HOUSEHOLD pests are running riot during the pandemic – with giant rats invading homes after the coronavirus crisis forced cafés to close across Britain.
When the country plunged into lockdown in March, drying up food waste in cities, pest experts believe more rodents strayed into suburban houses on the hunt for grub.
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Over half of all UK rat catchers have reported a surge in bookings to remove rodents during lockdown, according to the British Pest Control Association.
And Brits spending more time cooking and gardening at home have helped create a cosy, food-filled environment for pests.
But how can you save yourself from hoards of hungry rats – or a dreaded bedbug infestation?
Top pest expert Royston Couch, from JG Pest Control, says it doesn’t take much to protect yourself from the most common of household pests.
“Pests are scary for a lot of people,” he says.
“But housekeeping plays a big part in managing pest control at home and helping prevent or catch the problem early on.”
Here are the best tips and tricks to arm yourself against unwanted invasions, and help make your house a pest-free zone.
“Rats are very simple,” says Royston. “They need food, they need water, and they need somewhere to live.
“So if you have a pond, bird seed in your garden and full rubbish bins outside, that’s the perfect rat condition.”
To stop a rat-feeding frenzy, Royston suggests taking any bird seed in from your garden at night, as birds only eat during the day anyway.
This will cut off an outside food source and force the rats to look for food elsewhere.
Rats will also shimmy up drain pipes or rambling roses on house walls to break into attics.
Making sure any holes in the structure of your house are blocked off will help ward off unwelcome visitors.
Rat fact: Rats can fall pregnant almost immediately after giving birth.
Mouse droppings all over the house
“People are surprised at how small a gap a mouse can get through,” Royston says.
“If you can poke a biro pen through a hole, a mouse can squeeze through.”
Making sure the perimeter of your house is secure and hole-free will make it hard for mice to creep in.
Royston adds: “Tidy away all food after preparing a meal and make sure your outside bins are never overflowing.”
Mouse fact: One mouse can produce up to 80 droppings a day, making their pellet-like poo a tell-tale sign of a mouse infestation.
Bedbugs crawling on sheets
It takes just one bedbug to crawl into your bag on the train or at a relative's house for you to bring an infestation home.
“Bedbugs are on the rise,” Royston says.
“They don’t care if you’re clean or dirty or how you live at all. It’s just the opportunity to get on to you.”
It is very hard to stop the “hitchhiking” insects entering your house, but checking your belongings when you walk through the door can help.
“Bedbugs are usually detected by home owners noticing itchy raised bites on their bodies,” says Royston.
“They can also be found from their faeces which look like little spots on mattresses, headboards and bed slats.”
If you suspect you have bed bugs, wash all your bedding and nightwear on a hot wash as quickly as possible.
Bedbug fact: Bed bugs do not spread disease, but their bites can become red, itchy welts on people’s skin.
Moths laying eggs in clothes
Moths can cause untold damage to clothing, carpets, curtains and upholstery, munching through natural fibres at an astonishing speed.
Hoovering, cleaning and steaming carpets and upholstery can help prevent moths.
If you’re unlucky enough to get moths, wash your clothes at 60 degrees if suitable and freeze all other garments for four to five days to kill them and their eggs.
Moth fact: Randy adult moths do not feed but instead fly to hunt out a mate.
Cockroaches thrive in dirty kitchens
Cockroaches thrive in damp and dirty houses and tend to throng in kitchens and under appliances.
“Cockroaches can only survive in unhygienic conditions,” says Royston.
“So make sure you keep your house clean and tidy.”
Make sure you clean your kitchen every time you prepare food and empty your bins frequently.
Cockroach fact: A cockroach can run up to three miles in an hour.
While ants are a less common indoor pest, they can nest under buildings and stray into people’s houses looking for food.
To stop an ant invasion, make sure any cracks in your ground floor are completely filled in.
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“Homeowners will often see ants inside the home as they make a beeline for food,” notes Royston.
“Remember to clear away all your crumbs, as a crumb to you is a full meal for an ant.”
Ant fact: Ants are social bugs and can live in colonies with millions of the insects
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