Keep Mice and Ants Out As The Weather Cools

 As weather chills down in autumn, humans aren't the only critters looking for a warm place to bed down for the night. Lots of little four-leggeds (mice), six-leggeds (ants) and eight-leggeds (spiders) would love to move in with you. If you honor all life but don't want to share your home, there are a few simple ways to get them to keep their distance.

Number one, no matter whether your abode is a yurt or a palace: don't leave dinner dishes till the morning. With cold weather cutting back on their patio dining options, these little guys are looking for the American plan—three meals plus lodging—so don't leave out any food or trash (particularly protein or sugar) and they'll be a lot less interested.

If you live in a freestanding house, walk around the outside and make sure there are no obvious holes or cracks. Mice have an uncanny ability to make themselves as skinny as a Twizzler, so be sure to plug up any possible entryways around pipes, dryer vents, exterior light fixtures, or fan and air conditioner exhausts. Don't make the mistake of thinking, "Aw, they'd never get in there!" They are true shapeshifters.

If you have a flapper door on the dryer vent that closes when the dryer is off, make sure there isn't lint or other dirt keeping it open. If your vent doesn't have a flap, you may want to cover it with some kind of screening, but you'll need to keep that very lint-free to avoid danger of fire. You may also want to clear any lint from below the opening—it makes a mighty tempting bed.

It's also a good idea to get a professional dryer vent cleaning every few years.

Ants and spiders are more likely to come in through cracks or around and under doors, so seal the cracks with caulk or spackle and invest a few bucks in weather-stripping, which also saves on heating bills.

Apartments and houses are both vulnerable to the very unappealing six-hairy-legged cockroaches. Among their fave entryways are cracks and shower drains. Leave a plastic drain stopper over the drain when your shower isn't in use, and if you go off apple picking for the weekend, close sink drains and stuff bits of tissue in the overflow drain (little holes or a slit high up on the side of the basin, near the rim).

Ant pesticides are toxic to both pets and humans, and can cause nervous system problems and possibly cancer. A better choice is 20 Mule Team Borax—lo-tech but does the trick. Neem oil is another option but stinky, so you won't want to use that one indoors. Drax ant bait, an eco-friendly commercial product made with boric acid, gets consumed and brought back to the colony, gradually reducing your problem.

You can also fill a spray bottle with diluted Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap, white vinegar, or Orange TKO. It won't get ants to move down the block, but will definitely cut back on their visits. Other natural antidotes are a line of ordinary chalk (not the Chinatown variety, which works like a charm but risks human and pet health), petroleum jelly, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  

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