Whenever I get to thinking about how water and pests go together, I can’t help but visualize that scene from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” You know the one? Let me offer a brief recap: Indiana and Elsa are trekking down the catacombs to try and find the tomb of the First Crusade knight because it has the full inscription that tells where the Holy Grail is supposed to be located. While they’re trudging through the pipes, rats are scurrying everywhere, which only gets worse when the rats sense something is wrong. Suddenly rodents are covering every surface, climbing up pant legs, and walking over Elsa’s mouth and hair, and the petroleum-soaked water gets set on fire by the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword and then
What a fantastic flick. Can you believe it’s already 30 years old? But I digress.
Pretty much, that whole scenario is one of my worst fears, and while having that level of rodent infestation in your home is highly unlikely, pests and water unfortunately go hand-in-hand (or should I saw paw-in-hand?).
How do they get in?
The sad fact about pests and water leaks is that rodents (squirrels, mice, rats, chipmunks, etc.) aren’t the only troublemakers that seek out moisture. Insects of all varieties – including cockroaches, crickets, mosquitos, ants, spiders, scorpions, and termites – set up shop wherever it is wet and safe. Since they’re small and make little noise, these little nuisances can develop entire colonies before you even know there’s a problem.
Anywhere you have standing water is a prime location for insects and rodents to infiltrate your home. Standing water or slowly dripping water inside or outside of your home can weaken wood or concrete to the point that these pesky pests hardly have to put forth any effort. Cockroaches, in particular, are exceptionally good at finding ways into your home through outside plumbing. Garden hoses, leaking pipes, and problems with your septic system are all like highways into your home.
What should I look for?
All of this information isn’t meant to scare you, but it is intended to bring awareness to the situation. No matter how clean you keep your house, insects and rodents could have a field day under the right circumstances. Early detection is key, so you need to keep a careful eye out for any tell-tale signs of pest infestation. Below are some things to look out for:
- Increase in insects in your home. The occasional insect doesn’t mean that there is a big problem, but if you’re seeing a lot of the same kind of bug hanging out in the same place in your house, you should take action.
- Higher than average water bill. This is a pretty good tip-off that you have a water leak somewhere. It doesn’t mean that you have pests (yet), but if left unattended, you could have a problem fairly quickly.
- Signs of life. If you notice any of the following occurring around your house, you should take immediate action.
- Piles of food in unusual places or holes in your food stores
- Chewed up materials such as newspaper, insulation, furniture stuffing
- Damage to fabric
- Footprints or trails
What can I do?
Unfortunately, by the time you realize that there is a pest problem in your house, it’s most likely pretty late in the game. Your best bet is to take as many preventative measures as possible and call a certified plumber at the first sign of a water leak.
Some things that you can do to prevent extensive damage include:
- Check for Leaks: Routinely go through your house and check for leaks. There is no reason why any faucet or appliance should be dripping water when you haven’t expressly left it turned on. Look under your appliances and sinks for puddles of water, and inspect your ceilings and walls for any signs of bubbling paint or drywall. The moment you notice moisture, you should call a certified plumber to help you determine and correct the problem.
- Clean Your Gutters: Gutters have a way of collecting dirt and leaves even if you don’t have any trees nearby, and rodents find this irresistible. Regularly schedule a time to clean out your gutter so you don’t have overflows that could cause water to enter your house.
- Check Your Appliances: You should check all of your appliances a few times each year to make sure that they are working how they should be working. Fridges tend to create condensation underneath that can attract insects of all varieties, and ice-makers can cause destruction if any of their seals or plumbing elements get loose. Since dishwashers and washing machines have white water lines coming into your house and grey and black water lines coming out of your house, you need to pay particular attention that they are pest-free. With their warmth, darkness, and moisture, insect colonies could thrive. Similarly, the water heater closet is like a pest hotel. Chances are pretty good that you don’t check it very often, so you could have a pest problem long before you know about it.
- Monitor Spigots: Make sure that the spigots outside of your home are drip-free and don’t spray any water into your house. Double check that all spigot plates are securely covering any holes that lead into the walls of your house.
While there isn’t a single way to keep all the pests at bay, your best line of defense is prevention. Pay attention to your house, and if you notice anything off, contact a certified plumber right away.