As the weather turns to fall and rats and mice seek warmer shelter inside homes, pest management professionals need to be ready for the inevitable increase of calls from customers about animals in their attics. Our company, Orlando, Fla.-based Massey Services, recommends incorporating sanitation, exclusion, repellents, traps and baiting in a comprehensive rodent control program.
Taking one action without the others may allow rodent problems to persist, which can make for frustrated customers and service technicians.
Proper sanitation is the first step in controlling rodent pests. All animals have three requirements for life: food, water and shelter. Removal of any one will force an animal to leave. Rodents are first attracted to a home based on what’s available outside. Eliminating debris such as piles of unused lumber or trash will reduce potential shelter areas for rodents. Collecting and removing fallen fruit from backyard trees and keeping lids on trash cans also will make an area less attractive to rats and mice. Suggest that clients store pet food and seeds, such as wild bird seed, in rodent-proof containers.
Rodents can squeeze through any opening their heads can fit through. That is a ¼-inch opening for mice and a ½-inch opening for young rats. Conduct inspections to find rodent access points. Focus around wires, conduits and pipes, or chimney and plumbing stacks. Pay attention to soffits and eaves, and attic or crawlspace vents. Don’t forget doors — rodents can slip under worn or missing door sweeps.
Seal off small access points with rodent-proofing materials such as copper mesh, ¼-inch hardware cloth, 24-gauge sheet metal or cement.
Gel repellents made with plant and pepper oils are effective at keeping rodents from moving through an area. Place the gel repellent in and around the access point. Contact with these products causes skin irritation to the pests and deters them from the site.
Strobe lights also are a good tool to drive rodents out of an attic. The constant flashing of high-powered light stresses the animal and drives them out of the attic space. This method is especially useful in attics with heavily pitched roofs and crawlspaces with large open areas. The light must be placed in an area that allows for maximum coverage.
Traps & Baiting.
Snap traps and sticky traps are excellent tools to eliminate mice and rats. Bait your traps with seeds, fruit and other foods the pest is familiar with so they are enticed to enter the trap. Make certain to secure the trap where it’s placed so the pest cannot move it.
Repeater traps are another effective tool when dealing with mice. Mice are curious creatures and they are attracted to the scents of their own species.
Ensure that frequent follow-up services are scheduled once the traps are placed. This will allow for the removal of any dead rats or mice before the process of decay begins. Decaying pests not only cause odor and staining; they invite other pests in, including flies and beetles. Note that rodenticides should never be used in the attic.
About the author: Adam Jones is vice president of quality assurance, Massey Services, Orlando, Fla.