Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Don't Let Pest Foes Cause Winter Woes

September 19, 2010

Dreary days and cold weather may bring on the winter blues, but the doldrums can turn into desperation if you add a wintertime pest infestation to the mix.

Your building''s warmth and available food and water provide the perfect place for pests looking to come in out of the cold.

Fortunately, you can undertake preventive measures now in order to ensure your winter won''t be spent worrying about pests.

Rodents are notorious for creeping in with the cold weather.

As warm-blooded mammals, rodents need to maintain their body temperature in order to survive and, once inside, mice and rats can pose both a health hazard and a safety issue.

Contact with rodents carrying diseases such as Escherichia coli (E. Coli), Salmonella and hantavirus — or their droppings — can potentially endanger the health of your building''s occupants.

In addition, rodents are one of the most destructive pests in the world: They''ve been known to chew on wiring, sparking electrical fires.

Come springtime, they''ll be ready to reproduce, which can lead to an all-out infestation.

Insects also can thrive indoors all year long with the moderate temperatures and ready supplies of food and moisture.

It doesn''t take much for an insect to fill up and cockroaches can survive by eating almost anything, like debris or even the glue holding cardboard boxes together.

Known disease carriers, insects like cockroaches and flies spend much of their time in decaying organic matter, tracking filth and disease-causing microorganisms wherever they go.

So, how do you winterize with pests in mind?

Use the following tips to defend your facility from wintertime pest woes.

Lighting And Landscaping

Insects are attracted to light.

Install sodium vapor light fixtures close to or on your building to reduce the attraction to flying pests.

Place fluorescent or mercury vapor light fixtures in locations further away from the building, such as in parking lots, to lure flying insects away.

Rodents don''t like to be out in the open, so avoid planting anything too close to your building.

Trim back trees and shrubs so they don''t touch the sides of your building and install a 12-inch wide gravel barrier around the perimeter.

The gravel barrier will eliminate hiding places for rodents trying to access your building while also providing a rocky terrain for crawling insects to cross.

Seal Doors And Windows

Should pests get close to your building, you don''t want to give them an easy way in.

Rats only need an opening the size of a quarter to enter a facility and mice only need an opening the size of a dime.

Insects require much less room — cockroaches only need 1⁄16 of an inch to squeeze through.

For this reason, inspect your building''s exterior for any holes or cracks that pests may use as an entry point.

Seal openings with weather-resistant sealant and incorporate copper mesh into the seal so rodents won''t be able to gnaw through.

Install door sweeps and use weather stripping around doors and windows to seal any cracks around these common pest entrances.

Now is also a good time to fit windows with screens or repair any screens already installed.

Be sure to use a No. 16 mesh screen, which will prevent small flying and crawling insects from entering.


With doors opening and closing frequently, pests may enter through the building''s actual entrances and exits.

Test the airflow at entryways by standing in an open doorway with a strip of paper in your hand.

If the paper blows away from the building, then you have positive airflow, which will help blow pests out the door.

On the other hand, if the paper blows inward when you open the door, then you have negative airflow, which could actually be pulling flying pests into your building.

Work with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professional to correct any ventilation issues.

Consider installing an air curtain — two fans facing each other on either side of a doorway — which will create a current that flying pests may find difficult to penetrate.


Dumpsters and other waste disposal areas are a haven for pests.

Oftentimes, this is the first stop for pests looking for food and they can soon be lured into your nearby building by the emanating heat and odors.

To help prevent pests from getting too close, place dumpsters away from your building and don''t let waste accumulate near back entrances.

Work with your waste management company to clean and rotate dumpsters frequently, which will discourage pests from harboring in the dumpster.

While prevention is your best defense, clever pests can sometimes outdo your best efforts.

Here are some tips on how to spot a wintertime infestation:

  • Droppings: A strong indicator of an infestation is visible droppings, which are about the size of a grain of rice for mice and about the size of a raisin for rats; insect droppings are far smaller, but still visible

  • Gnaw marks: Rodents are always gnawing, and since rodents can squeeze through small openings, look for holes that appear to be chewed or gnawed

  • Rub markings: Look for any greasy markings on walls inside your structure that indicate a rodent is regularly traveling along the same path, as rodents feel protected when they can crawl along a wall

  • Cast skins: Cockroaches and other insects leave behind their exoskeletons as they mature and molt

  • Live or dead pests: The best evidence is spotting an actual pest. Use glue boards and insect light traps to monitor for pests.

While winter can be long and cold, it does not have to be marred by a pest infestation.

Work with your pest management professional to implement an integrated pest management (IPM) program that encompasses prevention and monitoring.

Soon enough it will be spring and you''ll be glad the winter was spent waiting for warm weather rather than worrying about pests.

Frank Meek is international technical and training director for Orkin LLC. As a board-certified entomologist and a 20-plus year industry veteran, he is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. Contact Frank Meek at or visit