Five surprising holiday traditions that invite critters and bugs inside

Tis’ the season for fresh cut trees, garlands and pulling holiday decorations out of the attic. But pest control leader Orkin advises you to take precautions to avoid inviting pests inside as you get in the holiday spirit.

We access areas that we do not see very often during the rest of the year, like attics, and can introduce pests living there to the rest of the home. Some of the food and decorations placed out during holidays could actually attract unwanted pests, like cockroaches, ants and rodents. Those pests can contaminate food, trigger allergies and, in some cases, even spread disease.

What can you do to prevent them from ruining your holiday cheer? Awareness and vigilance are key. Below are the top five holiday traditions that could invite critters and bugs inside your home.

  1. Holiday Food: Not only are pests attracted to the aroma of baked goods and sweets, (chocolate may be more attractive to mice than cheese) the ingredients themselves can be a breeding ground for bugs.

    Check nutmeg, cinnamon, flour – any spice or ingredient you haven’t used in a while. Cigarette beetles or other insects could be living - and laying eggs – in the ingredient inside the container. Look for holes in the packaging and discard any food that is infested.

    Other pests – like cockroaches, ants and rodents – may be attracted to the food you’ve prepared. To prevent these pests from getting inside:

    • Store sweets and other food in sealed containers and clean up any crumbs on counters.
    • Make sure to clean dirty dishes in the sink. Do not leave them out overnight.
    • Seal cracks inside and outside the home.
  2. Holiday trees, garlands and potted plants: They can all be harboring cockroaches, carpenter ants and other pests.

    • Make sure to shake holiday trees and wreaths before bringing them inside so that you don’t bring aphids, mealybugs, cockroaches or ants inside.
    • Inspect holiday plants, like poinsettias or Christmas cacti, for white flies or fungus gnats.
    • Before bringing potted plants and other vegetation inside from cold temperatures, check the soil for ants.
  3. Holiday decorations: Containers storing decorations in the attic, basement or garage may also be housing rodents, spiders and cockroaches.

    • Unpack storage containers outside or in the garage to keep pests from escaping into your home.
    • Plastic storage bins provide the best protection because of their tight-fitting lids.

    Once decorations are on display inside the home, some scented decorations – like potpourri – may attract “stored product pests,” like beetles. Prevent them from getting inside in the first place by sealing all cracks and crevices inside and outside your home.

  4. Traveling: Bed bugs are great hitchhikers and can travel in luggage and personal belongings. They can reproduce and spread very quickly. To prevent bringing bed bugs home from your travels:

    • “Lift and look” for bed bug hiding places – under the mattress, in crevices and in the sheets.
    • Elevate your luggage on a rack away from the bed and the wall.
    • Examine your luggage very carefully while repacking to return home. For a full travel checklist, visit Orkin.com.
  5. Bundling Up: Moths may be hiding in the folds of wool, fur and other clothing made of animal fibers that have been in storage. These pests can destroy clothing, coats and furnishings like comforters or pillows. Prevention is the best strategy. Dry clean or wash clothes before putting them in storage to make them less attractive to moths.

If winter pest activity around your home gets out of hand, remember to contact a licensed pest professional for a detailed inspection and customized treatment program for your home.