We receive a substantial increase in calls about mice and rat infestations starting in the fall and lasting through February. The reason is simple: mice and rats seek refuge from the cold by entering warm homes, attics, garages, and offices. Once rodents discover a cozy spot, they tend to nest – often within walls and near a food source.

The Trouble with Rats and Mice

Rats and mice can carry diseases, cause property damage and create fire hazards by chewing through electrical wires. Rodents spotted in hotels, restaurants and other businesses can create social media nightmares when customers rate their experiences online. Plus, mice and rats can attract insects and natural predators: snakes. These pests rapidly multiply, so quick rodent control is critical. Female mice can produce 10 to 12 pups per month – and their offspring are ready to reproduce within two months.

Mice and rats can transmit a variety of diseases, including Hantavirus, salmonellosis, leptospirosis, tularemia, and even Lyme disease. Disease risk increases by coming into contact with a dead carcass, or the rodent’s urine and feces. To reduce the risk of disease transmission, we recommend calling a professional to handle a rodent problem and related cleanup.

How to Prevent Rat and Mouse Infestations

Preventing rodent infestations begins with sanitation and sealing up entry points. Your home or office will be less appealing to rodents if they cannot find an easy meal. Start by cleaning up spilled food and securing any easy-to-access food items in and around your home. In commercial kitchen areas, clean up all food and food residue every day. In your home, store pantry items in airtight containers and keep pet food areas clean. In businesses, schools and other facilities, limit eating to designated dining areas and encourage employees to not store food overnight in offices and classrooms. Outdoors, store trash and pet food in sealed containers. If you must set bagged trash out on trash pick-up day, do not leave trash sitting out any longer than necessary.

Cracks, holes or gaps in walls and around windows, doors, vents, and roofs create ideal access points for mice and rats. Mice can enter through holes that are 0.25 inches or more in diameter. Regularly inspect your property to identify potential entryways. Fill the larger cracks or holes with plaster, mortar, sheet metal or hardware cloth. Block smaller holes with caulk or copper wire. Rats are also known to enter buildings by diving and swimming up through broken drainage pipes. Fixing damaged drainage pipes not only prevents rodents from entering, but also helps water drain properly.

Signs of a Mouse or Rat Problem

Determining if you have a rat or mouse problem is typically easy. Often, you will actually see a rodent (usually at night, since mice and rats are nocturnal) or find droppings. Mice and rats prefer to remain along the edges of walls, counters, and other surfaces and typically are found in open spaces. Look for droppings along baseboards or in cupboards – even in moist areas like under the sink. You may also notice chew marks on plastic, metal, cardboard and even stone items in your home. You might also find a rat or mouse nest in a box or other enclosed area. These nests typically are made from shredded foam and other material. At night, you may hear rodents moving around in the walls or hear their high-pitched squeaks.

If you see one mouse does it mean you have many? That is hard to say without conducting an inspection. While an individual mouse or rat can find its way into a house or office, they are social pests and typically do not live in isolation.

Getting Rid of Mice and Rats

To reduce the risk of disease transmission, we recommend using a pest control professional to eliminate any mouse or rat problem. Even if you are able to find and eliminate the individual rodents on your own, cleaning up their carcasses and droppings is risky. Pest control professionals understand rodent habits and behaviors and know how to select the right methods, placements, and techniques to eliminate the problem and prevent future infestations.

The most common way to eliminate mice and rats is the use of traps that are baited with peanut butter or another appealing snack. Snap traps come in different sizes and work by snapping shut on a rodent when it steps on the trigger. Live traps use ramps to trap rodents safely in a small box or cage for future release. While these traps are most humane, releasing live rodents may not eliminate the problem and most people do not want the unpleasant task of destroying them. Glue traps capture but do not destroy the rodents, and must be checked frequently to prevent suffering.

Another treatment is rodent baits. We recommend the use of mouse and rat baits only by professionals. These treatments are sometimes used outdoors, but can create risk if used indoors. Rodents sometimes carry the bait to areas where people and pets may come in contact. Rodents that ingest the bait indoors may die within the walls, creating a foul smell that is difficult to remove. If overused, rodents may become immune to baits. To determine the most sensible and effective option to eliminate your unique rodent problem, contact a pest control professional.

Unwelcome Winter Pests: Mice and Rats in Virginia

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