Pest Infestations Prevention Guide & How To Get Rid of Common Pests

Pest infestations can be fairly difficult to take care of if you live in the United States! Once you find proof of pests living inside your home, your first instinct is probably to call the exterminators right away. While that is an excellent instinct, there are times when, with a little bit of effort, you could take care of the problem yourself.

This handy article will guide you through the process of identifying and resolving an infestation, and tell you when you’re in over your head!

What are the signs you have a pest problem?

Your home or property has been damaged

Sweaters that have been nibbled away, furniture that has been gnawed at, fraying wires with teeth marks, food that has been chewed up – all these are telltale signs you have a problem with rats or some other sort of rodent. Damage caused by rodents is especially fraught with danger since chewed up wires could lead to electrical shorts and fires.

You also need to be on the watch out for damaged wood, like furniture or wooden decks outside. These could indicate a termite infestation. Damage to plants also points towards infestation; look out for gnawed grass blade and garden plants, as well as dead brown patches and damaged lawn patches.

You hear odd animal sounds

Sometimes late at night when you are lying in bed or watching tv on the couch, if you listen closely you can hear the sound of larger pests like mice and rats. They will move about when the lights go out and they think you are fast asleep. You can hear the pests scurrying about squeaking and making whining sounds as they move about your house getting into your food and water.

Pay attention to where you hear the sounds coming from and use this information when you are ready to deal with pest infestations and get rid of the pests.

You see pest droppings

Another telltale sign, urine trails, and fecal droppings can immediately clue you in that you have a problem. However, it’s easier to spot waste from rodents like mice or rats than it is to spot droppings from tinier pests, such as bed bugs. That’s why you need to be thorough in your search. Examine your furniture, bedding, walls, and floors carefully to find any pest droppings.

You find nests

What do rodents make nests out of? Well, whatever they find. From leaves and grass clippings to shredded magazines and newspapers, rats will use the materials available to them to quietly nest behind walls and beneath the flooring. When looking for signs of pests, keep an eagle eye out for evidence of nesting.

The existence of nests, droppings, animal sounds and damage to your property could be indicators of pest infestations in your home.

What should you do when you identify signs of pests?

If you have observed any of the signs mentioned above or have seen live pests in your home you must act fast. All it takes is one pregnant mouse to come inside your house and if left alone you could have hundreds of mice running around in a few months. The same principle applies to other household pests like cockroaches, mosquitoes, and bed bugs.

If you see them, hear them, or smell them you must act to get ahead of the situation. If you leave bugs, insects, and rodents left unchecked you will have full-blown pest infestations on your hands and this is not a situation you want to deal with.

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DIY: What to do in case of a cockroach infestation

You’ll want to focus on the kitchen first since this is where roaches tend to congregate. Don’t leave any food uncovered. Rid the countertops of any food, utensils and tiny items or appliances. Do the same with the top of the fridge, stove, and microwave. Also remove all the items contained inside the cupboards, including any paper you might have used to line the shelves.

It’s best to move large appliances away from the wall, so the area behind them is easier to access and clean. Additionally, use your vacuum cleaner to suck up any visible cockroaches or eggs, then seal the vacuum bag and discard it in the trash. Do make sure you clean the vacuum cleaner too, so any eggs don’t remain behind.

Your garbage is another hotspot for these critters, meaning you need to ensure your garbage containers are covered up. You should dispose of your trash on a nightly basis anyway, but especially make sure you do it before pest control arrives.

As for getting rid of the cockroaches yourself, you need to keep in mind that even if a small percentage of the roaches survive, it will only take a few months for the infestation to resurface. You need to ensure you’ve wiped out the cockroaches completely in the first round. Use high-quality bait rather than sprays, since these are easier to apply. Spraying pesticides could result in the contamination of surfaces like appliances and countertops. Make sure you place the baits strategically.

Now you should be comfortable dealing with cockroach pest infestations.

DIY: What to do in case of a bed bug infestation

Focus on the bedroom and living areas when preparing to eliminate a bed bug infestation. Take off all the bed covers and linen from these areas and thoroughly launder them. Place these laundered items in zippered bags so as to remove the possibility of the bedbugs returning. Just as you would during a cockroach infestation, remove all contents of the furniture within these rooms: make sure there’s nothing in the dresser or bookshelves. Vacuum or steam clean the area behind furniture that’s lined up against the wall after moving it away.

When killing bed bugs, you can use non-chemical treatments. Try heat treatment by keeping plastic bags in the sun or using a clothes dryer on the hottest setting. You can also use the cold treatment by putting items in a freezer set to 0 F for four days. However, these treatments are not likely to get rid of the problem completely. If you need to use pesticides, make sure you read the label properly and look for products registered by the EPA. Avoid using foggers, since these could mess with your health or even cause an explosion or fire.

After the cleanup, spend the next few weeks on the lookout for bed bugs.

DIY: What to do in case of a flea infestation

You need to make prior arrangements to stay elsewhere from the time treatment starts to until around 5 hours later so the insecticide dries out. Before using the insecticide, give your home the vacuum treatment: vacuum the sofas, the cushions, carpeting and furniture, and the walls and cracks between the closets and the floor. Make sure you get rid of the bag or the contents responsibly. Clean the vacuum cleaner with wet cloth in order to eliminate any remaining fleas. Remove all bed covers and linens from the bedroom and living areas, and wash these in hot water.

Fleas are a pest problem, so make sure to destroy your pets’ bedding or wash it in cold water. Use flea shampoo on your beloved furry friends, or take them to the vet so they can be professionally treated. If you have caged or enclosed pets like birds, guinea pigs, hamsters or tortoises, make sure to remove them from your house.

DIY: What to do in case of a rat infestation

Rats and rodents are a real problem. In most cases, it would be wisest to call the exterminators and let them deal with it. However, if you believe you can handle it, start with excluding the rodents. Seal all openings greater than a quarter of an inch to make it difficult for rodents to enter your home.

Once you’ve excluded the rat, you can now try trapping or baiting it. Trapping is the non-toxic option, and preferable for those of you who do not want to deal with chemicals. Trapping is most effective when the pest population is relatively low.

On the other hand, you can use poison baits, or rodenticides, in order to kill larger populations. Make sure children or pets can’t access the areas you place these baits in. Use tamper-resistant bait stations so the bait cannot be accidentally ingested by kids or pets.

Rat pest infestations may seem scary but you should now know how to deal with them.

DIY: What to do in case of a housefly infestation

Nobody likes house flies because they are so annoying as they buzz around your head. The more you swat them away the more they continue to buzz about and be bothersome. House flies contaminate your food and water and carry a variety of diseases that are harmful to people and pests.

The first thing you must do to eliminate house flies is to secure your doors, windows, and roof vents with screening to keep them from getting inside. Second, you must also practice good housekeeping by remove whatever is attracting flies to your home. This can be done by eliminating food sources and cleaning up after your pest.

There are some DIY methods you can try to get rid of house flies. Pick up and place some flypaper in your home wherever fly activity is the greatest. There are also some fresh herbs you can place in your house to repel flies. Herbs like basil, lemongrass, lavender, and mint can be purchased at your local gardening center and place where flies are active the most.

One other DIY method you could try is to make a fly repellent spray out of essential oils. Pure 100% basil, lavender, clove, mint, and lemongrass essential oils work best. Use these to make a homemade fly repellent spray.  Add 8 ounces of water and about 10 drops of essential oil to a spray bottle, then spray this solution in your kitchen and around your doors and windows to keep flies out.

DIY: What to do in case of a spider infestation

Not all spiders are bad. In fact, spiders can be a beneficial insect. They trap and kill other household pests that live in and around your home like flies, fleas, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. If you fear or have an extreme phobia of spiders you want to get rid of them as soon as possible.

It’s not as hard to control spiders as you might think. Start by removing all cobwebs you can find both inside and outside your home. Spiders like to set cobwebs in corner walls through your house. You can sweep the cobwebs away with a broom or use a vacuum to suck them up. I prefer using the vacuum as this is the quickest and easiest way to kill and remove spiders.

Next, you want to focus on keeping spiders out of your home. Make sure your window screens are properly fitted and do not need repair. Install door sweeps on all exterior doors to prevent spiders from crawling underneath.

Another option to get rid of spiders is to set traps for them. Spider traps are non-toxic, cost-effective, and can be used to easily control spiders after you get the population down to manageable numbers.

When it comes to household pest, I am most afraid of spiders and I will call an exterminator to deal with my infestations.

DIY: What to do in case of a termite infestation

Termites are not dangerous to people but they can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your house. If you see or think you might be dealing with termite pest infestations the best thing you can do is contact a pest control professional. They are better trained and able to handle your termite situation before considerable damage is done to your property.

But if you decide not to take my advice here is a 3-step termite treatment plan that you can do yourself to get rid of termites

Step 1: Spot treat existing infested areas with the same exact products the professionals use.

Step 2: Perform preventive maintenance in and around your home. Keep firewood and lumber away from your home’s foundation. Remove tree stumps, debris, and mulch as these attract termites. Control moisture and eliminate any problems.  Seal all entry points leading from the outside into your home.

Step 3: Create a protective barrier around the outside of your house. Place termite killing stakes in your yard to prevent subterranean termites.

DIY: What to do in case of a mice infestation

Pet mice may look cute and cuddly but house mice are much different. All it takes is for one pregnant female mouse to get inside and you will have a full-up infestation on your hands. You’ll want to act on this fast before your situation gets out of hand and you are left without any options and will have to contact a professional for help.

I don’t recommend you use poison baits or rodenticides as you can not control where the mice go to die since the effects of the chemicals are not instant. Instead, traps are your best option.

There are many types of traps that will get the job done. You have snap traps, humane traps, live catch traps, and electronic traps to name a few. Which trap you use depends on your personal preference. For instance, if you do not want to touch or see dead mice you don’t want to use snap traps. Instead, a better option for you would be humane or live catch traps.

Read our best mouse trap recommendation if you need help selecting the right trap to get the job done. Otherwise, you should be set and able to deal with mice pest infestations if they occur on your property.

DIY: What to do in case of an ant infestation

There are many species of ants that like to invade houses. Before you can treat an ant infestation you first have to identify the species of ant you are dealing with. After you have properly identified your ant species you can pick the appropriate treatment method to get rid of ants.

One of the best ways to get rid of ants is to feed them ant bait. They will take the ant bait back to the nest, feed the queen and the rest of the colony and all the ants will die off. At least, in theory, this is what is suppose to happen. You might have to feed them ants bait for some time to eliminate the ants to a point where they are no longer a problem.

Your ant bit should be selected based on the feeding habits of the species of ants you are trying to control or get rid of. By this I mean there are different baits for each species of ant, based on their eating preferences. Remember when dealing with a pest like ants, infestations can be difficult to deal with. If one method fails just try another.

When should you not do it yourself?

DIY may be suited to your needs, but there are times when it’s best to leave pest infestations to the professionals. When your situation gets out of hand it is best to seek the service of a pest management company.

When there are venomous insects

It is difficult to kill off insects without being bitten by them, and certain insects can cause a great deal of physical harm. Let insects alone if there’s a chance you’re allergic to them, or will be bitten by them.

When there’s a chance of pesticide poisoning

If you have children or pets, it’s probably a good idea to call the exterminators instead of using pesticides yourself. Pesticides are dangerous and can cause severe damage if accidentally ingested. Some pesticides even contain contact poisons. What’s more, certain pesticides could cause chemical burns if not used with the appropriate caution.

When you’ve scattered the insects

If you sprayed the insects and they scattered, they will have spread further across your home, exacerbating the issue. This will make it more difficult for you to exterminate them.

When there are rodents or wasps

It’s one thing to spray at cockroaches. It’s entirely a different thing to try to tackle rodents on your own. Rats and mice reproduce extremely quickly, and you might end up facing a full-blown infestation if you don’t take immediate steps. Likewise, you may be out of your depth dealing with dangerous pests like wasps or bees. You might have cornered the rat or squirrel, but animals fight back the nastiest when they’re trapped and threatened, and this could lead to scratches or bites, and even cause illnesses. Call an exterminator to professionally remove these rodents and pests without anyone getting hurt.

When there is a risk of structural damage

When pest infestations have caused property damage, you really should call an exterminator to ensure complete riddance of the pests. Structural compromise to your home could pose a risk to your life and safety. It would even be more expensive to repair this kind of damage than to call the exterminator.

When you have health problems

If you’re allergic to chemicals like the ones in pesticides or have respiratory issues like asthma, don’t attempt to DIY pest control. Most repellents and insecticides contain chemicals that could be potentially threatening to your help. Don’t put yourself at risk of inhaling the fumes from these products if you react poorly to chemical exposure, and get an exterminator instead. And make sure the exterminators are aware of your medical issues so they use the safest possible treatment to kill the pests.

A mosquito infestation is another health concern that may warrant a call to your local pest management company. Mosquito bites can leave you infected with diseases. If mosquitos are running rampant in your yard it is time to call someone out for mosquito control.

When there are just too many pests

If you’re sighting worrying numbers of pests, you might have a pest infestation that’s too large for you to control. Droppings are a sign of overflowing nests, for instance. You may be out of your depth if it has become impossible to ignore the presence of the pests.

When they keep coming back

If you killed off the pests, but they keep returning, you probably aren’t equipped to completely rid your home of the pests. In such a case, seek professional help.

How to Prevent Pest Infestations Altogether

Once you’ve gotten rid of the pesky critters, you don’t want them coming back anymore. Guard against future infestations using the following tips.

  1. Store leftover food in Tupperware containers or other airtight containers in order to prevent cockroaches, ants or rodents from returning.
  2. Make sure your trash can is always securely close using a tight lid, and take the trash to a dumpster outside at the earliest.
  3. Keep an eagle eye out for holes or cracks in your foundations, walls, and vents. Fill any that you find, or seal them up. This should prevent the return of cockroaches, termites and other unwanted guests.
  4. Don’t buy dried food before inspecting it for pests like beetles, bugs, worms, and moths. If you can, try buying these foods in sealed packages.
  5. Avoid standing water, since this could attract a variety of pests. Fix leaking faucets, pipes and appliances as soon as possible.
  6. Regularly clean your tables, countertops, and floors, and avoid food or crumb buildup. Unclutter your home so pests don’t have access to dark areas they could hide out in.
  7. Avoid using wood in your home, since these become host to termites and beetles. Inspect all your wooden furniture regularly, and protect it from dampness. When it comes to landscaping, try using rock or gravel instead of wood.
  8. Check your pets regularly for fleas, and do so before they enter your home. Once they’re inside the house, they spread with more ease.
  9. Clean your home frequently. Use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of pests’ eggs as well as pests.

And there you have it! Use these tips to ensure your house no longer has to play host to these uninvited guests.

Related Questions

What causes pest infestations? Pests are attracted to your house for any number of reasons but are most often drawn inside your home because you have everything they need to survive, food, water, and shelter. Your house provides pests with protection from their natural enemies and shelters them from a harsh environment.

How common are cockroach infestations? Cockroach infestations are a common problem you’ll find in dirty and cluttered homes. Conditional like these can lead to poor sanitation and excellent breeding condition for roaches when they can find adequate food and water. All it takes is just a few outside roaches to get inside your home and if they are allowed to go untreated an infestation can happen in a short period of time.

How do you stop a rat infestation? Mice and rats are secretive nocturnal creatures who prefer night conditions and generally avoid human contact at all costs.  So if you see them during the day chances are you have an infestation on your hands. To stop the future activity you have to remove food,  water, and items that are providing shelter for your unwanted rodent house guest.  If you starve them out and take away their hiding places you can drive them out of your home.

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Lynn Edwards

I founded DIY Pest Control Guide with the intention of sharing practical, user-friendly pest control strategies. If you need assistance, reach out to me at - I'm here to help you reclaim your peace of mind.

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