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)