Rats and Mice are OH…Not So Nice!
As August nears its end, the bug season begins to turn a corner. Fall’s approach means the pitter-patter of little rodent feet, and that is not something to look forward to in anticipation!
Even though the majority of mice and rats live outdoors in fields and wooded areas, Georgia folks can sometimes find the Norway rat, the roof rat, and the house mouse inside their homes. And don’t think these invaders are picky with their accommodations. They are looking for food, water, and shelter. If your home has those options, then they are happy to join the family.
Let’s look first at appearance. Rats are larger than mice, some are up to…shiver…a foot long not including the tail! Yikes. Mice are typically about 3 inches long and much cuter in my humble opinion. But cute or not, I don’t want them in my house. A true house mouse has a hairless tail while certain native mice can have furry tails. Roof rats, as discussed, can grow quite long and weigh up to 10 ounces. They are brown or even black in color and are excellent climbers. I’ve heard them called other names such as black rats or ship rats. Rats are well known for their intelligence. The Norway rat is known by many names as well, such as barn rats, sewer rats, wharf rats, and house rats. These guys don’t usually climb like their roof rat cousins (I guess they don’t have to get to the roof)! Norway rats are heavy, at more than a pound. That’s pretty big for a rat. Their color is usually brown or grayish-red. Both varieties of rats have a belly that is colored with white or gray fur.
Now that you know how to distinguish between the most common Georgia rats and mice, let’s get into why you don’t want to share your home as if you need the reasons. First and foremost, rats and mice can carry bacteria and diseases. In short, they can make us sick. There’s leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, plague, and typhus which have been linked to contact with rats and mice. The little pests can carry fleas and ticks. Then there are the less scary things like eating our food crops and getting into stored grains, pet foods, and trash cans. That’s a mess. Even though rats and mice aren’t known for their eyesight, they do have a well-developed sense of smell and touch. And they are not choosy eaters. They like grains and seeds, meats, nuts, candies, fruits, cereals, and pretty much anything edible. And here’s the bad news: if you see one, you probably have more.
Since most rats and mice hide during the day and only come out after dark, it can be hard to spot the problem. Usually, there are signs way before there is a sighting of the actual rodent. Most homeowners report their first sign as being the sounds of scratching and tiny, running paws. You will likely hear them first in your walls or your attics. Secondly, homeowners find droppings that key them into the presence of rats and mice. The droppings are about the size of rice granules for a mouse and raisins for rats. Yes, I know…you’ll never feel the same about rice and raisins. Me neither. One note: make sure what you are seeing is actually droppings. One inspection produced hilarious results as the technician realized that the “droppings’’ were actually chocolate sprinkles and proceeded to astonish the customer by giving the sprinkle a little taste test!
Okay, back to business. Another sign of an infestation is finding nesting areas. They are usually composed of chewed-up paper or small pieces of cloth or old carpets. The rats and mice frequent places like boxes, drawers, and basically anywhere dark and quiet. Lastly, use your nose. If you smell a concentrated musty smell in your attic or other habitable areas, you might be smelling mice urine. Again, I know…yuck. There can also be signs of problems when a homeowner discovers gnawed walls, doors, etc..
Since mice and rats reproduce at an alarming rate, it is best to act quickly when you find a problem. Here’s a thought: one pair of breeding mice have the potential to lead to millions more little scurrying feet in one year. They breed every 30 days, and the females can have babies at 2 months old. That’s pretty crazy to think about.
Now it’s time to discuss the biggest question you have, what to do about the problem. First and always foremost is prevention. Seal up those holes that can allow the rats and mice into your home in the first place. Holes and cracks can be sealed with a combination of steel wool and caulk. Windows should have tight-fitting screens. Your door openings should seal well, and of course, you must keep doors and windows closed when not in use. Dryer vents can be tricky and should be secured by a professional as proper airflow is a must to prevent dangerous conditions. Other openings to consider could be where pipes or other vents enter the home. Cement or caulk are typically the best options for these problem areas. Food is the biggest draw any pest has when it comes to looking for a place to hide away for the winter. Keep your garbage in a covered can. Make sure you clean up any uneaten food, both for yourself and your pets. Pet food and human food should be stored in sealed containers. If you don’t give them access, they can’t make it a food source. Another preventative is to keep wood piles, rock piles, trash, and weeds away from the house. Anywhere that creates a hospitable home condition is just asking for guests of the rodent variety.
If prevention has failed, and you have a problem with mice and rats, it is best to call a professional to assess the situation. Canton Termite is trained and licensed to rid your home of rats and mice. A thorough inspection is done to determine the culprit, the problem areas, and the best solution based on the homeowner’s particular situation. Usually, a combination approach is best. Traps and bait products may be used to resolve the infestation. Our experience and knowledge help us quickly resolve the problem. We find the entry points and do what is known as exclusion, this is a process of making sure the rodents won’t find their way back inside your home.
Summer is heading out and fall is on the way! Here’s to a rodent-free fall season.
Canton Termite and Pest Control