Today, Orkin released its annual Top 50 Rattiest Cities List. The list is based on the metro areas where Orkin has conducted the most rodent treatments (residential and commercial) from September 15, 2017 through September 15, 2018.

Do you live in one of the rattiest cities in America? Image: Ed Sologa Design Build

The top 10 on the Rattiest Cities list include, in order: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Denver. The next 10 on the Rattiest Cities list include Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Hartford, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.

Spots 21-30: Milwaukee, Charlotte, Houston, Portland, Columbus OH, San Diego, Raleigh-Durham, Buffalo, New Orleans, and Norfolk. Spots 31-40: Richmond, Albany, Kansas City, Portland, Nashville, St. Louis, Sacramento, Greenville, Grand Rapids, and Phoenix.

Rounding out the top 50 of the Rattiest Cities: Orlando, Tampa, Burlington NY, Champaign, Rochester NY, Syracuse, Charleston WV, Dayton, Memphis, and Flint.

Here’s what you need to know about rats and other pests – including ways to keep them from setting up shop in your home.

Mi casa es su casa?

Pests like warmth as much as you do. Image: The PRG Group

When temperatures drop, most people try to escape the cold by spending more time in the house. However, insects and critters are also seeking warmth and shelter wherever they can find it. “These unwanted visitors primarily include rodents, cockroaches, spiders, and ants,” according to Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

But aren’t they equipped stay outside regardless of the season?  Nope. “Rodents like to come inside because they aren’t well adapted to survive the cold coming with fall and winter,” says Glen Ramsey, BCE, Technical Services Manager at Orkin. “Depending on what part of the country you are in, there are a variety of other pests that want to come inside – for example, ladybugs, boxelder bugs and stink bugs – and will look for small holes or gaps to protect themselves from rain, snow, or cold weather,” Ramsey explains.

Understand pest dangers

Mice can damage your electrical wires and start a fire. Image: Richard Hughes/Element 5 Architecture

Some pests are just a nuisance, but others can cause serious problems. For example, Dr. Fredericks says that rodents such as roof rats and house mice can damage your drywall and electrical wires – and the latter can lead to house fires! “They also transmit pathogens like salmonella and other diseases.”

Also, he says that cockroaches carry bacteria and can contaminate your food. “In addition, rodents and cockroaches can both trigger allergy and asthma symptoms, and spiders and ants – which can be difficult to eradicate once they settle in, can threaten humans if disturbed,” Dr. Fredericks warns.

So how can you keep them out of your home?

Eliminate food sources

Airtight containers keep pests out. Image: AMC Design

In addition to shelter, Dr. Fredericks says these invaders are also looking for food and water.  “Eliminate potential food sources for pests by keeping kitchen counters clean, disposing of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles and storing food in airtight containers,” he advises. Dr. Fredericks also warns against leaving your pet’s food dishes outside for extended periods of time.  “In addition, keep basements and attics well ventilated and dry to prevent moisture buildup,” he says.

Remove clutter and debris

Try to keep your belongings off the floor. Image: Garage Guru

Robert Taylor is the owner of The Real Estate Solutions Guy in Sacramento, CA. The company specializes in remodeling run-down homes, and Taylor says they see a lot of home and estates that have problems with mice and other rodents. “One cause of this an abundance of clutter lying around the house and against the house where rodents can hide – and this can be clutter in the garage, in rooms in the house or even outside against the house,” Taylor explains.

“Animals need a safe place to hide from predators, whether this be your household pets or other animals,” Taylor says. He adds that clutter creates a place to hide and a place to nest, and recommends removing clutter to help remove rodent problems.

Gretchen White, M.S., Animal Nuisance Biologist at Scotts Miracle-Gro has a few additional tips. “Store materials off the floors on shelves, wherever possible, in rodent-proof containers,” White says. “Use rodent-proof storage bins and prevent access to paper and fabric that could be used as nesting material.”

Don’t lend a helping hand

Don’t store firewood next to your house. Image: Dean Herald-Rolling Stone Landscapes

You should keep the exterior walls of your home clean for aesthetic reasons. But according to Taylor, this will also reduce the probability of subterranean termites finding a way into your home. “And, if you live in an area that uses firewood, be sure not to keep the firewood stacked against your house,” Taylor advises.

Sydney Crawley, Ph.D., Public Health Entomologist, Scotts Miracle-Gro, agrees. “ If you must stack firewood, keep stacks elevated and store more than 20 feet away from the home — Do not stack firewood directly against your home’s exterior,” Crawley warns.

Also, if you have a compost site/yard waste, she recommends monitoring it regularly to prevent insect breeding.

Tame the landscape

Keep trees and bushes from touching your house. Image: Minnetonka Custom Homes

Another way you can avoid lending a helping hand to pests is by maintaining your landscape. “Trees should be pruned back at least five feet from the roof to prevent access to your house from rodents,” Taylor advises. “Ivy and other vine type plants also need to be trimmed back so that they don’t create a pathway to your roof or the vents in your eaves” he says.

In fact, Ramsey says there should be a 12-18 inch buffer around the home so stop pests from entering your home through surrounding plants. “Look around your home for pest-attractive plants; ladybugs feed on other insects that drink plant juices; boxelder bugs and stink bugs feed on the plants themselves,” Ramsey explains.

Seal any holes

Check for gaps around pipes. Image: Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove

Homeowners use air vents so the house can breathe. However, if they contain holes, Taylor recommends replacing them. “Even the smallest of holes can allow a mouse or other rodent access into your home.” He also recommends looking for openings inside the house. “Look behind your stove where the electrical or gas may come out of the wall, look underneath your sinks where the plumbing comes out of the wall.” If there is an excessive amount of space where the pipes enter the wall, he says this will allow rodents to enter your home. “Mice may find a way into your walls, but that doesn’t mean you need to let them find a way into your house through these gaps,” Taylor says. “Have the gaps sealed tight with metal flanges that you can buy from your local hardware store, or sealed off properly by a skilled handyman.”

Dr. Fredericks says you can also seal exterior cracks and crevices with caulk and steel wool. “Install door sweeps and repair damaged screens, as torn window screens and cracks under doors are ideal entry points for pests.” He also says that it’s possible for you to bring pests in the house yourself. “Inspect items like boxed deliveries and grocery bags before bringing them inside,” Dr. Fredericks says.

Remove offenders

As a last resort, set traps to catch pests. Image: Euroline Steel Windows

Despite your best efforts, especially if you live in one of Orkin’s Rattiest Cities, it’s possible that pests may find a way into your home. “Some areas are just more prone to repeated rodent problems, like those close to wooded areas or located in urban centers,”  White explains. “To help control rodents around the outside perimeter of your home, place bait stations approved for outdoor use, like the Tomcat Rat & Mouse Killer Child & Dog Resistant, Disposable Station or Tomcat Mouse Killer Child & Dog Resistant, Disposable Station, in areas where rodents may try to enter your home, such as doors, vents, under siding or around pipes.” Do you live in a city on Orkin’s Rattiest Cities list? What tips do you have for keeping your home pest free?