Home and pest-free for the holidays


November 17, 2023

Photo: alptraum/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Cardboard and insect populations, undisturbed for months? To rodents, it’s like Christmas. Photo: alptraum/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

This is the time of year when your clients start unpacking those old cardboard boxes full of seasonal decorations.

To your clients, these boxes may contain cherished decorations such as natural wreaths, dried flower arrangements, and other preserved decor that honor family traditions or hold important holiday meanings. But to many pests, these boxes hold a lifetime supply of food and shelter. And, for the past 11 months or so, these aging boxes have been sitting undisturbed in the attic, closet, or garage creating the perfect environment for rodents and insects to multiply.

The holiday season is a common time for surprise infestations to pop up in even the most well-maintained structures as old boxes and other storage containers are unpacked after sitting untouched for months. Many seasonal decorations contain dried flowers, corn, feathers or other preserved goods that are the perfect food source for various arthropods including beetles, mites and moths.

Dr. Michael Bentley, BCE

Dr. Michael Bentley, BCE

These items also can serve as a nesting site for rodents, and even the boxes themselves can provide nutrition to hungry pests looking for an easy meal. Once the boxes are unpacked, these unwanted holiday guests can easily relocate to pantries or other undisturbed locations where they can start to multiply.

To help your clients avoid any unexpected encounters, and to save yourself from the inevitable callbacks that are sure to follow, encourage your customers to thoroughly inspect the contents of each box outside before bringing them indoors. If items are infested, you can provide treatment recommendations within your scope of service.

Or, if items don’t hold sentimental value, suggest they be discarded. Lastly, encourage your clients to ditch any cardboard boxes for plastic, sealable containers with tight-fitting lids to protect their decorations and avoid future pest issues for years to come.

About the Author

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Dr. Bentley is director of training and education for the National Pest Management Association. You can reach him at mbentley@pestworld.org.

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