Spring makes its own statement loud and clear; the torrential downpours are soon to be here! With rain on the horizon and “social distancing” in full-force, everyone will be spending more time indoors… even pests! The last thing you want to deal with when you’re already stuck inside your home is an unwanted rodent.
There are three main species of rodent that are prevalent in homes, all of which thrive because of their ability to adapt to human environments. These are the house mouse, the Norway rat (also known as the common rat and the brown rat), and the roof rat (also known as the black rat or the ship rat). At first glance there are some commonalities between all rodent species. They all have a pair of incisor teeth in their upper jaw, short legs, long tails, and they all can cause significant damage to both your home and your health. If you look closer, however, you can see several distinguishing features in mice vs rats to help identify which pest you have.
The house mouse is small in size, only about 4 to 6 inches long. In fact, they are often confused with young rats. They are usually light grey, brown, or white in color with lighter shading on their bellies. Mice have large floppy ears and smaller feet and heads than rats. They have triangular snouts with long whiskers. Their tail is proportionally longer than their head and body length.
Norway rats are the biggest of the three species at about 10 inches long. They have thicker bodies with fur that is usually brown with black shading and shaggy in appearance. They have a paler color underneath their tails. Their tail is shorter than the length of their body and head and is usually hairless and scaly. They have small hairy ears and blunt noses.
The roof rat is usually about 8 inches long with slender bodies. They have gray fur with black shading and smooth coats. They have dark tails that are usually hairless and scaly. Their tail is longer than their head and body, similar to a mouse. They have large, thin, hairless ears and pointed noses.
The house mouse prefers cereal but will eat almost anything. They kibble their grain when eating it, meaning they remove the outer husk and eat the grain that is inside. They tend to seek out food in the same places which makes baiting them easier. They don’t need to drink water but will consume about 3 mL if it is available.
Norway rats also prefer cereals but will eat what is available. They cut their grains when eating, giving them the appearance of being chopped. These rats also tend to seek food in the same places making them easier to bait, as well. They drink about 60 mL of water a day.
Roof rats prefer most fruit but will eat other foods, as well. They also cut their grain when eating it, making it look like it has been chopped. They don’t usually eat in the same location on consecutive nights making them much harder to trap. They drink about 30 mL of water per day.
House mice usually live on the ground and nest in burrows. They are quite agile and great climbers. They have smaller footprints than rats do. The grease from their bodies can combine with dirt and urine and build up pillars, a telltale sign of their presence. They will often build their nests in hidden areas near food sources out of any soft material or shredded paper they can find.
Norway rats live on the ground and in burrows. They are usually spotted throughout buildings and in sewer systems. Their burrowing can cause extensive damage to sewers. They tend to walk on the pads of their feet and leave continuous smudges on their walking paths from their oily fur.
Roof rats are mainly restricted to buildings and structures around ports and on ships in temperate climates. They are quite agile and very good climbers. They tend to nest up high under roofs (hence their name) and in warmer countries will even nest in trees. They tend to walk on their toes and surfaces they travel on will show scattered smudges.
The newborns of every rodent species are born blind, hairless and completely dependent on the mother for feeding and protection.
House mice typically have litters of 4-16 babies. They can have 7 to 8 litters per year. The reach maturity in about 8 to 12 weeks.
Norway rats typically have litters of 7 to 8 babies. They can have 3 to 6 litters per year. They reach maturity in about 10 to 12 weeks.
Roof rats typically have litters of 5 to 10 babies. They can have 3 to 6 litters per year. They reach maturity in about 7 to 8 weeks.
House mice are nocturnal creatures. They are social and territorial and tend to be bolder than rats. They are curious and will explore new things, making them easier to trap. They are skillful climbers and will fit into small holes to access areas of your home you wouldn’t expect. They are weaker than rats and are usually afraid of them as they will kill them. House mice have a musky odor and are color blind.
Norway rats are also nocturnal. They are typically fearful and cautious about new things. They don’t explore like mice do. They can climb but prefer to inhabit the lower levels of structures. They are stronger than mice and have been known to gnaw through building materials. They have poor eyesight. Norway rats don’t get along with roof rats and they will often fight to the death.
Roof rats are nocturnal. They are skilled climbers and prefer higher levels of structures. They have stronger teeth than mice and can gnaw through building materials. They have poor eyesight. they don’t get along with Norway rats and will often fight them to the death.
House mice droppings are approximately 3 to 8 mm in length. They are often found scattered randomly. They are granular in shape and black in color. They can be found near their nesting areas.
Norway rat droppings are dark brown in color. They are tapered, spindle shaped droppings that resemble large grains of rice.
Roof rat droppings are long and thin and smaller in size than those of the Norway rat. They are more regular in form with a banana-like curve and pointed ends.
Whether you have mice or rats, rodent feces can cause significant health risks for you and your family. Some common diseases caused by rodent droppings include Hantavirus, bubonic plague, salmonellosis, rat bite fever, and leptospirosis. Rodents are also known chewers and can cause damage to the structure of your home and put you at risk for fires by chewing through wires and cables.
If you suspect you have a rodent problem, contact a licensed pest control company who can help identify whether you have a mouse or a rat, apply safe rodent removal techniques, and make sure you have a comprehensive rodent control and prevention plan going forward.
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If you live in an area where snakes are common, chances are you may stumble across one at some point. Snakes, like any other pest, are usually in search of three things: food, water, and shelter. Oftentimes the area around our homes provide all of these things that attract snakes. The likelihood of a snake on your property depends on several factors including location (north vs south), landscape (urban vs rural), a nearby water source (pond, lake, river), how well your lawn is landscaped and maintained, and how readily a food supply is available. When dealing with snakes it is important to identify the type of snake you are dealing with: venomous snakes should be left to a professional to eliminate while non-venomous snakes can often be deterred with natural snake repellent techniques. Here are 4 ways to keep snakes out of your yard:
1. Scare Them Off
One of the easiest ways to scare off a snake from your yard is to use your garden hose. Spray with snake with a steady stream from the hose until he slithers off. Consider installing a perch pole for hawks, owls, and other natural snake predators to alight on. Be sure to place it in an open area so the birds have a good view of your yard and the surrounding area.
2. Repel Them Away
There are some natural products and at home techniques you can use for snake prevention. Ammonia is a common snake repellent. Snakes hate the smell of ammonia and won’t come near it. Soak rags in ammonia and place them in unsealed plastic bags. Leave the bags where you usually see snakes to keep them away. You can also use vinegar to keep snakes and other pests out of your swimming pool. Pour white vinegar around the perimeter of the pool. Snakes can absorb the vinegar through their skin so they will avoid slithering over it once it’s poured on the ground. Snakes also try to avoid humans at all costs. Save hair from your hairbrush and scatter it around the perimeter of your property to help keep snakes away.
3. Don’t Invite Them In
Snakes will come into your yard in search of food, water, and shelter. Eliminating these three basic necessities will make them much less likely to pay you a visit. Mow your grass often and keep it cut short. Shorter grass means more exposure to predators like hawks and coyotes and also makes them much easier for you to spot. Avoid overwatering your lawn as this can attract snake food sources like frogs, worms, and slugs. Keep trees, shrubs, and branches trimmed away from the sides of your house, the roof, and the ground. Try to keep a 24 to 36 inch space cleared under trees and shrubs as this reduces the chance of snakes using them for cover and makes them easier to spot. Move bird feeders away from the house or get rid of them altogether. Birds often leave seed scattered underneath which attracts rodents that, in turn, attract snakes. Keep bird seed and pet food stored in metal cans with tight fitting lids. Make sure your woodpile is kept away from the home and elevated if possible. When designing your landscaping, try not to use mulch or large rocks as these create breeding grounds and overwintering habitats for snakes. Instead, try to use smaller, tight-fitting rock like gravel or river rock. Also try to avoid using water features and Koi ponds as the water can also attract snakes.
4. Lock Them Out
Snakes can be very persistent pests and keeping them out can be difficult. Carefully inspect the outside of your home and seal any cracks or crevices you find on the house, sidewalk, and foundations. Consider installing fencing around your yard, garden, or pool. Fencing should be buried a few inches into the ground and constructed using 1/4″ rigid mesh or solid sheeting. Fencing should also include a bend at the top to prevent snakes from climbing up and over. There are some companies who even make wildlife-specific fencing.
The best way to prevent snakes is to take steps to keep them out in the first place. Dealing with snakes can be dangerous depending on the type of snake you have. If you have a snake problem, contact animal control or a professional wildlife control company who can help safely trap, relocate, or remove the nuisance snake from your home.
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Nuisance wildlife is defined as any type of wild animal that invades a human habitat. This can include squirrels, skunks, opossum, raccoons, moles, voles, groundhogs, birds, bats, snakes, rodents, and more. Anytime a pest gets into your home the potential for damage and contamination is significant. That’s why it’s important to deal with the issue as soon as possible.
There are different ways to handle nuisance pests when they find a way into your home. Extermination involves killing the nuisance pest through the use of traps, toxins, and poisons. While this is generally cheaper and more efficient, the chemicals used can be dangerous for humans, pets, and other non-nuisance wildlife. Wildlife control involves the selective removal of problem populations of certain species of wildlife and usually employs the use of live traps or professional trappers to catch and relocate the nuisance pests to a safer habitat away from humans. This method usually takes longer than extermination and is more expensive. Wildlife exclusion is usually performed as a part of either of these wildlife services and involves preventative measures such as sealing up entry points and habitat modification (which ensures unwanted pests can’t access your property or structures).
Animal control services can be provided by your local government and is usually free although it is often selective in what types of animals they will service. Services provided and cost varies by area and municipality.
A professional wildlife control company will often combine wildlife control, exclusion and/or extermination methods depending on the type of pest you have. Whenever possible, humane control methods such as live removal and relocation are the preferred method of treatment.
Wildlife services typically range from $150 to $500 with the average visit costing between $250 and $250, although it can cost upwards of $1000 depending on what type of pest is involved and how much damage has already been caused. Most wildlife control companies will charge a flat fee or a minimum service fee (usually between $150 and $250), although some will also charge an additional hourly fee per hour after the first hour of service (anywhere from $25/hour to $250/hour depending on the service). This is determined by the type of pest problem, where it is located in the house, and what services are required (removal, exclusion, cleanup, etc). Raccoons and squirrels are usually the most expensive pests to service with an average of $200 to $1500 for a visit depending on the size of the infestation and the amount of damage inflicted. DIY traps can cost anywhere from $50 to $350.
In addition to fees for wildlife control services, damages caused by these nuisance pests is an often overlooked cost that should factor in to the overall budget. The longer you wait to get rid of the pest, the more damage that can occur. Nuisance pests can damage walls, chew through electrical wiring putting you at risk for fires, destroy insulation, and contaminate your home and HVAC system. Repairs for these issues including insulation replacement, wiring repair, drywall repair, duct repair, crawlspace cleaning and repair, and siding repair can be quite expensive and the cost can escalate quickly.
If you have a wildlife issue, contact a professional wildlife control company. A professional technician can inspect your home to determine what type of animal you are dealing with, the extent of the problem and damage, and appropriate ways to treat it. They can also provide you with wildlife exclusion techniques to help prevent repeat issues in the future. Professionals also guarantee their methods and are trained in the proper handling of wildlife, as well as the newest methods and techniques.
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While most birds aren’t considered parasites, they can become quite a nuisance. Birds can be helpful in some ways: feeding on predator insects and eating the seeds of pesky weeds that can overtake your garden; but birds can also be pests by feeding on the fruits and veggies in your garden, causing damage to your home and other structures on your property, and leaving droppings that can lead to serious health risks to you and your family. Because it is illegal to kill most species of birds and remove or destroy the nests of other species, homeowners are only left with a few options when it comes to bird control: natural repellents that deter birds away from certain areas around your home and professional wildlife exclusion to safely and humanely remove or relocate nuisance birds. Here are five home remedies to keep birds away:
1. Shiny Objects
Shiny, reflective objects make great deterrents for problematic birds. The reflection of light off of these objects discourages birds from returning to these areas. These shiny objects, such as old CDs, aluminum cans, tin foil, small mirrors, or even metallic wrapping paper, can be hung near nesting or landing areas frequented by the problematic birds.
Birds have many natural predators including cats, owls, and larger birds of prey. Placing objects in the shape of these predators around areas frequented by nuisance birds can deter them from nesting or landing near them. These objects can be made of wood, metal, or any other material that can withstand the outdoor environment. Make sure to move these objects around every few days or the birds will get acclimated to them and begin to ignore them.
3. Garden Balls
Round garden balls, which are large colorful balls that can be placed in your garden or hung from trees, fence posts, and stakes are a natural bird repellent. Birds will confuse these spherical orbs with eyes and try to avoid them. They also can be great decorations for your yard or garden.
4. Bird Spikes
Bird spikes are long, needle-like rods used for bird control. These spikes can be made of tin or plastic cans and placed in the dirt or attached with wire to window sills and overhangs. They can also be made by hammering nails into wood. Birds find these spikes uncomfortable and won’t land on them, keeping them away from problematic areas around your home.
5. Repellent Sprays
There are several versions of bird repellent sprays you can make at home but the most popular is a concoction of chili peppers, water, and vinegar. To make this spray, crush dried red or green chili peppers into a mixture of water and vinegar. This mixture can either then be heated in a crock pot for a few hours to infuse or placed in a clear glass in the sunlight for a natural infusion. Once finished, place the repellent in a plant mister and spray any areas where birds are causing problems.
If you try these home remedies and you still have an issue with birds, your other option is to contact a professional pest control company who specializes in wildlife control who can come and thoroughly evaluate your home to help determine not only the species of bird you are dealing with, but also the best course of treatment that is both legal and effective.
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Nesting birds can cause much more damage than one may realize. But why would birds want to build their nests so close to humans? Nesting near, in, or on homes actually provides birds with protection from dangerous predators and helps protect them from extreme temperatures in the environment. Birds will build their nests anywhere that fits the criteria they are looking for. They prefer to nest at higher locations so they can survey the area around them for potential predators while keeping their nests relatively hidden. Bird nests can be found just about anywhere on or around your home. In fact, small birds will even nest in gaps in siding, behind shutters, or even on light fixtures.
So a bird built a nest on your home. Is that bird’s nest dangerous? They can be! Bird droppings contain acid that can corrode metal and concrete and even damage car paint. Debris from nests and bird feathers can clog drains and gutters leading to moisture issues. When nests are built in dryer, fan, or stove vents, they can cause clogs that restrict air flow, cause lint to buildup, and significantly increase the risk of fire. Nests that are built inside attics can cause damage to insulation.
Besides the physical damage to your home, bird nests can also cause health issues for humans. Birds carry pathogens that can be dangerous to the health of you and your family. Nests also contain bird droppings which can carry all sorts of bacteria and other pathogens like histoplasmosis. Nests can also contain parasites, ticks, mites, and other pests that can remain long after birds have vacated a nest.
There are also several federal, regional, and local laws and regulations that restrict or prohibit the relocation, removal, or destruction of bird nests. Without knowing for certain what species of bird has inhabited your home, disturbing the nest could be considered illegal and put you at risk for legal ramifications.
The best way to get rid of bird nests is to prevent them from being built in the first place. Here are some steps you can take at home to help prevent birds from nesting in, on, or near your home.
- Eliminate food sources. Birds often nest near homes because they provide an ample supply of food without having to travel far from their nests. Remove food scraps and trash from around your home. Make sure your trash containers are sealed tightly. Keep bird feeders and baths farther out in your yard and only fill them with enough feed for a few birds at a time. Make sure to clean up any spilled birdseed regularly.
- Keep it covered. Birds are notorious for building nests in dryer vents, fan vents, stove vents, and chimneys. Install covers or screens over any open vents. You can also install chimney caps on chimneys. Seal any gaps in siding and shutters.
- Scare them away. Consider installing perch repellents on window sills, ledges, and around the perimeter of your roof. These spikes will prevent birds from alighting on these areas. Consider placing plastic predators like coyotes, snakes, owls, and hawks) on your porch and around your yard. These will spook birds away from your home. Make sure to move them around periodically so the birds don’t get used to them being there. You can also use visual hanging repellents on your porches.
Due to the laws and regulations surrounding bird nest removal and bird protection, it is usually best to call a professional wildlife exclusion company to handle any bird nest issues you may have. These wildlife removal professionals can properly identify the species of bird nesting at your home and properly, humanely, and legally remove it or relocate it from your property.
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Unlike many warm-blooded animals, snakes don’t actually hibernate in the winter. Instead, snakes go into a state known as brumation where snakes become less active and their metabolism slows down tremendously. Brumation is similar to hibernation in that snakes will sleep for long periods of time. They will, however, wake up to forage for food and water and if a sudden warm snap occurs and temperatures rise for a few days at a time. When the weather cools back down, they will go back into their brumation state once again. Brumation can begin anytime from September to December and last until March or April.
Because snakes are cold-blooded, they can’t regulate their body temperatures like warm-blooded animals can. When cold weather hits, snakes must find shelter from the temperatures by burrowing in holes or caves, under logs or rocks, in tree stumps, or by making their way into basements, crawlspaces, garages, barns, sheds, wood piles, and even car engines. Snakes are very quiet and experts at hiding so their presence often goes unnoticed until they are disturbed.
Now that you know where snakes might be hiding this winter, the next question is how to keep snakes away? Here are some tips on how to prevent snakes from hiding out on your property.
- Landscape Management: Rodents are attracted to tall grass and overgrown landscaping. By minimizing these unkempt areas on your property, rodent populations are reduced which, in turn, helps keep snakes who feed on these rodents away. Keep grass mowed and landscaping well maintained. Cut shrubbery regularly and trimmed away from your home and other buildings.
- Storage: Snakes will look for any area of cover that will protect them from the elements without being disturbed. They will often seek shelter in wood piles or other piles of debris on your property. Make sure that these stacks are kept at least 12″ off the ground and, if possible, stored in sealed containers.
- Wildlife Exclusion: Snakes can’t chew to create openings into your home so they take advantage of any openings that are already present, such as gaps near pipes, damaged window and door screens, open windows and doors, damaged soffits, crawlspaces that aren’t enclosed, and through cracks in the exterior of buildings. Carefully examine all of your property and seal any potential openings that snakes may utilize.
- Food Sources: Snakes are known to feed on rodents, lizards, and frogs. Eliminate these pests and you will help eliminate snakes. Get rid of any areas of standing water on your property. Keep landscaping well maintained to deter rodents. Inside your home, make sure to keep areas clean especially kitchens and pantries where spilled food and crumbs are readily available for rodents to feed on.
- Professional Service: Depending on the species, snake removal can be dangerous to undertake on your own. It is usually in your best interest to contact a professional wildlife control company when dealing with a snake issue. Establishing a regularly scheduled service plan can help identify pest risks before they become an issue. These professionals can also identify any areas where wildlife exclusion services may be beneficial and establish a comprehensive pest control program.
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