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Top 10 Tips to Make Sure Pests Don't Ruin Your Holiday Dinners

Reading time: 7 minutes

Holiday meals are one of the most beloved and anticipated seasonal traditions, but unwanted pests can quickly ruin them. Mice, cockroaches, ants, and other crawling critters are often attracted by the warmth and scents of holiday cooking, so it’s not uncommon to see more of them between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Here are our top tips for keeping pests away from family dinners during the holidays and how Buzz Boss can help you enjoy a pest-free home all season long.

People holding high their wine glasses at a holiday dinner

Which Pests Can You Expect Crashing Your Dinner Parties?

Winter is one of the most active times for indoor pests. The cold weather drives disease-carrying rodents, spiders, and other pests inside in search of warmth and food, but not all of them pose a threat to your holiday meals. Spiders, for example, tend to hang out in dark corners and prefer not to bother anyone.

These pests, however, are more of a problem:

  • Ants. Desserts are usually abundant at holiday celebrations, and these sticky-sweet treats can attract ants if not properly stored. Even just a little bit of sugar accidentally left out on the counter after baking Christmas cookies can invite pesky ants to get their fill.
  • Cockroaches. The last thing you want is for guests at your home to spot a cockroach on the wall, but if you have an infestation, that’s precisely what will happen. The heat and vibrations of cooking disturb cockroach nests deep in kitchen walls, causing these insects to come crawling out in search of food and making them easier to see.
  • Mice. Mice are attracted to the smell of food, especially garbage that has been sitting out for any period of time or has started to rot. As leftovers get tossed in the trash and garbage collectors are off for the holidays, this can start to attract vermin at night.
  • Indianmeal moths. These tiny winged insects, sometimes called pantries or flour moths, feed on grains in stored foods like cereal, flour, bread, and pasta. While they don't bite or sting, they will contaminate your food, resulting in expensive waste.

Top 10 Tips to Prevent Pests from Ruining Your Seasonal Spread

The winter season is a special time with friends and family, no matter which festivity you participate in, so it’s important to keep unwanted pests from wrecking your plans.

Here are ten easy but effective natural pest control tips you can do to prevent mice, cockroaches, and other unpleasant visitors from staying away from your home for the holidays.

1. Secure the Lids on Your Outdoor Trash Cans

Most holiday meals involve a lot of food waste. Not only is there prep waste, like vegetable scraps and meat trimmings, but there are also leftovers that usually don't get eaten entirely before being thrown away.

This means your outdoor garbage bins will be full of rotting food, quickly attracting insects and nuisance animals. It's a good idea to ensure you have lids that fit your trash cans and can be secured to prevent animals and mice or rats from getting inside.

2. Make Sure You Have Plenty of Food Storage Containers

Speaking of leftovers, you'll need somewhere to put them. If you don't already have plenty of food storage containers with tight-fitting lids or zippered plastic bags, now is the time to get some. Leftovers that aren't properly sealed can invite pests and allow them to contaminate your food, possibly even without your knowledge.

Keep turkey, stuffing, cookies, pies, and other holiday goodies in closed containers when they're not actively being consumed. If any of your containers have holes or loose lids, throw them away and use the ones with a complete seal.

3. Take a Pantry Inventory before Heading to the Store

Before going to the store to stock up on holiday dinner essentials, take some time to go through your pantry to see what you already have.

Inspect staples like sugar, flour, and baking powder for weevils or Indianmeal moth larvae so you can discard and replace any items that have been contaminated as needed.

This helps prevent you from buying more of something you already have and keeps your cabinets from overflowing with food that will ultimately just end up attracting even more pests.

4. Invest in Heavy-Duty Trash Bags

When throwing away leftovers, ensure your trash bags are thick enough to handle the job. Food waste is often heavy and wet and can easily break through thin or poor-quality bags.

Thick, industrial-type trash bags help prevent food spillage and deter pests by trapping odours and discouraging mice and rats from chewing through the plastic to get to the food inside. If you need to toss a lot of food, consider double-bagging it.

5. Check the Seals on Food You Purchase

When shopping for food for your holiday dinner, it's important to check the packaging for any holes, tears, or openings that may have allowed insects to get in. This might seem over the top, but one of the most common ways that Indianmeal moths will end up in a bag of flour is during shipping.

Food in the sealed storage containers

These moths usually find a tiny hole in the outer package and then crawl inside to lay their eggs. When you first begin using the flour, it seems fine, but in time, the eggs hatch, and you realize your food has been contaminated. Make sure you're only buying well-sealed packages.

6. Be Careful with Sprinkles and Sanding Sugar

Christmas cookies may look beautiful and taste great, but they also attract pests, especially if you make them at home. Sugar sprinkles and candy decorations can get everywhere when you're baking, and cleaning up is hard without missing a spot. Essentially, you're offering insects like black ants and cockroaches a feast.

If you're making cookies, consider decorating them inside a box with high sides. This way, all the sanding sugar and sprinkles will stay inside the box, and you can take it outside to dispose of when the cookies are finished.

7. Skip the Gingerbread House

Many families in Canada enjoy putting together gingerbread houses to be displayed at their holiday meals. Unfortunately, while fun, these projects do little more than act as bait for pests. If leaving cookies and sticky candy out on the counter or a table isn't a good idea in any other circumstances, it's definitely not during the holidays.

If you build a gingerbread house, keep it covered overnight and any time it's not on direct display.

8. Cover Any Food That Is Set Out

Cooking an entire holiday meal takes time, meaning some dishes are ready before others. It's common to put these on the table first, where they await the rest of the dinner. These dishes should be tightly covered. Avoid allowing food to sit out before the meal to prevent pests and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Never leave food out on the counter, uncovered and unattended. If a piece of meat needs to rest or dough needs to rise, cover it tightly to keep pests from scurrying out and grabbing a bite.

9. Don’t Leave Food or Dirty Dishes Out Overnight

Pests like mice and cockroaches are more active at night when everyone is asleep, and your house is quiet. Any dishes or food left out provide the perfect meal for these critters.

While doing all your dishes is the last thing you want to do after cooking a big holiday dinner, it's one of the most important steps for effective pest prevention. If you can't get them all done, put the big pans in a sealed trash bag until the morning to keep pests away until they can be washed.

10. Clean As You Go

A good rule of thumb to keep unwanted pests away from your celebratory dinners this season is to clean up after yourself immediately. Instead of waiting until the meal is cooked and everyone has eaten to start cleaning up, designate a few people to help you clean up in between making each dish. This makes the job easier and helps you be more thorough, so you don’t leave anything behind for pests to find later.

Get Help with Holiday Pest Prevention So You Can Enjoy the Festive Season

Don’t want to worry about pests ruining your holiday dinner this year? Buzz Boss can help.

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Our comprehensive pest control services are tailored to your specific needs so you can enjoy the seasonal celebrations without coming into contact with any unwanted guests. Contact Buzz Boss today, and a qualified exterminator will be happy to assist you.

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