Preventing Pest Problems After Hurricane Sandy
By Chris Williams on October 31, 2012.
Many of you are facing some level of cleanup from Hurricane Sandy, ranging from cleaning up fallen branches and emptying out the wheelbarrow, to perhaps major structural repairs. There’s another aspect to storm cleanup that people may not consider at the time and that is the potential influx of pests such as rodents, snakes, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. You may find yourself sharing your previously pest-free home with a number of new guests unless you take precautions.
Post-storm pest problems are a result of displaced pests looking for new sites, or changed conditions that provide new breeding areas for pests. Just like people, animals are displaced during major storms, generally when they are flooded out of their homes or burrows. In flooded large cities like New York City, rats are going to become a much more visible concern. The rats were already there, of course, but now they have been flooded out of the sewer system, subway system, and their other underground hidey-holes. The same can be true for cockroaches, particularly the large American cockroaches that occupy similar sites.
You may think that a major storm like Sandy would kill a lot of rats, but rats are incredibly good swimmers. They can tread water for a long time and they can climb. They are going to successfully move into new locations. This particularly worries health officials as rats can be carrying a number of infectious diseases with them.
Snakes and other larger burrowing animals like raccoons and skunks may have also lost homes and are going to be on the move. Stay away from any wandering animals since rabies is always a consideration.
Heavy rains from Hurricane Sandy are going to leave standing water in new locations for many days to come. Until we have a hard freeze, that water can provide egg-laying sites for mosquitoes. Many parts of the Northeast were already dealing with a record West Nile Virus outbreak from infected mosquitoes before Sandy hit.
So, what can you do to prevent new pest problems as you clean up?
- Look for standing water in new places in your yard. Empty anything holding water such as buckets, wheelbarrows, wading pools, tires, boats, and tarps. Try to drain or fill puddles that have appeared.
- If you’ve used tarps to cover damage, or to protect items around your yard, drain them and check them frequently for puddles of water. The standing water doesn’t have to be deep to breed mosquitoes.
- Clean up spilled garbage cans and torn garbage bags as soon as possible to prevent hungry rodents, raccoons, and other animals from scavenging in your yard.
- As you make repairs to your home or outbuildings, keep pest-proofing in mind. Take special care to caulk, seal, and screen any openings that pests could use to get inside.
- Even if you’re not repairing damage, check around your home to make sure that your doors (especially the garage door) have tight thresholds that will keep pests out, and that vents (including chimney and roof vents) still have screens in place.
- Look for rat burrows and other evidence of rodents around the perimeter of your home and yard.
- If you’re storing or piling wood from downed branches and cut-up trees, keep it as far from the house as possible since it can attract termites, rodents, and snakes.