Unfinished attics or basements can be dark, dusty, damp and altogether unpleasant places to spend any amount of your time. But those conditions make them very attractive to certain insects and mammals who are just looking for a sheltered space to nest or den and mean you no harm.
Here are three of the more common of these hidden houseguests you might already have in your attic or basement.
Running into a spider web face-first in the dark is a less than pleasant experience. For some who suffer from a real fear of spiders — known as arachnophobia — seeing a web or one of the eight-legged creatures can do more than just startle. It can cause real physical and emotional distress.
Luckily none of Maine’s more than 300 species of spiders can do more than startle you. None are venomous and they are really quite beneficial, even inside your home where they capture and eat other bugs. Outside they play an important role in the ecosystem as predators of insects.
Few things produce a fear response among humans like a bat flying past their head. Bats are among the most common home invaders in Maine. The state’s bats are not aggressive, but that does not mean they necessarily make good occupants for attics where they are most usually found. Their droppings — known as guano — can create an unpleasant aroma and there is a risk that a bat could carry rabies.
In their favor, bats are exceptional at insect control. It’s estimated that a single bat in Maine eats up to 500 mosquitos an hour alone.
There are eight species of bats found in Maine, but if you have some hanging out in your attic, it will more than likely be a little brown bat or big brown bat. Both little and big brown bats have been impacted by white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by a fungus. In Maine, this disease has caused the little brown bat population to drop to the point the species is now listed as an endangered species. So if you do find one or more in your attic, it’s worth taking steps to humanely evict them.
There are nine species of snakes living in Maine and all are non-venomous. If you see one, it will probably be as it suns itself on a rock, woodpile or other sunny spot. It will more than likely slither away if you approach it.
Snakes play an important role in the ecosystem by preying on rodents, bugs, grubs and other pests. Their dens are often damp, dark warm spots under logs or in the ground. But if your basement is dark, damp and warmer than the outside air temperature a snake might find it a comfortable spot to set up housekeeping.
Should you come across a snake in your house, you can use a long handled broom or rake to gently coax it outside. Of course, if it’s in the basement, getting up any stairs is a problem. In that case — and if you are not bothered touching snakes — you can use the broom or rake to coax the snake into a corner and then carefully pick it up by gently taking hold of it just behind it’s head. If touching the snake directly seems daunting, you can toss a towel or pillow case over it, scoop it up in the material and put it into a basket or bucket to carry outside.