Guide to Attic Pests: What Pests to Look Out For, How They Get In, and the Damage They Can Do
Different parts of your home all have a different appeal to pests. A kitchen has plenty of crumbs and food to eat. Bathrooms are moist and often humid for pests that like that environment. Garages are often easily accessible and offer reliable shelter.
Yet it is attics that are particularly challenging when it comes to pests. There are many reasons that make attics a prime spot for pests and because many attics are not living spaces in the average home, these pest problems can often go unchecked until they become extreme, making attic pest problems some of the more expensive infestations that homeowners face.
As with many pest problems, the right information is often the most valuable in helping you prevent pest infestations in your attic and any resulting damage. By understanding the various attic pest problems that can occur, you can take steps to prevent them and know when to call for pest extermination if you are having an issue.
What Bugs and Rodents are Attic Pests?
There are certain pests that are more attracted to attics than others. This is largely due to the environment that the typical attic provides. In the majority of homes, it is a storage area. This means that the space is dark and not generally disturbed, giving pests a safe place to live. The top of the house is also often the warmest place in the house in all seasons with heat rising.
There are boxes of storage items in many attics as well. This provides many places for pests to hide, and depending on the types of box materials stored in your attic, they can also provide food for some pests and nesting materials for rodents. Unfinished attics will generally also have easy access to insulation which makes a warm nest for rodents and a hiding spot for bugs.
Finally, many attics can also be easier for pests to get into. Any hole in your roof, soffits, or fascia provides enough space for pests to push their way through. But because your roofline is several feet off the ground, it can be hard to spot the smallest of these holes and repair them.
All of these features make attics a prime spot for any pest that wants to get into your home, but the ones that most often infest attics and are considered the primary attic pests are:
- Mice – Mice like attics for the quiet atmosphere they provide and all of the nesting materials. The mice will use insulation, fabric, paper, and cardboard that they find in your attic to build a nest where they can quickly have many baby mice. Mice will often use your attic as their home and make trips to other parts of your house to find the food that they need.
- Roof Rats – Roof rats prefer to be up high, making attics a perfect place for them. They will occupy your attic in much the same way that mice will, but are also larger and can therefore do more damage. Like mice, they are avid chewers and will chew on anything they can find in your attic.
- Stinging Insects – Bees and wasps like attics because they provide a sheltered place to build a hive. The struts and rafters provide a good structure for the hive or nest if stinging insects choose to build inside your home. They may also opt to build their nest under the eaves outside of your home.
- Silverfish – Silverfish like dark and damp spaces. They survive on cellulose, which is a main component of paper and other materials made from wood. If you store any documents in your attic or clothes made of natural fibers, silver fish will find plenty to eat and could chew their way through your belongings.
- Clothes Moths – The larvae of clothes moths survive off of clothing fibers such as wool, silk, and cotton. Clothes moths could easily fly up into their attic, lay eggs, and then the larvae begin eating their way through garments in your attic.
- Cluster Flies – Cluster flies are also known as attic flies since they are so common in attic spaces. They will move into attics and wall voids in the fall, and then cluster around openings to get back outside when the weather gets warm. Unlike other flies, they are harmless, but their buzzing and the sight of them can be annoying.
Other pests that often cause infestations in homes could be in your attic as well, such as ants, cockroaches, house flies, and more, but this is less common since attics are not as ideal for these insects. But if you have any infestation in your home, checking your attic during extermination can help you be sure that all pests have been successfully removed.
Problems Caused by Pests in Attics
The type of pest problem you experience if bugs or rodents move into your attic will largely depend on the specific insect involved, but will in general fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Health Risks – Many of the pests that can live in your attic are known health risks and disease vectors. Rodents carry many bacteria in their saliva, fur, urine, and droppings. They can also be dangerous if you come into contact one with one and it bites or scratches you. Other pests like roaches and house flies may also transmit disease. Bees and wasps can sting, which can be dangerous for those with allergies and painful for those without. As bacteria from pests collects in your attic, it can filter through the rest of your house in ventilation systems, making it hard to contain the health risks.
- Property Damage – Almost all of the attic pests can cause some type of damage to your roof, attic, or the items you have there. This can include ripping out insulation or damaging it with droppings, chewing on exposed structural beams, wires, pipes, and HVAC equipment, or eating or tearing anything you have in storage. Stinging insects, especially honeybees, can create extremely heavy hives. Over time, the weight of these nests can be too heavy for your roof and existing structures in your attic, causing holes in your roof or structural failure in your home.
- Other Pests – Many pest problems will lead to additional pest problems. For instance, mice and rats will often bring in ticks, fleas, mites, and other parasitic insects that can then move from the rodents to you or your pets. Dead cluster flies attract other pests and wildlife into your home because of their scent. Almost all insects will attract spiders as well since they serve as a food source.
The other significant challenge with all of these problems is that they often go undetected in a home where an attic is used primarily for storage. Family members may visit the attic only a few times a year. This leaves periods of weeks or even months during which pests can move in, get comfortable, and start to cause damage. By the time you notice there is a problem, it can already be relatively far advanced with many pests.
When you do visit your attic, the pests can still be hard to spot. Bugs and rodents will often scurry away to hide, leaving you looking for droppings, dead bugs, and damage as your key indicators of a pest problem. For rodents, hearing noise like scratching from your attic, especially in the evening, can be a sign that there are mice or rats, but other pests will likely be silent and it is only by seeing the bugs or signs of them that you may realize there is an issue.
How to Prevent Pests in the Attic
Because pest problems can go for so long without detection, the best way to protect your attic and whatever you store there is to prevent bugs and other pests. Prevention steps ahead of a pest problem make it less probable that pests will get into your attic and limit the damage they can do if they are able to gain access.
The first prevention step to take is planning effective storage. This includes:
- Investing in Plastic Storage Containers – Cardboard boxes are not effective against pests. For some pests, they are a food source and for others they can be easily torn up for nesting materials, leaving the items inside exposed. You should replace cardboard boxes with plastic storage bins that have snap on or locking lids. Pests cannot get through the plastic sides, keeping everything stored inside the bin secure. You should still regularly check for any cracks or holes in bins that could develop after regular use.
- Wrap Items in Plastic Bags – For oddly shaped items, storage in plastic garbage bags can be sufficient. You want to tie bags tightly or secure them with duct tape to be sure there are no gaps. Additionally, you will want to check and replace bags as needed as handling and exposure to unregulated temperatures in attics can cause them to rip.
- Consider What Items You Store – Any scented items will be very attractive to pests and delicate items will be more susceptible to damage. Keep scented items in other areas of your home where they will be less accessible to pests, including scented holiday items or anything that may contain a food product. Delicate, sentimental, or high value items should not be left in attics without the right storage solutions.
Loose items should also not be stored in your attic as they are reading hiding spaces for nesting rodents or bugs. This can include things like piles of linens, newspapers, and holiday decor like Christmas trees and wreaths when not in bags.
Closing Off Entry Attic Points from Pests
Preventing bugs from ever getting into your home in the first place works well against the possibility of an infestation. Many attic pest problems start at the roofline. While there are pests that can get in at ground level and make their way up to your attic, most bugs will gain access on upper floors or from above. There are often multiple points of entry they can use, such as:
- Missing or Damaged Shingles
- Missing or Torn Soffits
- Ventilation and Roof Vents
- Gaps in Siding
- Holes in Roof Ridges or Hips
There are different ways to close off these entry points. In some cases, repairs may be necessary to fix damage to siding or roof shingles. For other challenges, there are a range of different products and solutions available that will limit pest access to your attic:
- Install Vent Covers – Vent covers can cover fan vents and roof vents are ridgelines to keep rodents out of your home.
- Apply Caulking – Caulk or expanding foams are a good way to seal small holes that may lead into your attic. This is a fast and easy solution that works for any smaller holes.
- Reduce Moisture – If your attic has any dampness or high humidity, it can attract different pests like cockroaches, silverfish, and centipedes that like more humid areas. You should fix any leaks in your roof or in pipes that are letting water into your attic space. A dehumidifier can also help manage humidity levels in your attic.
- Cut Back Trees – Tree branches that touch your roof can act like a ladder for rodents and bugs. You should cut back any trees or other plants that touch your walls or roof.
The final prevention step is to also prevent pests in your home and your yard. If you already have significant pest activity in your vicinity, your attic becomes an easy place for pests to go to escape the elements or predators in their area. Fewer pests overall means less risk of bugs, mice, and rats getting into your attic.
How to Get Rid of Pests in Your Attic
The preventative steps above are the first actions you should take to get rid of bugs in your attic. Even if you already have an infestation, these steps can help make your attic less appealing to bugs, potentially forcing many of them to move on or move out on their own.
But bugs and rodents are efficient at finding food and shelter for themselves, and prevention methods will generally not be entirely effective if you already have bugs. If you are looking for a solution to get rid of an infestation, there are a few different DIY options and they generally work best when you can tailor them to the type of pest you have.
One challenge is that while you might know bugs are in your attic, they are not necessarily easy to spot. They will often be hiding behind items in storage and insulation, so using a store bought insecticide will largely be ineffective since these almost always require direct contact to work reliably.
Instead, you should look at methods that are more long lasting. These include:
- Pest Control Dust – A pest control dust is a powder form of an insecticide. By sprinkling the dust around your attic, it will begin to exterminate pests as they come into contact with it. There are specially made treatments and equipment for this process, but you can also use homemade methods like diatomaceous earth and a shaker.
- Bait Stations – Insect bait stations have insecticides mixed with bait in an enclosed station. As insects consume the bait, they will begin to die off.
- Rodent Traps – If you are specifically dealing with mice or rats, you can place rodent traps around your attic or in other areas of your home where rodents are traveling to. You may need several traps depending on how large you believe the infestation to be, and you should check them frequently to remove dead rodents or re-bait them as necessary.
- Mothballs – In addition to working against moths the chemicals in mothballs are also effective against other pests like and then less what pests those are here and then I think there are some drawbacks to some off balls. So, let’s close as well. Insect does these are a fine powder of us are insecticides in a fine powder form because they’re a powder rather than a liquid they will continue working after application evening you lay a fine layer of dust throughout your attic and when insects come in contact with it and over time as insects come into contact with it
With all of these methods, you should use caution. Pest dust and mothballs can be dangerous to inhale or be around. Consider wearing a mask or increasing ventilation in your attic when you are applying them.
The drawback with almost any DIY pest control step is that it takes time. You have to wait for each pest to come in contact with your treatment or your trap, and if treatments and traps are not placed in the most effective way, this can take several weeks. In the meantime, all these pests are continuing to damage.
Another option for attic pest control is an exterminator. A local exterminator will be experienced with the pests in your area and can identify the types of bugs or rodents that are living in your attic. From that knowledge, they can create a customized treatment plan and apply the specific pest treatments that will get rid of bugs quickly.
An exterminator can also use their trained eye to determine how bugs were able to get into your attic in the first place so that you can correct those issues and prevent a repeat infestation.
Steps to Take After an Attic Pest Problem
When dealing with attic pests, getting rid of the bugs or rodents is unfortunately only the first step. There may be damage to your attic or items in storage that also needs to be addressed. This can require cleaning and potentially repairs.
Any personal items that have been damaged by pests or rodents should be removed from your attic and cleaned or thrown away to remove any bacteria that may be clinging to them. If the infestation involves rodents, you should remove any droppings, nesting materials, and other debris, as well as pull out insulation that may have been contaminated with urine or feces. This process needs extreme care and you may want to consider hiring a professional to handle it since there can still be a significant amount of bacteria present although the rodents themselves may be gone.
You should also seek the corresponding repairs for any of your home’s infrastructure that may have been damaged by an attic pest, such as repairing ductwork, replacing electrical wires, and strengthening chewed structural supports.
Contact ExtermPRO – A Leading Exterminator for Attic Pests in Gainesville, Virginia
With all of the damage they can do, not taking quick and effective action to get pests out of your attic and protect it can leave you with an extensive amount of damage. ExtermPRO offers a range of services to help homeowners and property owners in Gainesville and throughout Northern Virginia protect their attics and entire homes from all the different pest problems that can occur in this area.
We are an exterminator that gets rid of pests fast with eco-friendly methods when you are having a problem. We also have ongoing pest control services that effectively continue to keep bugs and rodents away over time by using exterior treatments and rodent exclusion.
For homes that currently have an attic pest problem or want to get the best pest protection for your property, reach out to our team at ExtermPRO to find out more about our Gainesville pest control services.