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Illinois Country Living

David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois

Yard & Garden

Prepare for a creature-free winter
Sanitation and proper storage are keys

There are all sorts of creatures scurrying around your house in the dead of night. Some you can hear. Others you can’t unless you have Superman’s ears.

We’re all familiar with the obvious ones.

Crickets come and go. They are particularly annoying during October and November as they move inside from the cold. After several weeks indoors with nothing to eat, they die. Or else the four-legged felines lie in wait, pounce and then snarf the 6-legged chirpers down.

There are the flies that buzz around windows, droning on the panes to the point where they become annoying. Again, time takes care of them, or use a rolled up newspaper … but never an electrical magazine.

Spiders last longer and you can find them on things here and there in the basement, crawl spaces or between the walls and under appliances. Yet, they cause more concern than they’re worth. Just stay out of their way, keep the bedroom clean and don’t stick your hand in a dark spot without shining a flashlight there first.

Cleanliness is next to godliness and next to making sure the insects are kept at bay. A thorough cleaning once a month of carpet, upholstery, under appliances and in the basement is essential. Vacuuming sucks up many creatures, and the ones that remain may only be partially there, with a few of their legs in the vacuum bag.

But it’s the other insects that you don’t always see that can be really nuisances.

First, there are the cockroaches which only another cockroach or entomologist would like. They are synonymous with filth, though cockroaches themselves are one of the cleanest creatures, often bathing each other much like cats lick each other’s head.

However, cockroaches feed on those food particles that fall between the cracks. You really can’t blame them. They don’t have the capacity to open the refrigerator door or cupboards and pull out food. If you had a sanitary kitchen, you’d have a hard time keeping cockroaches around.

Cockroaches like to live in the walls and feed at night. They don’t leave lots of little telltale signs like mice do. You may have them for years and never see them unless you make a quick foray into the kitchen at 2 a.m. and turn on the lights, and watch groggily as creatures scurry away.

Cats are one good control, as they have the patience to wait all evening for some form of entertainment, which is chasing the cockroaches.

Traps and baits work well, but make sure you read and follow the directions. Keep the baits out of reach of children and pets.

There are other kitchen pests which tend to be noticed around this time as we start doing more baking. Pantry pests, lumped as a group, can be beetles, weevils (or their larva) and feed on grain products like oatmeal, flour, cake mixes, biscuit mixes, cereal, pet food (especially those high in cereal products), chocolate, dried beans, many herbs and spices, and surprisingly, dried flowers.

Sanitation is also important. Keep grain products tightly sealed. A cardboard box or paper sack is no match to these creatures. Store the products in plastic, metal or glass canisters.

You can also store the products in the freezer, which kills the insects and larva. Just warm up the product to room temperature before using it.

Interestingly enough, few of the pantry pests go after sweet items like sugar and honey.

Most are blackish brown to red and small. Usually they elicit more of an “ick” than anything else. Many people throw the product away. Some just sift the offending creature out and use the product. After all, most insects are safe to eat and a good source of protein. (Yes … I know … Ick.)


More Information:

David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, P.O. Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791. Telephone: 217-782-6515.


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