How To Get Rid Of Pests: The Ultimate Guide - City Pests

How To Get Rid Of Pests: The Ultimate Guide

how to get rid of pests the ultimate pest control guide
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Introduction

Struggling with pests in your home or workplace? This guide will deal with what pests are, how to spot them, get rid of them and prevent them from returning, so you can be free of them once and for all!

We will look at all the different types of pests that you may encounter and how to target each one specifically to prevent an infestation. There are many different techniques to get rid of pests, some of which are more effective than others.

Professional pest removal can be very costly, but thankfully there are many ways to tackle pest problems yourself, provided you are able to quickly identify the problem in order to take action. 

If you’re wondering how to tackle your unwelcome visitors, read on for some simple, easy and effective tips to get rid of them for good.

Termites

get rid of termites

Identification

A termite is a small, soft-bodied insect that generally lives in a large colony, often within a mound of cemented earth. Many termites actively feed on wood and can be very damaging to buildings and wooden structures.

What to look for/signs of an infestation

The first thing to look out for is any wood damage in your home, this could be on skirting board, windowsills, floorboards or furniture. Termites often eat wood from the inside out, so if you tap the wood and find that it sounds hollow, this is usually a sign on an infestation. Any areas of uneven or bubbling paint can also point to termites as it is a sign of moisture.

Winged termites

If you happen to see a swarm of winged termites near your home, this is another sign a colony is close by. Termites shed their wings, so you may also notice small piles of discarded swarmers’ wings scattered around your home.

Termites produce wood-colored droppings as they gnaw through infested wood. Look out for any fine powdery refuse or pale droppings in your home. If you do find any pellets in the home, chances are it could be a sign of a termite infestation.

Termite treatments

If you detect a termite infestation early on, chances are you’ll be able to deal with the problem yourself, provided you have the time and resources. Using a liquid termite barrier will essentially create a physical barrier around your house, which will immediately poison termites when they try to enter. These solutions are typically used directly around the entire foundation of the home, but can also be used around specific wooden structures or areas.

If you don’t feel comfortable using a pesticide, it may be worth looking at a poisoned bait to get rid of termites. Poisoned bait works by initially attracting foraging termites, that will then in turn, spread the poison back to the colony. Simply position the stakes into the ground around your home and wait for it to do its thing. These bait systems are also used by professional pest controllers and can be really effective against subterranean termites.

How to prevent an infestation

There are a couple of things you can do to prevent a termite infestation, or at least to make your home less appealing to these pests. One good thing to do is to reduce all soil-to-wood contact around your house. This might include any wood, lumber, plants, paper or cardboard from around the foundation of your home, as these surfaces can provide the perfect breeding ground for termites.

If possible, keep any plants a good few feet away from your home to deter termites. Fix any leaks and eliminate any other sources of moisture, as this will inevitably attract termites.

One good thing to do is to reduce all soil-to-wood contact around your house.

As temperatures rise after the winter months, the termite swarming seasons commences, so it’s a good idea to turn off any outdoor lights at night as many swarmers are attracted to bright lights.

Rats

get rid of rats

Identification

Rats are medium sized, long-tailed rodents, which are often distinguished from mice by their considerably larger size and distinctive tail. Rats can be responsible for transmitting diseases and are often regarded to be deadly pests. Most urban areas battle rat infestations that can cause a lot of problems for residents.

What to look for/signs of an infestation

As rats are famously nocturnal and therefore most active during the night, it is usually easier to spot the signs of a rat infestation in your home rather than catching sight of the culprit himself. There are a couple of signs to look out for that may suggest you have a rat problem.

Start by looking for any sign of rat droppings, which are usually dark brown in color and look similar to a dark brown jelly bean. Rats are often agile climbers so you may find signs in your loft or another elevated space in the home.

Look out for any gnaw marks on wires, cabling or other domestic items that you may store in these environments. Rats will also often look for soft materials like loft insulation, cardboard or fabric to build a nest. 

You may also be able to detect the presence of rats in the home by any footprints or rub marks on surfaces, as the grease and dirt on their bodies and tails tends to smudge and leave dark marks behind.

It is also a good idea to check any enclosed spaces in your home that rats could find their way into, for example behind kitchen appliances and in any gaps where pipework or cables enter your home.

Treatments

When dealing with a rat infestation, it may be best to employ professional pest control services or get advice from your local council as dealing with them yourself can be quite a tricky business. If you find evidence of rats in your home environment, it is very important to act quickly to control the infestation and reduce the risk of any associated health problems that may arise.

Rat snap traps

If you do decide to tackle the problem yourself, traps can be a relatively easy and inexpensive way to get rid of rats. Any traps should be set where there is evidence of a possible infestation such as a loft space, preferably in a hidden area near a food source. Make sure you think about the positioning carefully and avoid placing it within reach of children or pets. 

Snap traps are rat-sized wooden or plastic traps which can offer one of the most effective means of capturing and killing rats. They are usually fairly inexpensive and practical to use. If you go for a snap trap, you will need to ensure that it is big enough for a rat, as smaller traps will be more suitable for mice and are not likely to kill or hold the rat efficiently, so could consequently injure the rodent inhumanely.

Humane traps

If you are looking for a more humane solution to your rat problem, it’s worth having a look at a live trap instead. These traps tend to be a little more accessible and mean that you will have a few more options once you have captured the rat. 

Live traps are designed to work with the rat’s natural instincts to investigate and squeeze into holes and enclosed spaces. The rat will be able to enter the trap (usually lured in by a small food offering) but will not be able to get out again. 

Once captured, the rat must be humanely killed or released in a safe space where it will not be able to re-enter the home or be of any harm to others in the vicinity.

How to prevent an infestation

The best way to prevent a rat infestation is to rat-proof your home. To do this, you will need to remove any access they may have to food, water and shelter. Unlike mice, rats require daily access to a water source in order to survive.

Start by sealing any holes inside and outside of your home that may unwittingly offer entry to rats. Look for holes behind kitchen appliances, in corners, around doors and pipes, and in basements and lofts. Remember rats can squeeze through the smallest of holes, so don’t leave any out!

Keep all foodstuffs in sealed metal or glass containers with tight fitting lids to deter rats. Outdoor rubbish bags should be stored in metal bins with securely sealed lids to ensure they do not attract rodents.

Maintaining outside spaces and cleaning up any debris is really important in preventing an infestation, as rats are notorious for eating a wide variety of foods and can slip into cluttered areas unnoticed. Be sure to put pet food away after use and don’t leave anything out overnight, rats will look for any opportunity!

Birds

get rid of birds

Signs of a bird control problem

Many birds have learnt how to adapt and survive in the most urban environments, meaning they can quite easily cause problems in and around your home. Pigeons and gulls especially, have learnt to scavenge our food waste and have minimal requirements for shelter, making built up or city environments an ideal choice for them.

Recognising the signs of a bird’s nest in the early stages can be really useful in minimizing the chance of a full-blown infestation.

Look out for any nesting materials around your property. This might include grass, sticks, feathers and any other scraps of material, natural or otherwise. It is particularly important to keep an eye on this as this kind of debris can block guttering and drainage systems and cause you a lot of problems in the long term. You may even catch sight of a bird tearing up grass and feathers ready to take back to the nesting site.

You may also pick up on consistent bird noise that you may not otherwise notice, as birds tend to warn people off from getting too close to their potential nesting areas. Alongside this, you may also notice an increase in bird droppings in areas where birds tend to roost. Many birds utilise balconies, ledges, chimney stacks and guttering to form their nests, so try to check these areas regularly for early signs of a nest. Pigeons often choose flat roofs and areas on tall buildings to nest.

How to keep birds out of your home and garden

If you want to discourage birds from nesting in and around your home and garden, there are a few things you can try. Disposing of any litter and ensuring that any waste is stored in a securely lidded bin is a good place to start. 

Many birds, such as gulls, will look for urban areas where they can have easy access to waste and litter as an essential food source, so be sure to empty your bins regularly and keep your home and garden clean.

If you have been affected by regular nesting on your property you may want to look into some bird-proofing solutions, which include the installation of things like netting and wire to deter nesting and protect your property.

Another method thought to keep birds out of the home and garden is to invest in a decoy. Decoys act as a scarecrow to frighten birds away, and are available in various forms to resemble a predatory animal. One commonly used decoy is a plastic owl decoy, which can be positioned in the branches of a tree or on top of the house. This method does involve some upkeep, however, as you will need to move the decoy regularly to ensure that the birds do not realise it is fake or motionless, making it ineffective.

Mosquitoes

get rid of mosquitoes

Identification

There are more than 3,000 mosquito species in the world and it’s worth knowing that not all of them actually bite. Only the female mosquitoes are bloodsuckers, and they use the protein they collect to produce eggs. 

Many mosquito species in the US are most active during the dusk hours, so if you’re camping or heading out in the evenings, it is a good idea to have some extra protection, particularly if you are around wooded or shaded areas near water. 

Mosquitoes thrive in stagnant water, taking about a week to grow from an egg to an adult, so it’s always useful to empty any water from flower pots, drink bottles, birdbaths or any other containers that you may collect water outside in the summer.

Damp areas always attract mosquitoes, especially in warmer temperatures. They are generally most active during the warmest summer months, but warmer spells during winter months can also tempt them out of hibernation in search of food and sustenance.

Mosquitoes are most active during the night and tend to avoid daylight because consistent sun exposure can dehydrate and kill them. This is why mosquitoes love to get inside your house! Once they have entered a home or building, they are essentially shielded from dehydration and more likely to fly around for much longer than they normally would, giving them ample opportunity to find their next bite victim.

Vaccinations are often the best way to protect yourself from contracting mosquito-borne illnesses, so it’s important to ask your doctor for medical advice.

Mosquito bite treatment

Many mosquito bites dry up and heal on their own after a few days, but the itching sensation can be very unpleasant and distressing. Hard as it may be, if you have been bitten by a mosquito it is always best not to scratch the area. 

It may seem tempting, but scratching will only aggravate it and create openings in the surface of the skin, which can become breeding grounds for bacteria and can lead to infection.

If you are worried about a bite or find that your symptoms don’t improve or seem to get worse, it’s very important that you seek medical attention as there may be signs of more widespread infection. Doctors can usually identify mosquito bites by sight and will be able to advise accordingly.

How to prevent an infestation

Start by reducing the number of potential mosquito breeding sites in and around your home. One way to do this is by condensing the amount of standing water around your house to discourage and reduce high numbers of mosquitoes. 

Target clogged rain gutters, potholes, containers, and flowerpots. If you have a birdbath in your garden, it’s a good idea to change the water regularly to deter mosquitoes. There are also many safe, natural mosquito repellents available online which should help to effectively eliminate these pests.

To keep mosquitoes from entering your home, try to keep windows, screens and shutters closed as much as possible. Investing in a bug screen or mosquito net can be a good alternative for the summer months when you need to keep your windows open. As with many other pests and insects, mosquitoes are very attracted to light, so after dark turn off any outdoor lighting if you are able to.

Bed Bugs

get rid of bed bugs

Identification

Bed bugs are small brown insects that often live on furniture or bedding and feed on human and animal blood, usually during the night. After feeding, their bodies swell and appear reddish in color. Their bites can result in skin rashes and can deteriorate from small areas of redness to more prominent blisters. 

The bites can be very itchy and unpleasant, and frequently appear on areas of the body that are exposed while sleeping, such as the face, neck and arms.

Signs of bed bug problem

Bed bugs might enter your home through luggage, clothing or second hand beds, couches and other furniture items. Their bodies are small in size and flattened in shape, meaning that they can fit into really tiny spaces. They tend to hide in places like mattresses, box springs, bed frames, pillow cases, bedding, and headboards, as these areas offer them access and opportunity to bite people during the night.

Signs of bed bugs include bites over exposed areas of the body, which are usually red and itchy and are often (but not always!) in a line or cluster. There may also be evidence of a central spot of bleeding within the bite itself where the bug has released blood thinning substances contained in its saliva. 

A high number of bites can lead to a red rash or hives. Keep in mind that pets can also be bitten by bed bugs which can cause them the same skin irritation.

Other signs to look for include small spots of blood on your sheets or bedding, which is often from the bites themselves or from squashing a bedbug inadvertently while sleeping. 

You may also notice small brown spots on bedding or furniture, which could be bed bug excrement, or eggs shells and shed skins in areas where bed bugs might be hiding.

Bed bug treatments

Bed bug bites often heal up on their own in a week or so. If you are finding the stinging sensation uncomfortable, you could try putting something cool on the affected area, like a clean damp cloth or compress, which should help to reduce any itching or swelling.

Make sure you keep the affected area as clean as possible to minimize the risk of infection and avoid scratching the bites as this may aggravate the skin further.

How to prevent an infestation

Preventing a bed bug infestation involves cleaning up any areas that bed bugs may be able to live in or hide behind. Bed bugs can live for up to a year without feeding, so you’ll need to be thorough if you want to prevent an infestation. One precaution you can take is to ensure you clean and vacuum regularly. Regular cleaning will help you to spot them early.

If you suspect you have bed bugs in your home it may be useful to contact your local council or pest control service for advice. Wash all affected clothing and bedding on a hot wash (60C) or alternatively, tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes. 

Another option would be to put the affected clothing and bedding into a carrier bag and place it in the freezer (-16C) for 4 days which should kill the bed bugs efficiently.

It can also be really helpful to vacuum or use a steamer on your bed and the surrounding area as often as you can.

Use a stiff brush to scrub the mattress thoroughly and remove any bed bugs and their eggs before you start vacuuming. Once you’ve finished, remove the vacuum bag immediately and empty it in a secure garbage bin outside.

Ticks

get rid of ticks

Identification

Ticks are small parasites, usually between 3 to 5 mm long, that live by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. They can be very different in size and color.

What to look for/signs of an infestation

Ticks thrive in moist and humid conditions, so most cannot survive in a controlled home environment for more than a few days. When indoors, ticks often simply dry out and die. You may find that any areas of your home which are not air-conditioned, however, may provide the perfect breeding ground for ticks to breed. These structures might include storage sheds, doghouses or holiday cabins, so these are the first places you’ll want to check for signs of a possible infestation.

Tick infestations can occur when as little as one tick is inadvertently brought into the home. This might happen while you walk through a wooded area near your home, especially during warmer weather, which offers the perfect opportunity for a tick to attach itself somewhere on your body and bury its head into your skin. 

They can attach themselves to any part of the body, including your pets and especially dogs. You should always check your body after being in an area known to have ticks. Ticks tend to move quickly across the body, but they prefer areas that are warm and moist such as the armpits or scalp.

After a tick is brought into your home, a tick infestation may occur once the tick reproduces. They can lay their eggs in different parts of the home, but mostly tend to be near baseboards, windows and door surrounds, the edges of rugs or furniture, and curtains, so be sure to check these places thoroughly for any sign of eggs.

You may also find that you have a tick infestation in your home if you or one of your family members develops a tick-borne illness. Many of these illnesses have similar symptoms, such as a fever, chills, headaches, body aches, fatigue or a rash. Rashes are a common indicator of tick problems. 

It is really important to see your doctor straight away if you think you have any symptoms and may have been exposed to ticks.

A doctor will be able to diagnose a tick-borne illness and offer any treatment. Seeing a doctor immediately is also essential in preventing any long-term issues associated with these pest diseases.

Dangers of Ticks and Lyme disease

Ticks can carry serious diseases which they can transmit to anyone that they bite. This is why it is especially important to try to remove the tick from the skin using tweezers or a tissue if you have been bitten. One of these diseases is Lyme disease, which is predominantly transmitted by adult deer ticks. The tick itself becomes infected after feeding on an infected animal. It then has to be present on the skin for at least 36 hours in order to transmit the infection, but many people with the disease cannot actually recall getting bitten, probably because it is usually painless.

Common symptoms of Lyme disease include a flat, circular rash anywhere on the body, fatigue, joint pain and swelling, body aches, headaches, a fever, and swollen lymph nodes. It is especially important to be vigilant if you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms and seek medical attention.

Lyme disease is best treated in its early stages, and medication will often be required to treat it effectively.

Treatments

If you find ticks in your home, the first thing to bear in mind is that you won’t be able to kill them by stepping on them, contrary to what you might think. A tick’s body is very hard and strong, and it could survive.

If the tick is not attached to the skin or somewhere on your pet, you will find that ticks can be vacuumed up. If you do this, you must ensure that the vacuum bag is tightly sealed and immediately removed to a location outside of your home to prevent them from returning. Check your clothes and body after vacuuming to make sure that you haven’t missed any of them.

You can also use a non-toxic pesticide that’s designed to be safe for indoor use. Spray this along baseboards, under any cabinets, and on windowsills to kill all ticks, and target any warm or moist areas.

To remove a tick from the skin, grab hold of it as close to the skin as you can get, using tweezers or a tissue. Slowly pull it out without twisting it in the process. 

Don’t be tempted to use any kind of oil, vaseline or alcohol solution on the area to try to kill the tick before you remove it, as this may cause the tick’s mouth to remain in your body, which can cause further issues and increase the likelihood of infection.

How to prevent ticks

If you spend time in a local park or wooded area where ticks might be common, check your clothes and body before returning into your house. Wearing a long-sleeve shirt and covering up any areas of exposed skin is also advisable. Investing in an insect repellant spray that will work on ticks can also be a really effective way to stop them in their tracks. Some types of clothing even contain insect repellant in the fabric itself, so this might be something to look out for.

Maintaining any outside areas near your house can also be really effective in preventing a tick infestation. Keep any weeds or brush away from your home and maintain any lawned areas properly to help get rid of any ticks. You may also find spraying a pesticide over wooded areas helpful. 

Avoid leaving any food or rubbish outside your property that might attract rodents, such as rats or mice, as they often carry ticks and could spread them around.

Finally, check your pets for signs of ticks regularly. They tend to target dogs especially, so look out for this and try to remove the tick immediately if you do come across one anywhere on the coat.

Various sprays and medications are available for pets which work to prevent ticks from attaching to the skin.

Wasps

get rid of wasps

Identification

A wasp is a small winged insect that is a distinctive yellow color with black stripes on its body and a sting. Wasps generally make a paper nest from wood pulp and raise the larvae on a selection of other insects.

Signs of a wasp's nest

The first thing you’ll probably notice if there is a wasp nest somewhere in your home or garden is a high volume of wasps flying around. A mature nest can contain thousands of wasps during the summer months.

The wasp nest itself is likely to have distinctive papery walls, as wasps tend to make their nests from chewed wood pulp and saliva. You might be able to locate a wasp’s nest by watching the flight path of a returning worker wasp, which will be considerably easier to do when there are larger volumes of them in the summer.

Nests are often built in sheltered, enclosed spots which offer easy access to the outside. Look in any wall cavities, roof spaces, bird boxes, sheds, garages and under eaves.

Wasp sting treatment

Most stings only cause minor irritation, however some stings can be quite painful and can trigger a serious allergic reaction, so it’s crucial to seek medical advice if you are worried about a sting. Wash the affected area with soap and water and place a cold compress over the area to reduce any swelling.

Removing a wasp's nest

It is not usually advisable to try to remove a wasp nest yourself as disturbing a nest will often provoke the wasps to attack as a form of defence, so it can be very dangerous. 

Your best option will probably be to call in a qualified professional who specializes in wasp nest treatment and will be able to complete the treatment quickly and safely. 

A pest controller will often apply an insecticide near the entrance of the nest. The wasps will then bring this chemical directly into the nest and will die after a few days.

How to prevent an infestation

One of the best ways to prevent a wasp infestation is to ensure all cracks and potential entry points in your home and garden are sealed up. Regular maintenance will allow you to do this and should discourage wasps from nesting. Make sure any external garbage cans are tightly secured so wasps cannot feast on any food scraps. 

Fly screens are another good option and are widely available online. These screens can be positioned over windows and doors to prevent wasps from entering your property.

Fleas

get rid of fleas

Identification

Known for their ability to leap through the air, fleas are small, wingless jumping insects, which feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Their bites can transmit harmful diseases.

Signs to look for

Your home could quickly become infested with fleas if your pet brings them into your house. Fleas can reproduce very quickly, so it’s important to keep an eye out for early signs of these pests. They are very small and can hide easily in upholstery or carpets.

If you have a flea infestation in your home you may actually be able to see the fleas jumping between your carpets or furniture. 

You may notice flea bites on your skin, which are small red bumps which often appear in clusters or in a distinctive straight line. They can be very itchy and are commonly located on the lower legs, ankles and feet.

You can also often identify a flea problem by checking your pets regularly. 

If you can see lots of dot-like insects in your pet’s fur or notice that they are scratching, licking, or biting their fur more than usual, it is likely that you have a flea problem in your house.

Flea treatments

There is a wide range of over-the-counter anti-itch creams and lotions that you can use to treat any flea bites on your body. Pets should also always be treated for fleas with an appropriate flea treatment or anti-flea shampoo; your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best option for you. You should wash any pet bedding after you’ve treated them to get rid of any flea larvae.

Remember to clean any affected areas in your home thoroughly, including any spots where you know your pet spends a lot of time. One way to do this to vacuum your furniture. Make sure you do not dispose of the vacuum bag inside your home as this will not eliminate the problem.

How to prevent an infestation

One of the best ways to prevent a flea infestation is to vacuum frequently. This will help to remove any fleas and any dust and debris that they may be using as a form of camouflage.

There are also a number of anti-flea products that can be used directly in the home, which can be applied to floors and carpets in order to destroy any flea eggs and larvae. You will need to check your chosen product is safe to use with pets in the home, however, as some solutions can be harmful to them.

Summary

If you think you have a pest infestation in your home the first thing to do is take action quickly. Treating the issue sooner rather than later will mean that you’re less likely to lose control of the situation.

Seek medical advice if you have been stung or bitten by a pest or have any health concerns. Remember that local councils may also be able to advise you on any pest problems and can often point you in the direction of further help. Keep in mind that every pest is different and there is no ‘universal fit’ for how to get rid of them.

Follow the advice for each pest accordingly and you’ll be free of them in no time!

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Mike Henderson
Mike Henderson

Mike is a pest control operator from New York with over 15 years experience dealing with a wide range of pests. He shares his knowledge on this blog and provides useful information to help you combat pests on your own.

For severe infestations and professional advice you can also request a free pest control quote here.

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