How to prevent pests in your home during the winter

The American cockroach loves settling into homes across the Carolinas and many other states.

The American cockroach loves settling into homes across the Carolinas and many other states.

Clemson University-USDA Cooperative Extension

When the weather cools down, some pests can enter your home seeking warmth and food.

Data from the U.S. Census show that about 14 million of the 124 million occupied homeowners in America reported seeing roaches in their homes over the last year, and nearly 15 million reported seeing mice or rats.

The National Pest Management Association offers these tips on how to prevent an infestation of certain critters in your home during the winter months.

These are the pests that homeowners need to look out for:


House mice, the most commonly encountered rodents in the U.S., usually nest in dark areas like attics and basements. They can cause serious property damage by chewing through drywall and wires, and are known to spread diseases like salmonella and tapeworms.

Tips for keeping mice away:

  • Seal cracks and holes on the outside of your home with caulk and steel wool.

  • Keep areas clear and store boxes off the floor, since mice like to hide in clutter.

  • Regularly inspect your home for signs of mice, like droppings, gnaw marks or compromised food.


Similar to mice, rats often hide in basements and piles of debris. They are known to eat through almost anything, including plastic or lead pipes, to get food and water. Rats are also a vector of many diseases like jaundice and rat-bite fever.

Tips for keeping rats away:

  • Check the outside of your home for any gaps or cracks and fill them with caulk.

  • Eliminate sources of moisture in crawl spaces and basements.

  • Inspect the inside of your home signs of infestation, like greasy rub marks caused by a rat’s oily fur.


Cockroaches prefer to live in small areas close to food and moisture, making homes the perfect habitat for them. Commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms, they can contaminate food sources and spread bacteria. Their allergens are also known to trigger and exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially in children.

Tips for keeping cockroaches away:

  • Keep your counters and floors free of crumbs.

  • Vacuum your home frequently and dispose of garbage properly.

  • Monitor your kitchen and bathroom areas, especially under appliances and sinks.


Spiders, like the brown recluse, like to spin webs in undisturbed places such as closets, attics, crawl spaces and basements. They can bite and inject venom if disturbed, making them dangerous to humans.

Tips for keeping spiders away:

  • Keep trees and shrubs trimmed away from your home to reduce the chance of spiders finding a way inside.

  • Store clothing and shoes inside plastic containers.

  • Seek medical attention if you suspect you have a spider bite.


Raccoons are commonly found in wooded areas in the eastern part of the country. They occasionally enter homes through attics or chimneys, and often carry rabies.

Tips for keeping them away:

  • Store your trash cans and recycling bins in sealed areas. If they are stored outside, use animal-proof lids.

  • Inspect the outside of your home for access points, like broken vent covers or loose shingles.

  • Install a mesh cover or cap over chimneys and other exposed openings to prevent entry.

Evan Moore is a service journalism reporter for the Charlotte Observer. He grew up in Denver, North Carolina, where he previously worked as a reporter for the Denver Citizen, and is a UNC Charlotte graduate.


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