Having a mouse or rat inside the home is unpleasant on many levels. Foremost for most people is the “ick” response, commonly expressed by the exclamation “Eek! A mouse!” But there’s more, and there’s worse. Rodents can damage your home, gnawing through your walls and baseboard trim. They certainly have no trouble gnawing into packaged foods, where they leave their droppings.

Worse yet, rats sometimes attack and bite pets and people, especially small children. They carry fleas, which can transfer to other mammals in the home (again, people and pets), and they are vectors of disease. The Black Death, one of the largest disasters in human history, was a series of epidemics of bubonic plague, spread by fleas carried from Asia to Europe by rats.

What to Look For

As the temperature drops in the autumn, rodents tend to invade buildings for their warmth. They may take up residence inside of walls or in attics or basements, but they will seek food and water in the kitchen. You may notice clues to the presence long before you see one. In fact, you could have a full-fledged infestation and never see a mouse or rat in the open. Clues may be food packaging that has holes in it or the presence of their tiny droppings on countertops, in cabinets, or in foodstuffs. You may also hear them scurrying around in the walls or attic.

Integrated Control Methods

If you believe rodent are inside your home, a do-it-yourself program of integrated pest management may resolve the issue. This means using several methods simultaneously to eliminate the vermin and prevent a new infestation. Some of the methods include:

  • Keeping the home clean and free of clutter
  • Removing food and water sources
  • Keeping natural predators in the home (e.g., dogs or cats)
  • Setting traps
  • Sealing holes and crevices

Mice can squeeze through tiny spaces to invade a building. Homeowners can seal crevices and holes in the home’s exterior envelope with caulking or foam insulation. Vacuuming carpets and mopping floors deprive rodents of the easy pickings of spilled food. Cardboard boxes and plastic bags are no deterrent to a hungry mouse or rat, so place foodstuffs in metal canisters or glass jars. And clean up. Rodents like to hide and nest in hidden areas, and if your home is a mess, you are more likely to have an infestation.

Peanut Butter or Cheese?

The most popular way to capture rodents is with a snap trap – the kind you see in cartoons, with a spring that always closes on the evil cat’s foot. The spring is held open by a sensitive mechanical trigger, to which bait is attached. As soon as the bait is disturbed, the spring is triggered and it usually comes down on the rodent.

Snap traps rely on food with pungent odors for bait. In the past, small bits of cheese were the favorite bait, by why waste good cheese? Peanut butter is less costly, it doesn’t spoil as readily, and rodents find it very attractive.

DIY Not Your Thing?

Because of the health risks they represent, it’s important to get rodents out of the home as quickly as possible. If you don’t want to try doing it yourself, or if you’re given it your best and the little guys are just laughing at you, it’s time to call a professional. In Indiana, contact YES Pest Pros, a fully integrated pest management company with offices in Elkhart/South Bend, Bloomington and Columbus. Call 574-293-9323.