Its that time of year again when Rodents are at their most active in and around our homes. Of course Rodents are an issue all year round but during the colder months we tend to be more aware of them as they head into our homes/workplaces looking for a warm place to start a family…
Rodents spread disease and it is really important that they are kept away from our homes and most crucially our food preparation/storage areas. So what can you do? There are a few things to know about Rats and Mice to ensure you adequately protect your home.
They are Prolific Breeders
They love dark damp places with lots of debris
Once they find a home they are reluctant to leave as other Rats will attack them coming into their territory
They fit through really small spaces!! Mice fit through 6-7mm and Rats 20mm
They are mistrustful of changes in their environment and can take a while to take a bait or approach a trap
They do alot of damage inside a home and can ruin wiring, insulation and even plasterboard.
Predators and “scents” won’t chase them out.
They spread disease.. and we’re not just talking the “Plague”
The most effective form of treatment is prevention! Keeping them out of your home is key! Once they gain entry it can take a long time to get the problem under control. So block up entry points to your home. Expanding insulation foam is best as it ensures the whole area is blocked. Wire Mesh is the next best thing if it is an area that needs ventilation. Steel Wool can also be used to pack out a hole around a pipe. Limit their access to your roof. Trim back overhanging branches and foliage that provide a bridge into your home. Install a special “guard” around the power lines coming into your home so they can’t walk along the line straight into your roof. (These are available from most hardware stores)
Limit the areas they can nest in and around your home by removing all debris and clutter. Minimise the things they can use for nesting such as fabric and paper and cardboard as they will tear this up into small pieces and create a warm environment for their babies who need to be kept warm while mum and dad are out foraging for food. Choose the type of roof insulation for your home with this in mind as wool insulation and spray in particles create a great nesting environment. The rolls of insulation have less loose debris that can be used for nesting.
Ensure there isn’t any water source for rats or mice to drink from. This includes fixing dripping taps, repairing plumbing leaks, removing containers of water and ensuring there isn’t alot of water siting in pot plant saucers.
Limit food sources. Make sure that their options for food are minimal! Put all of the food in your pantry in glass jars or very heavy duty plastic as rats will eat through plastic eventually. You do need to be more careful with glass in your home as opposed to plastic which doesn’t shatter when you drop it.. If your home isn’t very hospitable to them when they do their initial recon they may not choose it as the perfect place to live…. maybe bothering that neighbour you don’t like.
There are a list of natural deterrents listed on the internet but once you have a mouse or rat they usually won’t leave because you introduce these deterrents to the environment. These are better thought of as one weapon in your “deterrent” plan. I have had some success with peppermint tea bags discarded around problem areas and peppermint essential oil sprayed around… You could plant some plants that are said to be deterrents such as: Mint, Sweet Pea, Lavender, Daffodils, Grape Hyacinth, Catnip, Camphor Plant, Elderberry. Having a cat or dog that is a good mouse hunter isn’t usually a deterrent in and of itself as they are used to sharing their environment with a predator.. which is why they find small inaccessible areas to set up house.. your ceiling or walls are their favourites.
Deter them from your home by Limiting Food and water, Blocking Entry using Natural Deterrents and having a good hunting Pet.
What can you do once they move in?
Once Rodents have moved in you will need to attack the problem on multiple fronts. Block off access points to food. Ensure there is no pet food left out or other food sources available to them. Set up traps and Baits in areas they travel or close to their nest if yo know where that is. Place the baits and traps inside a box with a clear entry and exit so that they feel safe to enter this space. Make this area really attractive by putting a little bit of an alternative food source loose in this area and put a small shallow container with water in it. It may take a while for them to trust this new thing in their environment. If you are using baits the rodent will go looking for water after it has consumed the bait and providing the water source will hopefully mean the dying rodent will die there where you can easily access the dead body for removal. Otherwise if they crawl in between your walls and die you will have an awful smell to deal with.
Be really careful if using poisons!
If handling baits be aware that rodenticides are extremely dangerous. Don’t be blase! Wear disposable gloves when placing baits and removing dead bodies! Make sure the baits are not accessible to other creatures. It is imperative that small children, our natural wildlife or your pets aren’t poisoned too! Baits should be placed inside lock boxes. The dead rodent is also a danger to other creatures as the poison remains active for several days. It can take several days from ingestion of poison to death making the slower rodent more likely to be captured by predators.
Our technicians will assess the level of problem you are experiencing and give you their best advice on methods of attack. We would usually install bait stations that are not accessible by children or pets in areas frequented or commonly travelled by the pest. These baits will only be consumed if there are no more palatable and previously trusted food sources available.. so just laying out baits isn’t enough.. you also need to remove other food sources. A full rodent program can be instigated if the issue is a large infestation. This will involve monitoring and re baiting regularly.
If you are in the Greater Brisbane Area Call 1300 665 665 if you’d like our advice.
One of the interesting parts of a pest controllers job is knowing the natural behaviours of a creature. By knowing how a creature behaves; where they eat, sleep and how they approach new situations a pest control operator will know where to put a bait to either capture or kill the creature in question in the fastest and most economical way possible.
Rodents are particularly interesting and present a number of behaviors that need to be taken into consideration. Researchers in the Netherlands recently demonstrated that Rats are able to feel empathy for other rats. When a rat observes another rat receiving an unpleasant stimulus the observing rat exhibited a typical fearful response to avoid being detected by a predator. As well as observed behaviour researchers noted activity in the cingulate cortex of the brain of the observing rat (the same as in humans). How does knowing this help in eradication? Well it may be pertinent to ensure that traps are enclosed in boxes to ensure that rodents don’t observe the results and therefore become more wary.
Another interesting behaviour that must be considered when trying to treat rats and mice is Neophobia…. What is Neophobia? Neophobia is defined as a fear of new things. If a new thing is introduced into their environment (such as a locked bait station) rodents will be naturally highly cautious of the new object or bait and could take a little time to approach the bait. If there are several other more readily available sources of food the bait may take a long time to be ingested. There are several studies that have been performed on rats to measure their levels of Neophobia and it was discovered that the rats that inhabited landfill sites had the lowest rates of neophobia as their environment is constantly changing.
As well as taking into account behaviours a successful treatment plan takes into account the physiological characteristics of a creature and how to use that to their greatest benefit. For instance: rats do not have full colour vision but they do respond to ultraviolet light (which is invisible to humans). Because of this some baits have been formulated to use this to their advantage and help reduce Neophobia. As the urine of rats also reflects an ultraviolet light the bait will appear to be “safe” to the rodents planning on trying the new food source.
The weather will play a role in rodent populations and a monitoring program is in place to predict if a mouse plague is forecast. Plagues occur regularly only in the southern and eastern grain belts. Due to low rain fall the mice populations of these areas are not expected to grow to plague proportions next spring. However the populations of these areas do not effect suburban rodent population numbers. Suburban rodent population numbers are dependant on the food/water sources available. Which can be readily available and plentiful!
Although we don’t hear about the diseases caused by rodents in the news in Australia as prolifically as US and European reports, they are still an issue. Dealing with an infestation quickly is vital and this is where the behaviour of the creature needs to be known to get a quick result.
Poisoning is one of the most common ways that rodent problems are dealt with and it must be noted that any self treatment by homeowners Extensive research is being done into secondary poisoning and a lockable bait station is necessary to ensure the bait aren’t ingested by other animals. This however won’t always ensure that the baited rodent isn’t ingested by another animal (ie cat, dog or predatory bird)
In suburban Brisbane we often have wildlife that wanders into our properties. As winter closes in rats and mice search for a warm place to set up home (often choosing our ceilings) and this will draw in snakes that see the warm ceiling as a perfect place to see out the winter months… especially if it comes with a ready food source… ie rats and mice… Allan recently found this beautiful snake in a homeowners roof and removed itm as the homeowner wasn’t keen on sharing their home with the reptile. Allan then found some bushland nearby and released the snake into the wild. Placing the snake in a hollow log so it could get used to its new surroundings and not immediately be eaten by a creature higher up in the food chain.
What can you do?
So what can you do about it? Well during the warmer months its a good idea to plug up any entry points… even rolled up chicken wire is great for this as it stops them gaining entry. Block any entry points in walls, brick work and around the roof line. This will mean when the cooler months roll around the rats, mice, possums and snakes won’t be able to gain entry to your roof. Trim branches and trees from around your home to minimise access to your roof for snakes and possums. Possums and rats and mice will gain entry via the powerlines.
Keeping your home clean and clutter free will also minimise the risk of vermin infestation. I have had success keeping mice out of my home when my neighbours had a big infestation problem by using peppermint essential oil in my cleaning products and pouring peppermint tea around my boundary line as mice don’t like the smell of peppermint.
Of course ensuring there is no available food for rodents will help keep them out of your home. Make sure all the food in your pantry is covered. Sealed containers are a good idea.. although I have seen rats chew through plastic, but if the food is harder to get to and the entry points are more difficult this will encourage them to move to your neighbour’s house which could be an easier target. When I had horses we had rats chew through plastic bins to get to the grain and salt licks. So if they are desperate enough they will chew through a storage container! But the idea is to make it as hard as possible for them to enjoy your home… encourage them to move on and maybe see if your neighbours house is more hospitable.
If possible install your compost in a location as far from the house as possible. If there are a lot of grass clippings in the compost this will raise the temperature of the compost and create a lovely warm home for rodents. Turning your compost regularly will deter rodents from setting up a home and breeding there. If you have a chicken coop try to minimise grain lying around as this will also encourage rodents. Planting Chilli, mint and citronella around your chicken coop will also help to deter rodents but of course if the coop is filled with grain and seed this will lure them in!
What to do if there are creatures in your ceiling?
Call your local pest controller to deal with rats, mice and other pests. For possums and snakes it is best to call a specialist in this field to relocate them safely. Identifying what creature has taken up unpaid residence in your home is the first step! Mice and rats will also usually make noises in your walls.. Possums are usually heavier and you will mostly hear them at dusk and dawn as they travel in and out of your roof leaving their dark daytime sleeping spot for their night time feeding on neighbourhood fruit trees. Snakes will generally be much quieter and usually only come in to feed on rats and mice.
Our operators are trained in the identification of termites and pests and will give you a treatment plan to deal with any infestation. If the problem is simple then the operator can usually deal with it on the spot with a simple treatment or bait system depending on the kind of pest your are dealing with.