TYPES OF RODENT INFESTATIONS
If you can hear critters in your walls, it’s highly likely that you’ve got one of two culprits: mice or rats. These rodents are very similar, but they’ve got some critical differences that have to be taken into account by your pest control provider.
Mice are generally smaller than rats — many weigh as little as half an ounce. They have big ears (think of a famous corporate mascot) and long whiskers.
Cats get a lot of flak for their curiosity, but mice can outdo them easily. They’ll investigate anything in their territory and can climb into elevated spaces like your attics to check things out. Since they’re so tiny, they can fit into a lot of places you’ll never find, and they can slip through holes that seem impossibly small.
Generally there are two kinds of mice: house mice and deer mice.
House mice are often gray or dark brown and round, with round bodies. They’re usually 2.5 inches up to 4 inches with tails that can double their length. They breed extremely quickly, which makes them a huge infestation problem. A female house mouse can give birth to 36 young in a year.
Deer mice are larger, up to 7 inches from head to tail on average. Deer mice are dark on top and light on the bottom. Unlike house mice, they don’t have fur on their tails. Deer mice tend to hide food in nests rather than eating right away, so they attract other pests.
Rats are bigger than mice in every way except bravery. They tend to be less aggressive in their pursuit of food and water and forage in the new spaces less often. This makes them harder to trap. Rats’ size gives them larger jaws than mice, which means they can gnaw through more of your building’s materials.
Rats climb less often than mice, particularly the Norway rat variety. Their poor eyesight keeps them closer to the ground and stuck in their known territory. Because of these factors, you’re more likely to find rats in your crawl spaces and basements than mice. Rats carry a much larger array of diseases that can affect humans.
The two kinds of rats we see most often are Norway rats and roof rats.
Norway rats are large rodents, around 10 inches in body length, with coarse dark fur.
Roof rats, AKA black rats, are a bit smaller and usually black. You’re more likely to find them nesting in roofs and attics.
SIGNS OF RODENT INFESTATIONS
Now that you know what you’re looking for, how else can you spot a rodent infestation?
A sure sign that you’ve got a problem are droppings and urine. You’re more likely to find these around food sources. Droppings are about the size of rice. The more you see and smell, the larger your infestation problem is likely to be.
Rats and mice gnaw because their teeth grow continuously. They have to gnaw to keep their teeth from growing out of control. Contrary to popular belief, rodents are not eating the things they gnaw on. You’ll see gnaw marks most frequently on wood, where the damage is more obvious.
To get around their territory, mice and rats make holes in building material. These holes can be much smaller than you’d think. Rodents can squeeze through a hole the size of their rib cage, so rats only need a quarter-sized hole and mice need only a dime-sized hole.
EVIDENCE OF NESTING
Rodents build nests when they determine that a location has a steady supply of food and water. You may find torn paper, insulation, fabric, plant matter, or any number of other materials needed to make a warm space. Pregnant rodents in particular make warm, safe nests, so if you find a nest, you may have more rodents on the way.
SOUNDS AT NIGHT
Rodents do their foraging at night, so if you hear them running around inside the walls, it will likely be at nighttime. You may also hear them scratching, gnawing, and squeaking.
Your cats or dogs are going to be much better than you at noticing the signs of rodents. They can smell and hear much better than you. If they seem alert or agitated around common rodent hiding places like low cabinets, refrigerators or stoves, you should investigate.
Mice and rats leave oily spots when they travel along the walls. You can actually test these yourself to see if they’re fresh. If the rub mark smudges when touched, it’s fresh.
GETTING RID OF RODENTS
Rodents are well-known for carrying diseases; the Black Death killed half of Europe in the 14th Century. In the modern era, rodents are known to transmit hantavirus, salmonella, and Weil’s disease. If you find any of these signs of rodent infestation, you should act quickly to get rid of the pests.
Do not leave this critical job up to an untrained amateur! Rodents breed prolifically, and a large infestation can get so bad it causes damage to your home. There are a lot of DIY options out there, but as everyone knows, if you see one mouse, there are a dozen you don’t see.
Rather than get stuck in a cycle of trapping, waiting, finding more, and trapping again, call the experts at Bug PRO Florida! Our Pro Pest package covers rats and mice (excluding trapping). We have the training and experience you need to eliminate a rodent infestation for good.