Comprehensive Pest Control Needed

We are at our wits end. We have spoken with the county Ventor control which actually does nothing and just offers suggestions on sealing up the house. We have problems with rodents, skunks, possums, wasps/yellow jackets, disgusting big swarms of biting gnats (they bite like mosquitoes), spiders, every cat in the hood seems to come and poop in our yard, disrespectful dog walkers whose dogs poop and pee on our grass, carpenter bees that bore holes on our house, and the list keeps going. We hired Attic Solutions that sealed up the house but keeps missing holes. They have had to come back 4 times to seal up additional holes. We hired a Pest Control company that has placed baits outside the house for mice and rat control. But, they won’t do much about flying pests. When I mentioned about larger pests, they had no advice or recommendations. 

I work full time during the week and spend a lot of time during my precious weekend cleaning up animal poop and pee, spraying bleach solutions and cleaning the rat droppings off the patio and inspecting the perimeter before I let the kids out and play. What is the point of paying the astronomical mortgage for a house with a yard if we can’t enjoy it? I am angry that my kids are cooped up until I give them green light. I feel defeated. We bought a house with the idea that kids could just go out and play whenever they wanted and we would get a break.  Some may say I should relax a little bit but no! Animal fecal matters are toxic. I know I am not supposed to touch it, especially cat poop, since I am pregnant. But, my spouse is disabled. I am the only able body in our household for this job. No family nearby. As my pregnancy advances, it is going to be harder for me to bend down and do this kind of weekly cleaning. I have to wear a mask when I do it, it’s already getting hard to breath. 

I can’t use water sprinkler or chicken wire to deter cats because I have little kids and the water will make every person who comes near wet as well. I sprinkle repellents and it works as long as I do it constantly. But, if I get sick or busy and skip a few weeks, it’s back to square one. I have used every remedy known to humanity -peppermint, lemon, coffee grounds, etc. 

I am overwhelmed by ultrasonic repellent options and don’t know which one to buy. We can’t use solar ones because we don’t get enough sun where we would need to place them. 

I am wondering if there is a pest company that will help take care of rodents, gnats and wasps or whether I need to hire specialists for each type of pest. 

if a pest company makes recommendations, do I then hire a handyman/woman? It’s never clear to me when you hire a handy person and when you hire licensed specialists... Do pest companies also help trim plants/trees that are too close to the house?

Vector control recommends we get rid of a pile of firewood that were left by the previous residents. They are heavy, tucked under and hard to get to. Any idea who we can hire to crawl under and remove them?  

Our neighbors already help out a lot knowing our situation. I Don’t want to ask them constantly for incessant house maintenance needs and definitely will not ask friends and neighbors to help pick up poop!

Do we throw in the towel and move to a condo or townhouse?

Thank you. 

Parent Replies

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I actually think moving to a different location, though extreme, might be the best option for you, given your challenges and your anxiety. 

I live in Upper Rockridge, an area close to open spaces, with lots of vegetation and trees, and lots and LOTS of animals. We regularly have skunks, cats, rats, mice, turkeys, foxes, squirrels, raccoons and opossums on our property. Plus our dog and many neighbor kids. If I think about it, there is probably a ton of animal feces around. I just rarely think about it. My children are now in their teens and are super healthy. These animals are an almost total non-issue. We eat outdoors all summer, and I am quite sure that many animals have run across our tables and chairs gathering crumbs. I don't spend much time washing anything outdoors.

Once, we had a rat problem in our basement and we did take some measures to get rid of those - including getting rid of a fruit tree, cutting back trees next to the house, and eliminating ivy. I would definitely get rid of the wood pile - just post on TaskRabbit and you'll find someone in a few minutes. 

All that said, NOTHING will get rid of these creatures from your garden!!! Nothing at all. If you live in an area surrounded by nature, they are part of nature. You will always have bugs. If you genuinely have a problem a pest company can help with INDOORS a bit. They can't do much to the exterior. All the larger "pests" you mention are just part of life. I can tell from your letter that you are not going to be open to the idea that animals including feces are actually building your children's immune systems, but this is a medical fact .... 

Good luck.

I'm sorry you are having to spend so much time on this. It sounds completely overwhelming. You have so much on your plate already - your pregnancy, kids, work, and disabled husband. To me it really sounds like more of a fear than a pest problem, though. You can fence your yard to keep out neighbors' pets, and stay away from poop while you're pregnant, but there is no way to live with grass, trees, flowers, etc. without also living with the animals & insects that live in grass, trees, and flowers. You might be able to drive them out temporarily with poison or whatnot, but they will come back because they are part of the ecosystem we live in. 

I think your choices are: 1) Move to a home that has minimal contact with the plant world, such as a condo that requires an elevator ride to reach. Great if they also don't allow pets. Or 2) Get control of your anxiety. It's not good for you or your family or your baby-to-be for you to be in a constant state of anxiety.  A lot of people have successfully used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to conquer fears like this. Maybe this would be an option for you.

I sympathize because my husband is so fearful of water leaking into our house that he wakes up in the middle of the night in a panic if it starts raining,  runs up to the attic with a flashlight to look for leaks, and goes outside in his pajamas in the pouring rain to check all the door and windows. It's all based on an irrational fear that goes back to his childhood when his family couldn't afford to get the roof fixed.  I'm working on him to try CBT!

            Rats and mice mostly become an issue when they have easy access to food.  If they eat, they breed, and no amount of rat-proofing will prevent them from digging a burrow someplace and having litters.  Bird feeders, dog food left outside (including during the day), fallen fruit, poorly-managed compost heaps, etc., in your yard and your neighbors' may be the source of the problem.  Food will also attract raccoons, skunks, opossums, etc.  If you discover that one of your neighbors is creating your problem, you may need to call the county or city pest-abatement folks to enforce your neighbor's responsibilities.

            Rodent bait is a bad option.  The rodents die in slow agony, and rodent predators (cats, dogs, hawks, etc.) who eat the sick, easily-caught rodents will also sicken and possibly die, ultimately worsening the rodent problem.  Traps are OK if you set a lot of them, using gloves to prevent that human smell, and vary the bait.  I've used snap traps, and some folks swear by electronic ones.  Keep the kids away from snap traps for rats, as the snap is very forceful.  You won't catch a large number, but the rest will get the message, for awhile.  Ultrasonic repellents aren't supposed to be very effective.

            Clearing out brush, trash, that log pile, etc. will help a lot with rodents and potentially with bugs.  Maybe one of your neighbors can use the firewood.  If you simply pile it in front of your house with a "free" sign on it, somebody will take it.

            A fence may help with the dog-poop problem.  If you think only one or two dog owners are at fault, consider getting a camera (lots available on-line), and posting a labeled photo of the miscreant in front of your house -- I've seen this done; shame works.

            As for the biting gnats, try to catch some, get them identified, and determine if you can eliminate their breeding sites.  Dump out any container (plant saucers, drain pipes, etc.) with standing water and ask your neighbors to do so as well.  Even a bottle cap full of water can support mosquito larvae.  Make sure there aren't any dripping outdoor faucets as well.  If you don't have window screens, get some.

            Some "pests" should perhaps be tolerated.  Spiders are part of nature's insect control system.  Around here the only seriously poisonous spider is the black widow, and they rarely bite people.  Other spiders in the house are messy, but can be removed with a broom or caught in a jar; their bites are both uncommon and hardly worse than a mosquito bite.  We have always had several paper-wasp nests under the eaves of the house and in over 30 years here, I've been stung only once.  Wasps eat other insects, and if they aren't stinging you, they are helping you.  Opossums, skunks, and raccoons are part of our local wildlife, and prey on pests like mice and rats.  You can discourage them as well as cats from hanging around with a motion-activated sprinkler (lots available online, and they work).  Just turn the sprinkler off during the day to keep kids and guests dry -- the critters are mostly nocturnal anyway.

            Finally, consider your relationship with nature.  A yard provides habitat, and a big yard near farmland or open space provides even more habitat.  If bugs, rodents, and 'possums simply creep you out, you may be happier in a condo that has a park area where your kids can play.

Be careful cleaning up the rat poop.  We recently had an acquittance, 30 years old, die from cleaning rat poop at a church clean-up day (Hantavirus)  It's rare, but ware a mask as it is airborne.  Any idea why you have so many rats?  In one year a pair of rats can have over 1,000 off-spring. We live by a creek and have issues with rats as well.  I'm constantly catching rats in one of the many rat traps I have set.  Use peanut butter on a dried curst of bread.  They are very destructive and will chew through electrical wires.  Any opening the size of a quarter they can get through.  And look for rats nesting in the trees.  Every year I find 3 - 5 nests in the trees.  The ultrasonic repellents don't work, save your money.

I don't think you need a pest compnay.  Sounds to me like you need to rid your property of the food and nesting sources.  Start by getting rid of the firewood.  It's the perfect home for rats and many of the other critters you listed.  Is there rotting wood?  Or rotting plant material for the gnats.  Are there wet areas on your proerty?  Cover with wood chips.  But wood chips will bring Argentine ants.

If this sounds like too much work then you will either have to live with it or it's time to move.

Hope this helps. 

Knowing something about the ecosystem here will be helpful. Possums are actually very clean, and eat insects (including cockroaches), carrion, rats, and mice so they are helpful to humans, so you don’t want to trap them. Rat Trappers (925-565-0921—they guarantee their work for a year but are not cheap) can come and set traps for your rats, plug holes where they are getting into your house, and identify areas that attract them (like rotting woodpiles).

But unless you are willing to COMPLETELY fence in your yard, pave some of it over and / or put down sod, you will have visiting wildlife. And yes, deer droppings are dangerous (ticks on deer carry Lyme disease), and rat droppings are definitely a problem for many reasons. It is hard to fight Urban Wildlife: a group of UK biologists studied this area because of the proliferation of wildlife that has managed to take hold here. My best suggestion: relinquish the idea of a safe yard, and take the kids to the park!

The other commenters have good suggestions. I think your house does seem to have a lot of pests, but I also agree that maybe you can do something to dial down on your anxiety. Of your list, skunks, insects, spiders, and cats sound like typical creatures in nature, and the only thing I'd worry about are the rats. Pay someone (a handyman) to remove that big pile of wood, and do it now. You say the wood is "under something" you mean a deck? An old, rotted out deck can be the reason for your nature infestation. Water pools inside, insects breed there, rats live there, and the cats visit because they are checking out your rats. Rip the deck out. It's better to have no deck than to spend your days worrying about it. Install a new deck when you feel better (or after the baby comes!), after the rain has stopped. Hire a gardener to give your yard a massive haircut--cut back bushes, raise the bottom of the bushes off the ground so nothing is nesting under, cut back branches from your roof, mow the lawn. Don't feel bad for your anxiety. I have a pest anxiety too and it is a horrible feeling. Just try to separate what is a real problem and what isn't, and don't spend so much time worrying about things that are normal, but use your energy to attack things you should and can fix. Good luck!

You might want to add a cat-proof top to your fence. The spinning pipes seem pretty effective:

So many different traps are now available. Maybe try some:

Carpenter bees prefer unpainted wood:

It is really useful to learn about the pests you are worried about. Lots of good info here: