By Katrina Creer
Not everyone hates a wet summer – particularly if you have six or eight legs.
Entomologists are warning homeowners - including those looking to sell - to keep an eye out for creepy crawlies with La Niña bringing perfect breeding conditions for insects and spiders over the coming months.
These unwelcome guests can wreak havoc at open inspections and even cost a sale, particularly between November and April when activity peaks.
Dr Matthew Bulbert, a senior lecturer in Biological Sciences at Macquarie University said potentially wetter conditions will promote the movement of insects and animals this summer.
“It is the normal lifestyle of animals – it is just that we haven’t had much rain, particularly last summer so it may seem like an increasing number,” he said.
“Cockroaches like warm humid environments, they also tend to breed more and grow faster in the wet so it’s likely there will be more moving about.
“If an ant or spider burrow gets flooded, they will look for refuge just like we would in the wet. The same for rats and mice – they need shelter, so are more likely to go indoors where you will encounter them.”
Cobwebs both inside and out, insect droppings as well as flies coming in through open windows and doors are obvious signs of a pest problem.
But there is one subtle warning that homeowners should never ignore – tiny wings particularly near a light fitting. This could indicate a colony of termites has set up base inside your roof or wall cavities.
“When termites find a location, they drop their wings so you will want to get an expert to check it out as they can destroy homes,” Dr Bulbert said.
“Only a handful of species can eat a house, they just see a wooden structure, it is not a malicious act it is just convenient.”
Other tell-tale signs of termite activity include clicking sounds coming from the walls or ceilings as well as sagging floors, doors becoming harder to close, damaged skirting boards, cracked paint or plaster, power failures and mud tunnels which they also use to travel.
Gary Stephenson, National Vice President of the Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association, said repairing termite damage can range anywhere between $10,000 to $50,000, while treating the infestation is more affordable.
Eradicating an active colony typically costs between $1500 to $2500 including impacted trees and a follow-up inspection. Active eradication plus further treatment costs between $4,000 to $5,000.
Mr Stephenson is also expecting a busy season ahead with the humid conditions suiting almost every species of insect.
“People don’t always take measures to minimise a pest problem and stop it turning into an infestation such as sanitation, housekeeping and cleaning,” he said.
“Keeping lids on garbage bins, cleaning out drains, ensuring lawns and gardens are maintained and clearing away uneaten pet food are simple steps that reduce refuge areas for pests to live and breed in.”
Agent Lynette Malcolm, a member of REINSW Residential Sales Chapter Committee, works on Sydney’s Upper North Shore and has seen a few unwanted creepy crawlies wandering into homes at the wrong time. To combat the problem, she recommends not opening windows and doors until just before an inspection is due to start – but occasionally some creatures have still made their way inside.
“We had a lizard at an open home recently – and a lady screamed because she thought it was a snake but it was actually only a skink,” said Ms Malcolm, who works for Chadwick Real Estate.
“Given the leafy nature of the area and with so many homes close to nature reserves and parklands this is an all-year issue for us – not just in summer.”
She also encourages vendors to undertake a pest inspection before listing their property - so any potential problems can be dealt with by professionals.
“Not so long ago, we had a property with active termites in a paling fence – they were nowhere near the house and it only cost a couple of hundred dollars to treat,” Ms Malcolm said.
“I’m assuming that if it was found by a buyers’ inspector it could have potentially cost the vendors a sale.”