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Household Pest Maintenance


Subterranean termites usually do not live in houses but rather in the soil below. Termites live on wood. While they prefer damp or decaying wood, they will also eat sound dry lumber. The damage to the wood is seldom noticeable as they eat through the interior. If there is no direct wood/soil contact, termites must build shelter tubes (mud tubes) or tunnels to get from the soil to the wood. It is the presence of these tubes or swarmers (in Spring) which indicate an infestation. The tubes are typically 1/4 to 1/2 inch in width and are made of soil glued together by the termites.

The amount of damage which can be caused by termites can be extensive. If shelter tubes or swarmers are noticed, a pest control company should be contacted immediately. In some areas, government assistance is available for treatment. In addition to chemical treatment, it is also necessary to eliminate all wood/soil contact.

Carpenter Ants:

Carpenter ants are the largest variety of common ants found in North America. Carpenter ants do not eat wood; however, they do nest in it. Carpenter ants often nest inside walls, ceilings, outdoor siding, eaves, floors, window casings, etc. They prefer wet wood, and can often be found in rotting wood. They earned their name for building galleries in wood. When chewing their way through wood they leave small particles resembling saw dust which they push out of the galleries. It is the presence of this saw dust which indicates a colony. Carpenter ants tend to be most active in the spring and early summer. They are usually dormant during a portion of the winter. Outdoors, they feed on other insects and plant material while indoors they feed on household food.

To prevent a carpenter ant infestation, decayed wood should be removed from around the building. Firewood should not be stored indoors for long periods of time. Wood used where dampness may occur should be treated with a preservative. Food stuffs, such as sugar, should be stored in closed containers and, should a spill occur, it should be cleaned up quickly.

Chemical control of carpenter ants should be undertaken by a qualified pest control company.


Earwigs are one of the most common pests in homes and gardens. They eat both plant and animal food. They often damage flowers, fruit and vegetables.

Chemical treatment for the control of earwigs should be applied in June or early July. The treatment should be applied along building foundations, under porches and around fences, wood piles, garages and tree trunks. Chemical treatment is effective in the short term, however, it is not uncommon for a garden to be re-infested in as little as two weeks after treatment. Earwigs are nocturnal, searching for food at night and hiding during the day.


Silverfish are nocturnal and prefer damp dark areas of the house. They prefer warm temperatures and can often be found in furnace rooms. They feed on starchy materials such as wallpaper paste or sizing and glue. They will also eat bread crumbs and other human food. Sometimes, they feed on paper or other wood by-products.

While chemical treatment can be effective, non-chemical treatment also works. Proper vacuuming in areas where they are likely to hide is essential. Old books, papers, et cetera, should not be left in unventilated areas for long periods of time.

Small jars, partially filled with water can be used to trap silverfish. Once inside the jar they cannot crawl up the sides. The outside of the jar should be covered with masking tape to allow them to climb up easily.


There are many species of cockroaches found in North America. Cockroaches eat many different things, including food, paper, plants, glue, etc. They prefer a damp dark environment. Roaches can be a health hazard as they have been known to carry salmonella bacteria. Getting rid of cockroaches is very difficult. The best control for roaches is proper sanitation. This includes the storage of food materials in insect-proof containers and proper cleaning of spills. If possible, repair any damp areas in the home.

Chemical treatment is best performed by a professional.


Fleas are typically brought into the house by animals. They live on the blood of their hosts. There are many types of fleas; cat fleas, dog fleas, squirrel fleas, etc. Cat fleas give people the most problems. Fleas nest on the animal; however, they leave the animal from time to time and jump onto other species. They never stay, however. They always return to the host animal. If the host animal leaves the premises permanently, the fleas which are left behind will jump onto people, looking for food.

Adult fleas are relatively easy to kill; however, the larva live in strong protective cocoons. Both the eggs and the cocoons are very resistant to flea control attempts. While there are products on the market for the homeowner, best results are obtained by hiring an expert.


The typical life expectancy of a house mouse is approximately one year. During that time, a female mouse can bear up to eight litters of four or five mice. While mice will eat virtually any type of food, they prefer grain and seed. They require very little water. Mice travel in a very limited territory, usually not much more than thirty feet from their nest. Mice must gnaw on things to keep their teeth worn down. They are able to chew through wood, asphalt, soft mortar and even aluminum. Mice can get through holes as small as one-half inch in diameter. They are nocturnal creatures.

The best control for mice is proper sanitation. This includes the storage of food materials in mouse-proof containers and proper cleaning of spills. Mice can easily be caught in spring traps using bait such as peanut butter, cheese, bacon, or bread. Dead mice should be removed promptly.

Poisons can also be used; however, they must be handled very carefully. Usually the poison has to be consumed over a period of several days to become effective. If poisons are to be used, they should be placed in areas where they won't be found by children or pets. When stored, they should be marked as poison.



RoadRunner Inspection Service has provided the above information in an attempt to inform new home owners about general home maintenance. The maintenance suggestions listed above are by no means comprehensive and inclusive of all items that need maintenance in a home. These statements above are only a compilation of maintenance suggestions based on our experience in the business of Real Estate property management, ownership and renovation.