winter season

Even in Winter

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By Lina Younes

Recently, my youngest daughter went to Great Falls Park, VA with her fifth grade science class. Since the weather forecast called for a cold day, the teacher recommended that the children bundle up in several layers of clothing to fully enjoy their time outdoors. As part of the field trip preparations, the teacher also warned the children about the possibility of ticks in the park. She suggested using insect repellents safely.

Personally, I was puzzled. I didn’t think that ticks and other insects could survive cold temperatures. I always associated bugs like ticks and mosquitoes with the summer months. Outdoor bugs and winter didn’t make sense to me. I asked the experts in our Office of Pesticide Programs for the facts and was even more surprised with the results. Thus, I decided to share the information with you.

How cold does it have to be in order not to risk get bitten by mosquitoes and ticks when you go outside? The answer: Below 4 degrees Celsius (about 39 degrees Fahrenheit) for mosquitoes.

And, how about ticks? “For ticks—they can bite year round. It is less likely below freezing temperatures due to lack of movement, but they can attach if you come in contact with them.”

In my case, I confess, that I will be more vigilant when I hear about outbreaks of tick and mosquito-borne diseases such as lyme disease, West Nile Virus,  and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, when I go outdoors. And, when traveling to subtropical and tropical areas, such as U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and Guam) we need to be careful with mosquito transmitted diseases, such as dengue fever, too.

Furthermore, do you have pets? Do you take your dog for a walk outside? Make sure your pet doesn’t bring any ticks home with him even during winter. Ask the veterinarian for tick control products that will help prevent ticks from attaching to your pet so everyone can stay healthy.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Winter Tips: An Uninviting Home

By Lina Younes

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As the winter season is about to begin, many of us wish to create a warm and welcoming home environment for our family and friends. However, there are some little creatures we don’t want to roll out the welcome mat for, however they are attempting to seek refuge in our houses at this very moment.  What creatures am I referring to? The unwanted ones! Common household pests like rodents, creepy crawling bugs and the like.

So how can we prevent these pests from settling in your home? What can you do to prevent an infestation?

  • Tip number one: Set up barriers so pests cannot get into your house or apartment.

As temperatures start to drop, pests are looking for warm places to survive the cold months. Close off places where they can enter and hide. Seal around the doors and install door sweeps to prevent them from coming in through the bottom of the door. Caulk cracks and crevices around cabinets or baseboards. Use steel wool to fill spaces around pipes. Cover any holes with wire mesh.

  • Tip number two: Remove clutter such as stacks of paper, newspapers, magazines and boxes.

Clutter is a very appealing refuge for unwanted pests. Cluttered items create a warm setting where these pests can camp out and multiply during the cold winter months.

  • Tip number three: Don’t give these pests any food or water.

While I highly doubt that we purposely want to serve these unwanted creatures a meal at our table, we might not be aware that the crumbs, spills, or dirty dishes that we leave overnight in the kitchen sink serve basically as pest magnets while we are in deep slumber!

  • Tip number four: Fix leaky plumbing. Don’t let water accumulate anywhere in your home.

Water from leaky plumbing, plant trays, and even pet dishes attracts pests like rodents, cockroaches and other bugs. Moisture coming from leaks can also produce mold which causes a whole different set of health issues.

Hope these simple tips help you to create an unwelcoming setting for pests. Frankly, if they find a more welcoming environment, they simply will go elsewhere for the winter or any time of year.

If in spite of all your best efforts, you still have a bug problem? Use pesticide products wisely and always, read the label first!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.