It’s hard to believe that there was a time when the UK was rat free but until the middle ages there wasn’t a rodent in sight. The Black Rat was introduced to Europe from South East Asia in the middle ages and quickly infested the UK. But apart from being an irritating pest which spoiled grain and nibbled cloth the rats brought with them fleas which transmitted the Great Plague of London 1664-1666 which at its height killed 7165 people in one week. The total number of deaths is estimated to be around 70,000. It wasn’t until 1910 that the connection between the fact that fleas transmitted the plague from rats to humans was confirmed.
The Brown Rat arrived around the beginning of the 18th century, most likely from eastern Asia. Unlike the Black Rat which can climb well and prefers warmer and drier places, the brown rat thrives in damp places such as drainpipes and sewers, feasting on the buffet of waste which comes its way. Black rats prefer a cereal based diet, particularly cereals and seeds. The brown rat will eat anything, including soap.
The House Mouse arrived from south-western Asia and occurs in every location where humans have settled. They live mainly under floors or lofts and will gnaw their way into wooden partitions in the house. House mice will gnaw through anything including electrical wires and cardboard boxes but their main source of destruction is by fouling goods with their urine and excrement. Here are some tips on how to rodent proof your home:
How to rodent proof your home
- Make sure all doors close tightly with no gaps – if you can insert a pencil there is a chance a mouse can gain access.
- Seal any holes and cracks that are more than 7mm wide with fine-mesh netting or wire wool and seal with foam.
- Mice can climb rough walls and enter into a cavity wall and reach the ventilation space under the roof. A 20cm wide band of hard, smooth paint, about 1 meter above the floor will prevent mice from climbing up.
- Fit vertical pipes with a metal guard which mice cannot pass.
- Seal ventilation ducts with fine mesh netting which is at least 0.7 mm.
- Fill cracks in the walls or floor with cement.
- Rats often enter homes through broken drains which are either old and crumbling and because new drains have been badly installed.
- Rats can dig their way through the earth and gain access through a badly finished join between the floor.