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What you need to know about rodents

Rodents are quite difficult to control, let alone exterminate them from your property permanently, especially if you don’t have enough knowledge about this pest. There are several factors that contribute to the seemingly complex or impossible task of solving rodent infestation inside your house. But as long as we understand their basic needs, we should be able to think of ways to prevent them from infesting our homes. Just like any life form, rodents live where they can get food, water, and shelter. 

The most common rodents that infest properties in the Philippines are rats and mice. They consume and spoil foods in houses, stores, and fields. Worst of all, they are notorious carriers of deadly diseases that they can spread through their urine, fecal droppings, and even hairs. They also damage clothes, furniture, walls, ceilings, electrical wirings, and others through their gnawing and burrowing habit. This behavior is quite destructive and may also cause fires in some cases.

Practical Ways to Control Rodents at Home

1. The first step to controlling rodents is to identify what kind of rodents you have on your property.

Urban Rats

This type of rodent is big in size. They prefer to live in sewers and are very good swimmers. They will normally enter your home in search of food, but will eventually return to the sewers or areas with a similar environment to that of a sewer. Sticky traps are not effective for this type of rodent. Due to their size and weight, they can easily escape sticky traps or glues. The best way to control them is to either place a trap or food poisoning. Each method has its pros and cons.

House Mice

This type of rodent is small in size. They prefer to live in the ceiling or undisturbed areas of a building and are very good climbers. For this type of rodent, you can place sticky traps or glues in strategic places. Traps and food poisoning are both effective too.

2. The second step in controlling rodents is to measure the population and extent of the infestation. Identifying the level of infestation in a particular property will help you identify the best method or a combination of methods to effectively rid your property of this annoying pest.

3. The third step to controlling rodents is to learn about their biology and behavior. For example, learn where they live; where they move; and most importantly, know how they feed. Knowing this, the practitioner should be able to know the most vulnerable point on where and when to implement control measures.

Signs of Rodents Infestation or Presence

On many occasions, you won’t be able to tell if you have rodents on your property. This is because they move normally at night and in darkness. However, there are several ways to determine the presence of rats or mice. Simply look for the following:

  1. Fecal droppings
  2. Foul odor
  3. Tracks or traces of dirt, dark smudge, footprints on baseboards, cabinets, etc.
  4. Gnawed items
  5. Burrows or holes on walls, baseboard, cabinets, ceiling, etc.

Rodents are prolific breeders. Most rodents reproduce in response to food availability. A number of rodent species attain sexual maturity 45 days after birth and exhibit a gestation period of about 21 days. Lactation would also be about 21 days. The weanlings would open their eyes about 14 days after birth. The house mouse can have a new litter every four weeks.

Rats and mice exhibit a 4-5 day reproductive cycle. Within this cycle is 48 hrs estrous phase when the animal would come into heat. Females allow matting with this period only.

The abundance of rodents is greatly influenced by a number of factors including climate/weather, availability of food, water, and shelter. Rodents are known to exhibit capabilities to regulate their own number which may be influenced by their extreme numerical abundance and level of competition for space and food. Active self-regulation may be manifested through

  1. Delayed rate of maturity
  2. Incidence of pseudo-pregnancy
  3. Reduced litter size
  4. Absence of sexually precocious young. 

In the presence of a more conducive environment, the population can easily re-bounce back through

  1. Incidence of post-partum heat
  2. Acceleration of reproductive maturity
  3. Increasing litter size

In a short period of time, the population recovers back their number to the level of their carrying capacity.

Rodents do not travel long distance their established territory or home range as long as the conditions are favorable. They move as far as 100 meters with most travel racing from 2 to 40 meters in foraging activities. They move around in fringe harborage utilizing established routes characterized by runways and burrows. Migration movements may only range from 200 to 400 meters from their original sites.

Exploratory behavior. Rants and mice are agile animals; most their activities, however are one at night time. Just like other nocturnal animals, they have poor eyesight but poses well-developed senses of smell and touch. They have excellent light sensitivity but poor acuity and are color blind. They possess a good sense of hearing. They are quite exploratory but approach new objects with great caution. This concept is termed neophobia – or the deliberate avoidance of the novel stimulus. If the new object is food or bait, only a small amount is taken. If the food contains an acute poison and the symptoms manifest immediately after a few minutes, the rats may not touch the bait again. This is commonly called bait shyness. But once the new object reaction is lost, they can easily be attached and get used to the object; this is called neophilia.

The territory is any defended area. Among rodents, certain males establish their own territory, which they actively defend from intruders. Territorial defense reactions, generally, are proportional to the level of crowding and competition. Ownership of territory provides individuals a monopoly of resources (food, nest, and mates). Mice are known to form “gross families”, wherein closely related individuals group together whose members do not fight with each other but attach strange individuals. This results in a territorial arrangement. Among rats, however, individuals regardless of relatedness form a relatively large pack that live together peacefully and attach individuals not a member of the group. With a group, dominance hierarchy is established through antagonistic encounters. 

Field rats and house mice are very good climbers but not the Norway rat. The latter is a good swimmer and can thrive in ditches and damp canals, and can enter any structure through the water traps in lavatories. The could also get access through electrical wires and metal pipes.

Field rats and house mice do not always make burrow but construct well-hidden nests on the ground, in trees, or the upper parts of buildings. Rodents gnaw continually to keep their ever-growing incisors sharp; otherwise they will grow back into the cheek disabling proper feeding. Rodents derived their name from their gnawing behavior.

Rodents groom themselves, licking their fur, feet, and nails. Except for urban rats, most rats and mice have good-looking shiny fur. They are also good hoarder of foods and other materials. Food items are carried in their mouths and deposited in their burrows. Some of the foods are eaten but most of them may also be spoiled. 

Rodent control describes the approaches used for: protecting crops, natural resources or rare species; preventing the spread of rodent-borne diseases; protecting structures and commodities from damage; reducing overabundant populations in managed areas; eradicating rodents from confined areas, such as islands; or removing single individuals from pest situations.

There are different ways by which rodents can be controlled. No simple control method, however, can be used in all situations. The most effective way to treat rodent problems is with a combined approach of different control methods including chemical, biological control, integrated with land management practices. This type of rodent control program can be achieved through the principles and concepts of integrated pest management.

These methods along with general sanitation have long been recommended. Environmental sanitation and removal of harborage by clearing waste areas adjacent to the field, reducing dike size and number, reducing grain wastage at harvest, and disposing of straw piles can supplement other control measures considerably. In building structures such as grain warehouses and agricultural products storage buildings, infestations may not exist if animals have no access to food and shelter. Good warehouse management would lessen food sources and cover or nesting places for rodents.

This involves direct killing or exclusion by manual or mechanical means. The methods include destroying burrows, trapping, and barriers. The use of traps, trenches, and electric barriers may also be a matter of choice. In using snap traps, care has to be made in setting them up. The should aways be operated away from human activities, along walls, runways and burrows. These contraptions are placed at right angle of the rat passage way. Good and palatable baits should be provided to attract the rats. Some glue traps are also available commercially. They are excellent for capturing mice, though not effective for fields rats and urban rats. 

A blanket system is one of the most effective removal processes of a rat infestation in weedy and unkempt surroundings. In the process of cleaning up the surroundings, rats may be driven to a centralized area where a trap can be devised. Digging of burrows may also prove effective in some situations. 

Rat proofing means providing contraptions to buildings and structures, which would keep rats and mice out. Thin metal sheets are good materials for rodent proofing. The contraptions may be provided on windowpanes, under doors, broken windows, pipes, etc. Contraptions are built considering the following factors:

  1. Rodents gain entrance through any opening that is large enough to squeeze their head through (about 0.5 square inch);
  2. Rats and mice are good climbers, and capable to climb in vertical and horizontal directions;
  3. Most rats build burrows to a depth of 4 ft. Underground;
  4. They can jump vertically by as much as 36 inches and can horizontally drop 4 ft. Without getting hurt;
  5. Urban rats and field rats can swim and cross sewers and water canals even against currents; they can get access passing through plumbing traps and lavatories.

To effectively rid yourself of this pest without consuming too much time and without sacrificing your rest time and convenience, simply call Mr. Butler Home Services and we shall be happy to inspect your property for you. Mr. Butler Home Services is a registered pest control operator and a member of the Pest Exterminators Association of the Philippines (PEAP).

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