Almost everyone has run in to rodents in their home at one time or another, and it can be frustrating to have these intruders in your home. Arming yourself with knowledge about common household rodent pests can make it a much less stressful process when you find yourself with a rodent infestation. This page outlines the information you need to know about common household rodents, including the control methods you need to use to effectively get rid of rodents.
Common Nuisance Rodents
There are hundreds of species of rodents in North America, but not all of them are likely to end up in your attic or kitchen. Squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, beavers, and voles fall into the rodent category, and may accidentally wander into your home very rarely; they do not want to be in your home. It’s the mice and rats that are the likely culprits, specifically the Norway and roof rat, and the house mouse.
There are tons of different types of rats and mice, but it is these three types that are most likely to end up in a home or structure. These are known as commensal rodents, or rodents that live in close quarters with humans and human activity. While there are many species of mice and rats, they aren’t as often found in human residencies and other buildings. See our rodent identification page for more information about knowing which kind of rodent pest you are dealing with.
Rodent Control Options
It hardly takes convincing to control a rodent infestation, but it can still seem really overwhelming and expensive. There are many ways to control rodents yourself without intervention from a pest control professional. Homeowners, renters, and landlords often have great success getting rid of rats and mice themselves using proper sanitation, exclusion, trapping, and poison baiting. Delving in to each, you’ll be able to make the best choice for your situation.
1) Proper Sanitation
Poor sanitation is the main cause for rodent problems. Sanitation in this case refers to all aspects of cleaning. Cleaning up all yard or property debris, including leaves and woodpiles, will eliminate shelter for the rodents. Rodents will gladly eat garbage, so make sure there is none lying around, and that all trash is in tightly sealed receptacles. Make sure all birdseed and animal feed is properly stored, and make sure birdseed doesn’t pile up under the feeder. Indoors, it’s important to store food in sturdy containers. Containers lacking corners are best, since the rats and mice will have a much harder time gnawing on them. Make sure all food preparation areas are well cleaned every day. Little crumbs and spills and food left out provide more than enough food for mice and rats.
2) Exclusion Methods
Sealing off all exterior gaps and cracks is extremely important in rodent exclusion. Rats can fit through gaps as small as ½ and inch, and mice as small as ¼ an inch, so while it may be painstaking, making sure there are no entryways into your home is necessary. Using galvanized sheet metal or a heavier-gauged hardware cloth to seal off holes and capping pipes and cables with metal caps will definitely help keep rodents out.
Trapping is the most widely used and successful method of rodent control. From basic wooden snap traps to more advanced live rodent traps, there are many advantages in baiting. You will know where the rodents die, since they’ll die in plain sight and where you’ve placed the traps. This eliminates decomposing carcasses, smell, and diseases dead animals can spread. They’re simple to use and inexpensive, so you’ll be able to control the rodents without breaking the bank. Here are some tips on how to use traps:
- Pre-baiting can help increase the success of baiting. Rats and mice often show “shyness” towards traps, so baiting them without setting the traps can clue the rodents in on a new food source, so when it’s set, they will still eat off the trigger.
- You can bait traps with a wide variety of foods. Rolled oats, nutmeats, and dried fruits work really well, as do strong scented meats like bacon, peanut butter, and marshmallows. However, bacon and peanut butter can become rancid and undesirable to the rodents. Paying attention to foods the rodents are already eating and offering them that as bait is also successful.
- Placement is a very important aspect of trapping. They must be placed along the usual travel-ways of the rodents, since they’re creatures of habit and rarely deviate from an established runway. These are usually along baseboards, in between objects, or any way that provides some kind of cover. You will usually find droppings in these areas, along with some damage. However, to check for sure, you can spread a very fine layer of flour or talc powder on the floor overnight to see tracks in the morning.
- Place triggers against the wall or sides of objects to better target where the rodents move and feed. You can place two traps beside each other, but do it with triggers on opposite ends facing away from each other.
- Use enough traps! You will want to use at least one trap per every 10 feet of space where evidence of mice and rats have been seen. Rats and mice don’t travel very far at any one instance.
- Glue board traps can be placed in the same way as snap traps, but keep in mind that these are more effective for mice than rats.
- There are several types of traps, like electrocution traps, live traps, and multiple catch traps, along with the classic wood and metal snap traps. Do some research and choose the best for your situation. The snap traps could be difficult to use safely around pets and kids, but you can make your own trap “shelters” out of wood or cardboard to keep them out of sight and out of reach of non-target animals.
4) Poison Baits and Toxicants
There are many kinds of baits on the market today, with different formulas and different levels of lethal activity. Rodents may not die immediately and have to feed on some types of toxicants several times before ingesting a lethal dose. This means the rodents may die somewhere hidden in your home and will decompose, inviting unpleasant smells, bacteria, and diseases. However, poison baits are still very effective in controlling rodent populations. Here is some important information to know when using poison baits:
- Anticoagulants are the most common type of rodent bait. Ready-to-use formulas are popular and widely available, but materials are also available to mix your own baits. Most modern baits only take one dose to kill.
- Most baits now are sold in wax blocks, and these stay fresher and effective for longer, and resist moisture and environmental breakdown. Some are packaged in paper and don’t last as long.
- Bait stations, or small structures bait gets placed in, protect them from the environment, but also keep children and pets out of the baits. There are different style baits for mice and rats, so ensure you choose the proper style.
- You can “pre-bait” bait stations by only placing food in there first for a few weeks before switching to the poison.
- Always clearly label areas where baits are placed.
- Treat all poison baits as lethal to all mammals, and use extreme caution when placing them anywhere.
Other Control Methods:
Besides these more popular methods above, there are frightening devices and repellents on the market developed for rodent control. Frightening devices are things that cause loud noises, bright lights, and other methods to deter rodents from entering certain areas. Some claim to use ultrasonic or electromagnetic pulses to scare rodents away. Often, though rodents get used to the sounds or sights and learn that they are harmless and continue on their way. Repellents use unpleasant tastes or smell to deter rodents, but are often ineffective because of rodents’ tendency to eat indiscriminately.
Safety: Removing Rodents
You must take great care when dealing with coming in contact with rodents and rodent droppings, since they can transmit several diseases. Follow these safety guidelines:
- Wear rubber gloves when cleaning rodent droppings or rodent-affected areas, or when coming in direct contact with rodents, dead or alive.
- Double-bag dead rodents and rodent droppings before placing them in an outdoor garbage can with a tight-fitting lid.
- Disinfect traps (in diluted bleach or other disinfectant solution) before storing them for later use.
- Wear a mask to avoid inhaling airborne pathogens when cleaning up any rat or mouse droppings or nests.
- After handling surfaces and contact with rodents, wash gloved hands thoroughly, then remove the gloves, and wash your hands.
Take a look at our large inventory of rodent control products. We are happy to help you even further with expert advice.