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Here’s how to prevent and treat rodent infestations in your home

(Shutterstock Photo)

This past fall and early winter were wet ones in Arizona. In addition to the rain, the colder temperatures forced critters to seek warm shelter in our homes, garages and even under our cars’ hoods.

While some think rodents are cute and should be left alone, they can cause damage to your home, property and even your health.

For your health

Rodents often carry diseases and can cause damage to your home and property. Rats and mice chew through wood and electrical wiring, which can expose the wire and increase the danger of a house fire. Rodents are not potty prima donnas. They will relieve themselves anywhere, causing health hazards and nasty odors.

 Of Mice and Men Rats

“There are several ways to distinguish rats from mice, although no one method is foolproof,” said Nathan Woolf, general manager, Blue Sky Pest Control, a Rosie-Certified Partner. “In general, adult rats are bigger than mice. However, an immature rat may be difficult to distinguish from a mouse. Adult rats often weigh close to 5 to 12 ounces, whereas an adult mouse weighs about 0.5 to 1.1 ounces. Generally, rats are about twice as long as most mice.”

Dean, Sammy and Frank

There are pack rats and there’s the Rat Pack. So unless your rodent visitors have a regular gig in Vegas, you probably want to send them packing.

The pack rat, sometimes called the wood rat or trading rat, lives throughout Arizona. They build a specific type of nest that looks like a messy bunch of twigs, leaves and other debris, which often appear at the bases of cacti and trees, or in empty structures.

“Roof rats are one of the main rodent populations we are called up to eradicate,” said Woolf. “They spend 90% of their time off the ground. They generally live in trees and vegetation. They eat fruits, nuts, vegetables, bird seed, dog and cat food, and food debris of any kind.”

Their nests generally appear in rafters, soffits and other high locations, although in warmer locales, they sometimes create ground burrows. According to the University of Arizona, some of the signs of root rats are:

  • Smudge marks around higher areas of a structure, caused by the dirt and oil from their fur
  • Scurrying sounds in the attic at night (roof rats are nocturnal creatures)
  • Nervous or excited pets
  • Discovery of a sizable food stash
  • Remnants of hollowed-out citrus fruits, where the rats leave nothing but the rind and/or skin

(Shutterstock Photo)

Cause

As is the case with all pests, rats and mice need water, food and shelter. Readily available food sources are an attractant. Trash bins or dumpsters where the lid is left open or missing, fruit that has fallen or has not been harvested, and pet food left outside are a smorgasbord for these scavengers.

“The food source may not even be in your yard,” said Woolf. “Roof rats will travel from roof to roof seeking food sources, particularly citrus.”

Accessible shelter can be found in a variety of areas depending on the type of rodent. Large roof rat infestations can be found in areas dense with mature fruit trees. Pack rats can be found in homes in or near desert areas. House mice often find shelter in garages or homes.

Treating

“Treating rodent infestations effectively requires proper inspection to accurately determine the type of rodents, where they are getting into the home or structure and the size of the rodent population,” said Woolf. “The most common ways of dealing with a rat or mouse infestation is trapping and/or rodent baits. Knowing the animal helps determine the right approach for dealing with them.”

Be mindful of using pesticides. If an animal, such as a coyote, nabs one who has ingested treatment, it can be fatal. For light infestations, a DIY approach of humane traps is an option, if you are not squeamish about rodents.

“Using a professional pest control company not only increases the chances of quick eradication, but it also relieves homeowners of the ‘ick’ factor associated with trapping and removing pests,” said Woolf.

Blue Sky implements “Integrated Pest Management,” or IPM. They start by sealing the areas where the rodents are coming in. Methods include installing door sweeps and/or installing new weather stripping, caulking or sealing pipe chases, and making sure doggie doors are properly maintained.

Prevention

You can prevent rodents from getting into your home by sealing or closing entry areas. A rodent can squeeze through a hole the size of a nickel or dime. Rats and mice are always looking for food and they are going to take the path of least resistance.

“We recommend homeowners eliminate food sources and nesting areas,” said Woolf. “Making sure landscaping is properly maintained including keeping trees trimmed back from touching or hanging over the home or building, repairing trash and dumpster bin lids, keeping bins closed, picking and picking up fallen fruit, and keeping pet food inside when it is not feeding time are important preventative steps.”

Check out this link for more information on Blue Sky Pest Control.

Join Rosie on the House every Saturday morning from 7 to 11 a.m. on KTAR News 92.3 FM. If you’d like to send us questions or comments, email Info@RosieontheHouse.com. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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