11 Pests That Could Be Hiding in Your Attic
These critters didn’t sign a lease and could be living rent-free and wreaking havoc in your attic. Here’s how to spot them and evict them.
What could be cozier than an attic that’s quiet, with plenty of warm insulation for bedding? You’ll know rats have moved in because they’re not discreet about hiding their droppings. You might also notice chewed insulation, cardboard, and wires. Rats don’t need much space to squeeze their way in, so your first order of business is finding and sealing holes in your home. “Start at the base of the foundation and work up. Look for siding that is pulling back, concrete that could have crumbled, outright holes, door and window jams, unsecured exhaust venting on your roof,” says Ben Sciortino, owner of Tri-S Pest Control. Next, use traditional traps to ensure that the remaining rats don’t breed. Chemical options kill rats, but they run off and die in the house and you may not be able to find them. Plus: Don’t believe these rat myths.
“Termites love attics primarily for the smorgasbord of free wood,” says Sciortino. They’re especially attracted to rotting wood, unsealed wood, or old wood. They have a few calling cards—their poo, which looks like tiny piles of sawdust and loose insect wings. Subterranean termites are more common and also create visible mud tubes that they use to transport food. Drywood termites don’t need the soil to survive and are less common. Diatomaceous earth and boric acid are two natural solutions to try, says Sciortino, or you can buy a commercial chemical product. “If none of this works, you’ll likely need a professional who can insert chemicals into the terrain around your home’s foundation.”
Perhaps it’s the fluffy tail or their crazy shenanigans, but squirrels are kind of cute when they’re scampering in the yard. They’re downright annoying in your attic, however. You’ll hear plenty of commotion, says Sciortino, like “rustling in the walls and ceiling—it’s more noticeable than smaller vermin like rats. They also do this chirping bark noise when they’re agitated, nervous, or threatened,” he adds. Once you get the courage to inspect the noise, you may notice nuts, seeds, and other food piles up there. The biggest tell, Sciortino says, is whole sections of fallen or missing insulation. Seal up entry points and use live traps to evict them—or call a pest-control company. While you’re in the attic, see whether any of these valuable items are there.
Stinging insects like wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, and bees love a dry, warm attic for their nest or hive. Their flight pattern to and from your eaves is the most obvious clue. And there’s always the slight humming or buzzing chorus they make. If you do decide to remove the nest or hive yourself, be wary. “Wear thick clothing, like denim, Carhartt jackets, Dickies gear, winter jackets, etc. Make sure no skin is showing or at least minimize it,” advises Sciortino. Duct-tape clothes that expose skin. Get a spray for these types of stingers and use a stream or jet application that provides as much distance as possible between you and the nest. Better yet: Call a pro.
You could get hassled by cluster flies in the autumn when they’re looking for a place to hang out during the winter, or in the spring when they’re attempting to leave your attic. According to Jim Fredericks, PhD, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association, cluster flies get their name from their habit of forming compact clusters, usually in walls and attics.
“One of the craftiest creatures in the wild, raccoons utilize their strength and expert climbing abilities to get into homes and attics. These animals can sneak through poorly screened vents or gaps in eaves, but they have also been known to rip right through roofing materials in order to gain entry,” says Fredericks. Females, especially, covet the dry, warm, and safe haven of an attic to give birth to a litter. Removing raccoons should be left to the pros. Once the raccoons are gone, make the necessary repairs and stop future visits.
Birds see a poorly maintained structure such as a broken wall or roof vent as an invitation to build a nest and start a family. It’s high and dry and free of predators. You might hear chirping or notice birds flying in and out. And when you go up to the attic, you’ll find feathers, droppings, and nests. Even if you’re not bothered by the occasional bird in the attic, you should take notice. According to the Michigan State University College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, the droppings, feathers, and food that birds leave in the attic attract insects like breed flies and carpet beetles. Call pest control and seal up and repair points of entry.
Believe it or not, snakes are adept climbers and, because of their size, can fit into tiny holes. The good news is, the type of snake that heads for an attic isn’t likely to be venomous. The bad news is, it could be a rat snake, which—you guessed it—eats rats and mice. That means you have two types of pest problems in your attic. According to Jim Parkhurst, PhD, an associate professor of fish and wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech, snakes also seek shelter to lay eggs or to shed skin. It’s not a good idea to kill the snake, according to Parkhurst. Call pest control for removal and follow these tips to keep them out for good.
To a bat, your attic is just a warmer and drier cave. The most common attic residents are brown bats, says Fredericks. “They are able to squeeze through openings as small as half an inch, and these flying creatures will take advantage of architectural gaps near the edges of roof lines, crawling further into structures once they’ve entered. Big brown bats prefer to stay in the same place year-round and can create big problems for homeowners if infestations are left unchecked. Brown bats are protected by law in most states, so anyone who suspects an infestation should contact a professional for assistance,” he advises. This is why bats are actually nice to have around…outside, that is.
Mice and rats are commensal animals—that means they share the same “table”: your food and your attic. They like to hide out in the attic, where insulation and cardboard boxes can provide cozy nests. Look for rice-size droppings, nests, or little piles of food. Mice are so tiny, says Sciortino, that they only need about a quarter-inch of space to squeeze their way in. Call the pros or set up snap traps and seal off every nook and cranny you can to prevent more from getting in.
These insects like warm and moist places such as basements and bathrooms, but they won’t turn down a humid attic, especially if you hand-deliver them by moving items from the basement to the attic. “If goods are stored in the attic, silverfish are attracted to (and will eat) starch-based glues, including book bindings and rayon clothing,” says Chelle Hartzer, BCE, technical services manager for Orkin. Inspect any boxes you’re transporting to your attic. Even better, be sure to store items in hard plastic containers. Traps or insecticides can help cut down on the bugs, but you’ll need to call a pro if you have an infestation. Plus: These are the 10 things you should never store in your basement or crawl space.