Living Smart: Rid your home of welcome mats for insect invaders

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

The waning days of summer are a good time to make sure your home isnít putting out a welcome mat for insect invaders.

If youíre like me, youíd rather not share your space with wasps, spiders, stink bugs and other pests that often become more visible in the fall, any more than you want to see cockroaches, termites or other bugs that cause problems year-round.

Fortunately, pest control pros say thereís much you can do to make your home less inviting to creepy crawlies:

Start by inspecting your home, inside and out. Make sure your window screens are in good repair. Look for cracks and gaps in the foundation and around windows and doors. Seal any problem areas with caulk or use hardware cloth or mesh.

Check that your crawl space access door fits properly. Inspect other areas that could offer bugs shelter: soffits, pipes, dryer vents, doorjambs and utility wire holes.

Take a look at your landscaping. Trim overhanging tree limbs that might provide an insect or rodent on-ramp to your home. Cut vegetation so itís at least three feet from your home. Donít allow soil or mulch to build up around the foundation. Siding shouldnít touch soil or mulch, and firewood should be stored away from the house.

Next, consider the quality of your housekeeping. Insects and other pests will be less likely to invade if they donít find a ready supply of food and shelter. Regularly take out trash, and keep garbage can lids on tight. Wipe down tables, countertops and floors after preparing food or eating a meal. Keep clothes and other items off the floor. Regularly wipe or sweep away spider webs.

Moisture also attracts insects, particularly termites and carpenter ants, which can damage your homeís structure. Find and eliminate the source of any damp areas. To prevent or reduce mosquitoes, eliminate standing water on your property.

Even if you donít have an immediate insect issue, itís a good idea to identify a reputable pest control pro so youíre ready for any critter crisis. Back in the spring, I had to call our exterminator to deal with wood-eating bees that had settled on our swing set and were scaring the kids.

If you want to stop many insect problems before they get a chance to start, consider contracting for periodic preventive services. These usually come with guarantees and can cost $130 to $150 for an annual visit, $80 to $100 for quarterly, and $40 to $60 for monthly service. Be aware that some exterminators provide or focus on eco-friendly products and procedures.

Some steps to take before you hire an exterminator:

Determine if your state or locality requires licensing, including for the use of certain pesticides or chemicals, and verify that your service pro is appropriately licensed.

Confirm that liability and workers compensation insurance is in place, as well as bonding.

Check consumer reviews before hiring.

Get a detailed plan in writing.

Be sure you understand all costs and procedures.

Determine what guarantees are offered and understand the process to follow if the treatment doesnít work the first time.