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Top 5 cottage pests

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Ah, the cottage wouldn’t be the cottage without a few small hiccups—a septic snafu or a dock debacle just makes life away from home a little more interesting, and provides a wealth of stories to tell once you’re back to civilization.

One-off mini-disasters are one thing—chronic annoyances are quite another. And one of the enduring irritations of cottage living is creepy, crawly, scampering pests inside and out.

Here’s how to prevent—and deal with—the top five cottage country pests.

Spiders

Spiders, on the whole, are more helpful than harmful—they consume large amounts of mosquitoes and other nuisance insects, and provide valuable food for birds. However, according to Ross Proudfoot of Cottage Country Pest Control close to Midland, Ontario, poisonous species like black widows and brown recluse spiders are becoming more common, especially in the area around Penetanguishene, on Georgian Bay. Make sure you familiarize yourself with what these spiders look like, and get professional help to deal with them if you find them.

Wasps and hornets

Ouch! A sudden wasp or hornet sting can put a definite damper on your day—and if you have the misfortune to find yourself in the middle of a swarm, those painful stings can become dangerous. Unlike bees, who die after stinging once, wasps and hornets can sting multiple times. If you see an exposed wasp’s nest close to your house, you can use an insecticide to spray the nest in the evening, or, if it’s small, seal the nest in a heavy plastic bag and freeze it. Wasp’s nests in the ground can be treated with a soap and water solution, or with an insecticide cleared for lawn and soil use. If there are too many wasps to handle safely, call a professional.

Ants

Run-of-the-mill household ants are a nuisance indoors, and can be controlled by sweeping your floors religiously, not leaving food out, and laying a barrier of boric acid or diatomaceous earth along ant paths and at entrances. Proudfoot points out that carpenter ants are the real menaces of the ant world. “We’ve seen several cases of carpenter ant infestations where they were so bad that you could hear them chewing and moving in the walls and ceilings,” he says. “Infested log cabins are especially problematic, because once a colony takes up residence in the logs, it doesn’t take long for them to totally destroy them.”

Although you can help control carpenter ants by keeping wood piles away from your exterior walls and eliminating moisture problems, an infestation is likely to need professional intervention to prevent it from getting out of hand.

Mice and other rodents

Is there anything worse than sitting around the table playing cards, and seeing the flash of a mouse run across your baseboard? Mice, along with other rodents like chipmunks and squirrels, can be both startling and destructive as they snuggle down in your attic, cellar, or walls—and it’s easier to prevent their moving in than it is to get rid of them once they’re there. Eliminate bird feeders, move wood piles away from your cottage, and plug any hole in your exterior walls or roof bigger than 6 mm. Keeping your floor clean is a good idea too.

Once mice are in, simple spring traps will work well as long as you’re in the cottage to reset them (and dispose of what gets caught). Otherwise, an anti-coagulant poison like warfarin can help get rid of your mouse problem. And if you’re worried about racoons, Proudfoot says proper storage can discourage pregnant mothers from making a nest out of your boat.

Bats

Bats inspire panic in even the most sanguine cottagers. Although the animals themselves are generally harmless, there is a risk of them carrying rabies, and their messy droppings can cause respiratory disease. You can prevent bats from getting into your attic by providing bat houses on tall poles with a sunny exposure, and making sure any entry holes are sealed. If you have bats, don’t seal the entry hole until you close the cottage for the fall—otherwise, you risk trapping the bats in the attic and driving them into your living areas.

If you decide to call a professional to deal with your pests, take Proudfoot’s advice. “Less is generally more when waiting for professional help,” he explains. “Problems are easier to identify and treat if things like droppings are not cleaned up prior to our arrival.”