FAIRFAX, Va.- With millions of Americans tucked away in home isolation, people are spending significantly more time in their living environments than ever before. This time at home is changing our routines, increasing the amount of food we are consuming and the waste we are generating – and pests are catching on. New research reveals there were more than 303,000 online engagements in March 2020 on the topic of finding rats in the kitchen,* and reports of pest encounters are intensifying in certain parts of the country. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is arming homeowners with the necessary information to ward off infestations.

“We’re hearing all kinds of unique stories from our followers on social media about rodent activity at home. Everything from parked cars harboring squirrels to even food deliveries being pillaged by nuisance wildlife within minutes of being dropped off,” said Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs at NPMA. “Pests are catching on to our new stay-at-home routines and they are loving it.”

Spring is prime pest time and bugs and rodents thrive on finding vulnerabilities in our homes to locate sources of food, water and shelter. Help keep pests out while practicing social distancing with these five suggestions from NPMA:

1. Check for damaged packages – That long-awaited online order could be harboring a little something extra in its packaging. Cardboard boxes offer a perfect avenue for pests to enter the home, so be sure to check for any signs of damage before opening, as pests like rodents, which can spread dangerous diseases such as Salmonella, are known to chew through cardboard in search of food. Be sure to also discard boxes appropriately to avoid harborage sites.

2.Inspect all groceries – Having groceries delivered right to your door isn’t just convenient for you. Pests including ants and squirrels appreciate the door-to-door service as well. Bring deliveries inside promptly to avoid daring squirrels and rodents, but be sure to inspect all items first to avoid introducing insects into the home. Prepare for four-legged houseguests – Many “kids” have decided to quarantine at their parents’ home while on break from college or to save money on rent. In some cases, this includes taking in their furry roommates, too. For first-time “pawrents,” make sure to clean up pet food in a timely manner before it has a chance to attract unwanted pests such as ants and cockroaches.

3. Keep kids from squirreling away food – Parents are juggling a lot these days, from online learning schedules for their children to working remotely. Keeping a tidy kitchen and staying on top of kids’ snack trails can be hard to do. At the end of the day, it’s a good idea to do a quick sweep and check every nook and cranny of playrooms, living rooms and even bedrooms for any abandoned snacks, cups and dishes left behind before hungry pests find them first.

4. Look under the hood – Many people have left their cars in park the past few months and rodents have noticed. Squirrels and mice can quickly and easily take up residence under the hood, and unfortunately can gnaw through air filters and wiring. In March 2020 alone, there were more than 2 million online conversations around finding rodents in cars,* so don’t forget to check and move your vehicle from time to time.

*Online engagement findings are a result of research conducted by Advanced Symbolics Inc.