Expert Contributor - Scott Dideon

Chevy Chase Christmas VacationI love Christmas and Thanksgiving! Each year our family can’t wait to get the decorations out of the  garage and assemble the Christmas trees (we have many plastic trees). One of our favorite holiday  movies is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation …. and in the movie, there is a scene where Chevy  Chase has an encounter with a squirrel that was hiding in their freshly cut Christmas tree. From my  experience, having wildlife running around inside a home is never a good thing and it usually ends  up as chaotic as it did in that movie. Almost always, someone gets hurt, and usually it isn’t the  squirrel.

When I was single, I had a similar, but much less dramatic, experience when my roommates and I bought a freshly cut  Christmas tree and placed it in our living room. A few days later one of my roommates discovered about 30 baby  Praying Mantises that had hatched from inside the Christmas tree. Over the next week I tried desperately to keep the  insects alive by feeding them crickets, fruit flies or anything that I could find. Sadly, I discovered that they actually  preferred to eat each other rather than other insects. Eventually the last one died a few days before Christmas.

So, if you want to avoid any crazy holiday missteps, below are a few things that you can do to help protect your home  over the next few weeks:

  1. Live Christmas Trees? – Keep an Eye on Them. Insects will use the trees as a place to hibernate when it gets  cold. As the trees warm up inside the home, they will wake up early thinking that it is spring. Squirrels don’t  hibernate! So, if one is hiding in your tree, he will let you know right away! Let your tree warm-up inside your  garage a few days before bringing it inside.
  2. Be Sure the Garage Door is Closed. This is the time of year when it gets colder and rats and mice are frantically  trying to find a way inside a home. When I was in college, another roommate and I had a rat navigate his way  into our basement and for a week it was sleeping unnoticed in the closet next to my bed. It was my roommate  that finally pointed out that my Top Ramen was disappearing, and he wasn’t the one eating it. After a couple of  days of living in denial (I was in grad-school, working long hours), we ended up catching him. Funny thing is, I  was supposed to be the Pest Control Expert! Rodents love to nest. Help avoid giving them an opportunity. 
  3. Cut Back Any Trees and Bushes. You hear this a lot from us, because Roof Rats and Deer Mice will climb the  vegetation onto the roof and then nest in the attic. Even if you are tempted to ignore the vegetation because of  the cold, it only takes one lone branch for them to access your attic and the rest of your home.
  4. Throw Out the Halloween & Thanksgiving Pumpkins! No really, many of our clients still have them out on their  front porches. It made sense to leave them out during Thanksgiving, but now that the pumpkin has collapsed to  half of its size it is prime food for a desperate rodent hiding in the bushes. You would be surprised how often we  find partially eaten vegetables and apples around the outside of homes. This is a good time to go through your  garden and throw away anything that is still there that could be a food source. This is a gourmet dinner for a  Roof rat.
  5. Dog Manure. Yep, we have a dog and a teenage daughter that is supposed to be picking up after it. And now  that it is darker earlier and colder, we are losing the battle of the backyard even more. As crazy as it is, dog food  is so nutritious that the backyard minefield can easily become a haven for rats once they’ve gotten tired of  eating all of our rotting apples and vegetables. The best thing is a daily pick-up if you have dogs.

We wish you and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! We hope that you stay safe and warm without any unwanted  (furry or non-furry) visitors during this time of year!

* As a side note, I am still heartbroken 30 years later that none of my Praying Mantises survived that Christmas! If you  discover a Praying Mantis egg case in your tree, please call me right away! ~Scott