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Your home is always under attack—but not by thieves and home invaders. It’s under attack by a constant parade of insects, rodents, and vermin as they search for warmth, food, and water. But you can keep them outside with some basic maintenance and cleanup. Here’s how to keep destructive pests out of your home.

Keep It Clean

Half the battle of keeping pests out involves basic cleaning. When pests can’t feed, breed, or access your home, it’s harder for them to infiltrate it. Keep your yard in order. Sweep up waste on the patio and porch, especially food. Don’t simply cover trash, dispose of it. Clean up piles of leaves and grass cuttings—if left out, they encourage the development of mosquitos. Likewise, get rid of standing water or water trapped in containers. Finally, keep tree branches trimmed and far from your roof—otherwise squirrels, raccoons, and other critters can crawl up there and search for entry points into your attic.

Batten Down the Hatches

Your doors may be locked, and your windows shut, but that doesn’t mean there are other, almost invisible entrances for pests. Chest the caulking around your windows and doors and replace it if it’s worn away. Take a walk around the house and look for holes, cracks, and other spaces around pipes and wires entering your home where creatures can sneak in. Seal these potential entry points with epoxy or other materials. Look at your window wells (those shallow holes in front of your basement windows). If they’re not covered, cover them, and make sure those window frames are sealed as well. Look up at your home’s eaves in search of breaks, which make excellent entry points for rodents.

Welcome Predators

That may sound ominous, but it’s not. Encourage bug-eating birds to hang out around your home by putting out fresh water and birdseed. Plant trees and bushes that allow them to nest nearby. Look into growing a garden out back that attracts insect-eating bugs such as ladybugs, assassin bugs, dragonflies, damselflies, and beetles. Many kinds of useful plants attract these helper bugs to your backyard, so reach them and start planting! As for rodents, you could enlist the help of any feral cat programs in your community. Neutered cats (not house cats) can be put up in your backyard to keep down the rodent population.

Check Inside Too

Here’s one more tip on how to keep destructive pests out of your home: do what you did outside to the inside as well. Check your drains in the basement, sinks, and other water sources to ensure they’re not backing up and providing breeding grounds (or rather breeding water) for invasive insects. Throw away trash and don’t let food crumbs and other waste collect on any of the floors. Finally, call a pest control expert to come and evaluate your home. They may have a few suggestions as well!

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.