As the weather gets colder and the nights draw in it’s not just you and I who like to spend our days snuggled up inside, a whole host of mini-beasts are also clambering to join us in the warmth. So, as a public service the Brain Bank wants to introduce you to some of these unwanted winter lodgers and provide a few tips for evicting them.
Arachnophobes beware because autumn is prime breeding season for spiders and you are more than likely to see a number of hopeful young males patrolling your home in search of a suitable mate. But, if playing host to arachnid speed dating isn’t scary enough, a number of residents from the town of Macclesfield have reported finding spiders the size of mice joining in the dating game. These giant house spiders thrived during our disappointingly wet summer and are now looking to reproduce. The average size of a giant house spider is three to four inches (measured diagonally from front to back leg) but residents are reporting much larger specimens. With dark hairy bodies, an impressive leg span and a bite akin to a bee sting (although luckily with fangs unable to penetrate human skin) these giant invaders are without doubt unwelcome guests. Experts suggest that the best way to deter spiders from entering your home is to be fastidious about your dusting. Male spiders find a mate by sampling the silk females spiders leave behind, so where there is no female silk there shouldn’t be any expectant males!
To survive the freezing UK winters many insect species alter their biochemistry creating high levels of glycerol which lowers the freezing point of their blood – a bit like having their own internal antifreeze. However, despite these adaptations many will still seek out sheltered accommodation to weather the worst of the winter and can end up entering your home. Thankfully, most of your new winter lodgers will stay hidden away until spring. However, it is not uncommon for warm winter days and central heating to trick your guests into waking up. Insects use cues from their environment to know when to hibernate and when to wake, this can be length of day or temperature and indoor insects can be easily tricked by central heating. This means it’s not uncommon to find the occasional butterfly, moth or ladybird flitting around the house mid winter after being confused by central heating. The majority of wintering insects will remain safely tucked away under your radar. However, if you would rather deter their intrusion the best way is to create physical barriers, sealing up all entry points to your home and ensuring outside plants do not sit too close to your walls. Also be aware that your Christmas tree may be home to a whole array of dormant critters (especially ladybirds) so you may get more than you bargained for when you bring it inside.
Mice and rats:
As the weather gets colder and food sources dwindle mice and rats are more likely to enter our homes in search of sustenance and shelter. These cheeky invaders are happy to make their nests in attics, cellars or under kitchen cabinets emerging at night to nibble on whatever delicacy has been left unprotected. Many also use the warmth and abundant food to continue breeding throughout the winter (Note that a female mouse can have a new litter of 6-8 babies every 3/4 weeks!). The best way to deter these unwanted pests is to secure your home, make sure there are no gaps around doors or in the walls of your house (remember mice and young rats can squeeze themselves through very small spaces). Experts suggest that you plug up existing holes with wire wool – mice and rats can chew through most barriers but are deterred by the texture of this. Also, make sure any food in your kitchen is stored out of reach and in chew proof containers (a loaf of bread in a ground level cupboard is practically an open invitation).
Post by: Sarah Fox
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