for spreading ill-health, including food poisoning, because they find their way into places where food is stored.

Having travelled along dirty pipes and picked up old scraps of food, the ants carry germs that can cause sickness. These can be transferred to into places food is stored, causing infection.

Pharaoh ants can also get into sterile environments and supplies, particularly in hospitals, where they can again cause infection.

Because of this, landlords, hospitals and local authorities regularly have to take pest control action against pharaoh ant infestations. The ant nests, which can appear huge because the ants make lots of small nests near to one another, are difficult to eradicate. They are often built inside walls and only professional pest controllers can deal with them.

There is no way for pharaoh ants to live outside in summer in the UK, but this has not stopped them becoming a serious pest control problem that requires action when discovered.

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What time of year do Moths attack clothes?

Every year, thousands of people across the country are disappointed, and sometimes shocked, to discover that moths have eaten holes in their precious garments and textiles.

Almost all natural fibres used in the production of clothes, bedding and furnishings are at risk of becoming a meal for the almost invisible caterpillars of the Common Clothes Moth (tineola bisselliella).

It’s easy to assume that summer is the time of year when moths attack clothes. However, this is a mistaken impression, formed because moth damage is often discovered as the cooler days of autumn lead us to open wardrobes that have been closed up for months.

While moth larvae, or caterpillars, are more active when the weather is warm and moist, they can feed all year round.

Protecting your clothes from attacks by moths

Clothes moths prefer to lay their eggs in dark, quiet places. That’s why you find them in wardrobes, drawers and lofts which remain undisturbed for days, even weeks. Unfortunately, these are also the places where you are most likely to store your unused clothing and special occasion wear.

They also lay their eggs on the underside of carpets and rugs because, again, these are dark and undisturbed locations.

Regularly lifting and beating rugs, airing wardrobes and vacuuming around the edge of carpets will help deter moths from settling in to breed.

It’s their young, the tiny caterpillars, who do the damage. The eggs will hatch in any temperature above 10 degrees Celsius and the minute larvae will start to eat their way into the nearest natural fibres including silk, fur, wool, cotton and linen.

They prefer dirty fibres, such as carpets or clothing with stains or dirt. Washing clothes and bedding before putting them into storage will reduce the risk of them becoming a meal.

The moth larvae can feast for months before turning into the next generation of adult insects and laying new batches of eggs.

Pest control products to protect clothes from moth attacks

Lavender is a traditional remedy for clothes moths and it works by giving off a strong odour which prevents adult male moths from finding females. Modern pheromone traps use the same principle, but go a step further by killing the moth.

Other Moth Control solutions include sprays, sticky rollers for removing caterpillars and devices which create a fine mist in an area infected by moths.

The effectiveness of any product will be determined partly by the way in which it is applied, and by the level of moth infestation. If you discover a large population which is doing significant damage to furnishings and clothes, spot solutions are unlikely to be effective. In these cases, fumigation, by a pest control specialist, is likely to be the most cost-effective answer to your problem.

The time of year when moths attack clothes depends, at least in part, on when and how you choose to store your unused or out-of-season wear, and the extent to which your preparations include moth pest controls.

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What type of Mice live in London houses?

Although very small, the mouse is a widely feared pest, probably due to its unpredictable and quick movements. If you have a mouse in your house, you may hear scampering feet above your ceiling or inside your cavity walls at night. Or you may discover mouse droppings or gnawed cereal boxes in the kitchen. Another tell-tale sign is the distinctive odour that mice emit.

When it comes to solving a mouse problem, it does not really matter what type of mice live in London houses. All the different types of wild mice have the potential to bring infection and destruction into your home.

Just like rats, mice carry disease and can contaminate foodstuffs with their fur, eating and urine, which can cause salmonella poisoning and gastroenteritis. In addition, they can damage your property by gnawing through wood, cables and into containers to get at food.

Types of mice in London

There are four types of mice living wild in and around London: the house mouse, the field or wood mouse, the yellow necked mouse and the harvest mouse. Two of these are pests – the house mouse and the field mouse. If you have mice in your London home, they will almost definitely be house mice.

The house mouse. This is London’s most common mouse. The adult house mouse measures around 7 to 9cm long with a thin tail of about the same length. Its fur is smooth and brown-grey in colour, becoming lighter underneath. It has quite large ears, small eyes, a small pointed head and small feet.

The field mouse. The field mouse is slightly larger than the house mouse and its coat is a warm brown colour rather than the dullish grey-brown of the house mouse. It has larger eyes and ears than the house mouse, making it quite easy to spot the difference. A field mouse can survive outdoors, but will sometimes find its way into a house, where it can breed and become a pest control problem.

Where will a house mouse nest?

The house mouse likes to live indoors. It can get in through the tiniest hole, just the size of a pencil, and will build a mouse nest in a warm place where there is a plentiful supply of food and nesting material. Loft spaces, cavity walls and the gaps under floors are popular places for mice to nest.

House mice eat almost anything that humans eat, but their preference is cereal. They don’t need much water, absorbing this from their food. They are most active at night, when they go in search of something to eat.

How to get rid of a mouse infestation

There are two main ways of dealing with mice – traps and poison – but if you have an infestation, it is likely that you will need the services of a professional pest controller to eradicate your problem. Mice are sporadic eaters, making it difficult to eliminate a whole colony. They are also surprisingly resistant to poisons. A pest controller will be able to help you mouse-proof your home and efficiently remove the mouse population.

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How common is it to have Mice in London?

You might be surprised at how many homes and businesses in London take Mice Pest Control measures from time to time.

Not everyone likes to admit that they have a problem with mice, particularly if they are running a business that involves the production or sale of food. Some of your neighbours could be unwilling to admit they have taken steps to get rid of mice, as they are concerned about giving a poor impression of their domestic cleanliness.

But needing to take mice removal measures is not something to be embarrassed about. These tiny, always hungry and fast-breeding Rodents can squeeze through almost impossibly small gaps in their endless search for food. Even the cleanest house, kitchen or store is at risk if they discover a way in.

Mice pest control starts before the rodents arrive

It’s almost inevitable that mice will be living somewhere near your home or business premises. The diverse architecture of London leaves many buildings susceptible to mouse infestation. There is an endless supply of cracked bricks and pipes which leave gaps big enough for these nimble rodents to get through.

One of the best pest control measures you can take against mice is to stop them finding a way in. Visual inspection of your property is a good start, especially if this is carried out by a pest control expert, who will be able to make you aware of potential entry points you might not have considered.

Another easy step is to make sure all potential sources of food are inaccessible to mice. They chew their way through paper, cardboard and even wood to get to a meal. Securing food in plastic or metal containers will keep them out. Keeping your home or businesses premises clean will reduce the amount of food waste lying around, providing mice with less of an incentive to find a way in.

Get rid of mice as soon as you spot the problem

Unhygienic and unsightly, mice can also do considerable damage to your property once inside. They’ll pull out insulation from inside walls and lofts, makes nests in stored textiles, and can even create electrical problems by chewing wires.

All of which means it’s important to get rid of mice the moment they arrive. Because they are a common pest control problem, there is no shortage of options available. Poison, traps and electronic deterrents are just some of your choices.

Do-it-yourself pest control measures will often get rid of mice if they have not had much time to breed. A well-established infestation can be much harder to remove, because of both the number of mice and the variety of hiding places they will have created for themselves.

It can be surprisingly common to have mice in your London property. But they can usually be removed relatively quickly and easily, and with the right actions, you can prevent mice from returning.

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What to do after Flea Extermination

Even when your premises have undergone a thorough Fleas Extermination process, there is no guarantee that the pests will not be back. Fleas are particularly hardy pests, with the capacity to remain dormant for years before reviving when they sense potential food sources nearby.

Where pest control measures have entirely eliminated the flea population, preventing their return means identifying and closing their routes into your premises. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as fleas are often spread by being carried in the fur of dogs or cats.

However, there are measures you can take to reduce the chances of flea problems reoccurring.

Pest control actions after flea extermination

There are several different types of flea but all have common characteristics. In particular, they all feed on the blood of different types of animal, and spread by laying eggs which often fall from the host.

This means it is just as important to deal with flea eggs as it is to tackle the adult fleas. The eggs will fall from the host, usually a cat or dog, at any point during the day. A high proportion is found in their bedding, but a number will be spread across the rest of the area they move in, such as your home or workplace.

These eggs are invisible to the naked eye. To remove them before they have a chance to hatch you should:

  • Where possible, put animal bedding on hard surfaces.
  • Regularly wash pet bedding, ideally each week and at high temperature.
  • Vacuum soft furnishings which the animals come into contact with.
  • Groom your pet while it stands on a hard floor or even a white sheet, where dislodged fleas and their eggs will be visible.

Be alert to the signs of a flea problem

While fleas can spread diseases, the main problem they cause is skin irritation in the host animal. This is usually a cat or dog, but can occasionally be a human.

The irritation is due to the flea bites. These become itchy, causing the host considerable discomfort. A clue that your cat or dog may be carrying fleas is regular scratching of the same part of the body, often in an irritated manner.

Small children are at a higher risk of being bitten by fleas, as they have much more contact with floor surfaces. Some could be allergic to flea bites, giving them an itchy rash on their skin.

If you are a pet owner, there will always be a chance of a flea problem reoccurring. Even if you keep your own pets scrupulously clean, they could pick up fleas through contact with other animals, or from animals visiting your home or place of work.

The best way to stop fleas from becoming a problem is to know what to do after flea extermination, and to take consistent pest control and prevention measures.

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Who should remove a hibernating queen Wasp?

Warm weather in early spring will rouse hibernating queen wasps from their winter sleep. If you see a wasp at this time of year, it will almost definitely be a queen wasp emerging from its hibernation. These wasps are larger and brighter than other wasps and are the only wasps which survive the winter cold.

While you might consider wasps to be a pest during the summer months, the best time to prevent a wasp problem is when you find a hibernating or newly woken queen wasp. By destroying it now, you are preventing it from building the much bigger pest problem of an entire wasp nest.

How to spot a hibernating queen wasp

A hibernating queen wasp will protect her wings and antennae by tucking them under its body. It uses the middle legs to cover and protect its wings and the hind legs to anchor itself in place for the winter.

The wasp may construct a small hibernation cell, about the size of a golf ball, which may be grey, silver or straw in colour and will often be hidden from human eyes in an undisturbed spot in a loft space or shed.

As with all wasps, a queen wasp carries a sting which injects poison into its victim. This can be painful to a human and in rare cases can cause a dangerous allergic reaction.

If you discover what you think is a hibernating queen wasp and are unsure of how to deal with it, you may want to call in a pest control expert. They have the experience to identify and destroy it.

Prevent queen wasps building a new nest near your home

The queen wasps usually wake up from hibernation at the beginning of April. They immediately begin searching for somewhere to build a nest. Popular locations are roof voids, wall cavities and sheds, but wasp nests can also be found underground and in more unusual places, such as holes in trees or bird boxes.

Once a queen wasp has chosen a location, it begins building the nest. The nest is made from chewed wood and wasp saliva, creating a grey, papery material. Once a few cells have been built, the queen wasp will begin to lay eggs. These hatch into workers who then feed the queen. As the queen wasp is fed, she makes more cells and lays more eggs and so the colony grows, by up to 100 eggs a day.

By mid-summer, the nest could be home to hundreds or even thousands of wasps. If it’s near your home or workplace, it can become a significant pest control problem, as their search for food will keep bringing the wasps to you. They could be a continual nuisance, and you risk being stung, particularly in the autumn, when they become more aggressive.

You may be able to avoid all this by destroying a hibernating queen wasp when you find it, perhaps as it emerges from winter sleep.

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Tips for avoiding clothes Moths

As winter blossoms into spring, you’ll begin to reacquaint yourself with lighter clothes you put away months ago. However, opening the wardrobe doors may reveal more than just the garments you put away last year. It’s possible that your hangers supplied ready meals to a host of hungry clothes moths.

The Victorians knew all about avoiding clothes moths but the rise of man-made fibres saw their numbers steadily decline in the last century. That trend is reversing and moths are again becoming a common pest.

The damage is done by the moth larvae, which feed on clothes and carpets. By the time you spot the golden flutter of the adult moth, it’s too late; they’ve feasted on your fabrics.

Here are our tips for avoiding clothes moths.

1. Know the signs. Small moths are found in every home but not all are clothes moths. If you’re on the lookout for the pests, keep your eyes open for tiny larvae, the moth caterpillars which look like small maggots. Also watch for small silken tubes or cases and the silk cocoons where they turn into moths.

2. Regularly freshen up areas where clothes are stored. Clothes moths prefer dark, undisturbed places. Infrequently opened wardrobes, suitcases of old clothes in the loft and rarely cleaned fabric on furniture are their favourite haunts. Store fabrics in plastic bags and give the darkest corners an occasional clean to reduce the risk of Moth Infestation.

3. Keep fabrics clean, especially if they are to be stored. Moths prefer to feed on dirty textiles, so washing clothing and other fabrics before putting them into store will help keep the pests away.

4. Vacuum regularly. Carpets are particular favourites for clothes moths, especially handmade rugs. The caterpillars live underneath, where it’s dark, and do their damage unseen. They can also live under skirting boards, where household debris gathers and provides plenty to eat.

5. Use repellents. Moth balls, popular with past generations, are reappearing in homes across London and the country. Moth repellent fabric protector sprays are also available, which are applied directly to textiles, rendering them unpleasant to pests.

6. Trap the moths. If you have a clothes moth problem, a trap will help you to collect the adults and reduce the chance of them breeding. These are typically baited with pheromones which attract the moths to sticky surfaces, where they become trapped.

Take care to buy the right type of trap, as not all are designed for indoor, domestic use. Moth enthusiasts and gardeners also trap the insects and the devices they use are different.

7. Call in a pest control professional. If you have a serious problem with clothes moths, or they keep coming back, you may need the assistance of a pest controller. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about – the Westminster headquarters of Defra were closed for a day last year, to deal with an infestation of the common clothes moth.

For reasons no one quite understands, moths are becoming a more common problem in London. By taking simple steps to avoid clothes moths, you can also escape the frustration of damaged clothes and soft furnishings.

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