Rodents: Facts, Identification & Control
What Is a Rodent?
Rodents are a group of nuisance pests that includes mice, rats, and squirrels. These animals can contaminate food, damage property, and spread disease. The rodents that most often come into conflict with people in the United States are:
- Instincts: Rats are instinctively wary of things new to their environment, including rat control measures such as traps and bait, and colonize in attics, burrows, under concrete and porches, in wall voids and other hard-to-reach places.
- Disease: Rats can harbor and transmit a number of serious diseases. They can also introduce disease-carrying parasites such as fleas and ticks into your home.
- Access: Mice invade your home seeking food, water and warmth.
- Contamination: Each mouse can contaminate much more food than it eats.
The Order Rodentia is comprised of over 2,000 species, which are subdivided into many families. The Family Muridae is the largest, containing nearly two-thirds of all rodent species. This family includes several subfamilies and includes sand rats, gerbils, crested rats and old world rats and mice.
What Do Rodents Look Like?
Rodents are warm-blooded mammals that, like humans, can be found throughout the world. They have oversized front teeth for gnawing and check teeth, which are adapted for chewing. Rodents chew on a variety of items available to them and cause great damage in and around homes.
Where Do Rodents Live?
Rodents thrive across the world in almost any habitat with access to food and water. Because of their small size, they can be difficult to keep out of a home. Rats can get indoors through holes the size of a quarter, while mice can use gaps the size of a dime to come inside.
Are Rodents Cause for Concern?
Rodents & Disease
In addition to being tough to control, rodents may carry diseases and taint food with waste, fur, and saliva. In fact, mice can contaminate about 10 times the amount of food they eat. The CDC links some rodents to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a disease fatal in about 36 percent of all reported U.S. cases.
The pests are also hosts for fleas, which can spread plague and diseases like lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. This illness mostly affects those with weakened immune systems and may result in headaches, fever, and meningitis. It can also cause complications during pregnancy.
It is not advisable to handle any wild rodent. They are equipped with large teeth and are capable of transmitting a variety of bacteria, viruses and diseases through their saliva, feces and urine.
If you locate a rodent within your home, it is best to contact a pest management professional for removal and identification. The presence of one rodent within a home could signal an infestation.
Keep all children and pets away from the rodent. If cornered, the rodent will bite to defend itself.
Rodents tend to be rapid breeders. Some species breed year-round, and populations are maintained through constant reproduction.
Rats and mice are both extremely destructive within agricultural communities. A number of species feed on seeds and grains. The feces and urine of some rodents may contaminate surfaces with which they come into contact.
What Can I Do to Prevent Rodent Infestations?
Prevention methods should be implemented early in order to maintain a rodent-free home. Rodents reproduce rapidly, and small populations become full-blown infestations in very little time.
Keep any possible food sources away from rodents. Small crumbs and garbage are popular sources of infestation, as are dry goods such as grains and cereals. These should be kept in sealed metal or glass containers to prevent contamination. Fruits and vegetables should also be stored properly, and resulting waste should never be left in sinks or on counters.
Cardboard objects prove attractive to rodents, as they tend to chew them up for use in their nests.
Because of the rodents’ body plan, they are capable of squeezing through spaces that appear to be much too small for them. All such holes should be sealed to prevent entry and reentry of rodents.
A pest control professional should be contacted for assistance.
Infestations & Control
Rodents are some of the most adaptable creatures on the planet and can be extremely difficult to exterminate.
Rodent infestations can cause considerable damage to infested buildings and local agriculture.
Rodents are also known carriers of many diseases and prove a health hazard to humans.
Rodent populations grow quickly and steadily. Rodent control is best started prior to infestations.
In order to protect your home, garden and health from existing rodent infestations, professional, customized solutions are often necessary.
Unified efforts on the part of neighbors can prove extremely effective in preventing infestations. Within apartment buildings and neighborhoods, coordination of prevention measures may include cleaning efforts and landscape alteration.
On an individual level, homes can be rodent-proofed through identifying and sealing as many possible entry points.
Problems with DIY
Homeowners may seek homemade solutions to their rodent problems. They may try a variety of repellents such as mothballs or even essential oils. These homemade methods are not capable of addressing full-blown rodent infestations.
Contact a Professional
It is recommended that anyone experiencing a rodent infestation contact a pest control professional to arrange for a consultation. Professionals are trained not only to address current infestations but also to prevent future infestations. Scheduling a home inspection may help you get rid of rodents.
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For information on other pests, visit the pest library home page.