In my experience, there is no season fuller of surprises than the holidays. From unexpected visits from relatives to getting that one present my mom swore she wouldn’t buy, there was always something surprising to make each year’s holiday season memorable. Fortunately, I’ve never had the surprise of opening a box of decorations to find a family of cockroaches having their own holiday celebration, but many people experience a similar situation every year. The dark, undisturbed areas in our attics, garages, and basements where decorations are usually stored are also the perfect winter habitat for many pests. Roaches, ants, centipedes, spiders, silverfish, and mice are just a few of the pests that find warmth, shelter, food, and space to breed in your home’s storage spaces. Make sure you watch out for these potential hideouts while you prepare your house this year!
If you are bringing a live tree or other natural plant decorations into your house, make sure to shake them out beforehand. Many different types of insects including aphids and beetles nest in Christmas trees and other holiday greenery, and while a good shaking might not get rid of all of them, it’s certainly better than not doing anything at all. Eggs laid in or on live plants usually hatch when they sense spring, and the temperature difference between your home and the outside can be enough to trigger hatching. Regularly check on any plants you’ve brought inside to catch problems early on!
For those who reuse an artificial tree/wreath/garland, vacuum the branches either before you assemble it or before you hang up your ornaments. Once it’s time for them to go back into storage, make sure to use a sealed plastic bag or storage container to prevent against pests, water damage, and humidity.
2. Boxed Decorations
The first step is to inspect boxes where they are being stored and look for any signs of a pest infestation. The last thing you want to do is take a box full of ants from your basement and plop it down in the middle of your living room! Things to look out for include spider webs, droppings, dead insects, and gnaw marks. Always use plastic bins that can be sealed rather than cardboard, as cardboard provides an ideal habitat for a variety of pests, especially cockroaches and silverfish.
3. Fabric Decorations
For fabric decorations like stockings, a cycle through the washing machine and dryer can help stop the spread of live pests. Storing them in plastic is also beneficial to prevent damage by moths and other fabric pests. To be extra careful, you can also wash and dry them before putting them back into storage, as any amount of germs or bacteria is more attractive to pests than none. This is especially important for table cloths, as even the smallest crumb can attract mice and ants.
4. Plastic, Metal, and Other Hard Decorations
Give any hard-surfaced decorations a cleaning using alcohol wipes or soap and water. Similar to the fabric decorations, a cleaning before going back into storage can also be beneficial.
Inspect your lights for things like spider webs and frayed wires before removing them from storage. For exterior lights, also inspect before putting them back into storage so you know if damage occurred outside of your home. If you put them away with no frayed wiring and the next year you notice damage while taking them out, it likely means that mice are present where you are storing your lights!
Perhaps the most important step you can take to prevent pests during the holidays comes at the end of each season, when it's time to take down the tree and pack up the decorations. Store holiday decorations in hard, plastic bins with tightly sealed lids instead of cardboard boxes or bags that can easily be chewed through. Do not pile discarded live trees or cut firewood near your home, as this can attract mice, termites and other pests.
If any of your holiday decorations have signs of a pest infestation, or if you have any questions about identifying a potential pest infestation, please don’t hesitate to call us at 262-797-4160 or contact us online. We wish you all the happiest of holidays, and hope that they are full of surprises that don’t involve pests!