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Rodents

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Chemical-free rodent control

Rodenticides are an efficient means of rodent control, but many people are reluctant to use poisonous chemicals around the home, especially in the presence of children and pets.

There are some alternative methods of control but you still need a measure of care and competence to obtain the most effective results. None of the rodent control methods are without risks or guaranteed to eliminate them, as this depends on using the methods appropriately.

In addition, it is essential with every method chosen to back it up with prevention measures to deny rats and mice food and access to shelter, making sure they cannot return.

In choosing a rodent control method you should consider:

  • the scale of the infestation;
  • the qualifications and experience of the person carrying out the job;
  • the risks to family, neighbours, pets and other 'non target' wildlife.

Rodent traps and bait

Rodent traps usually require the use of food as bait to attract the rodents. They have poor eyesight but a highly developed sense of taste and smell, which they use to locate food sources. Rats and mice need fresh food, preferably with a strong odour that will attract them close enough to be caught.

Rodents prefer cereal grains, meat, fish, nuts, and will also eat many manufactured foods such as peanut butter, chocolate spread, jam and cheese (although this is not the staple food that cartoons would have us believe). Most high energy/calorie foods could be used. However those that are more difficult for rodents to remove such as peanut butter or chocolate spread may be more successful.

Trap and bait shyness

Rats will initially avoid anything new placed in their environment and then investigate it cautiously. This ‘fear of the new’ or neophobia can take at least a few days to overcome. For all rodents if there is an adverse experience then shyness can last for weeks or months. With food bait they may eat small amounts at first to test the flavour and any reaction, before accepting it. Placing traps with food, but not setting the trigger for a short while, will help rats and mice to overcome any trap and bait shyness.

Spring/ snap traps

Traps that are designed to kill rodents with a spring release, require some skill to position correctly and avoid affecting other wildlife, pets and children. Traps have advantages over rodenticides for small infestations in small structures, such as homes and garages which are:

  • they avoid use of toxic chemicals;
  • they are reasonably cheap;
  • they allow the user to easily see if a rodent has been caught;
  • they catch the rodent for disposal of the body, avoiding smells from a decomposing body located in an inaccessible place.

The trap should be placed along a rat or mouse run, usually along a wall, behind objects such as fridges or cupboards. Place the trigger side flush against the wall, or use two with the triggers facing away from each other. You may need to place them in several sites to target the rodent population effectively and quickly. If you can place the traps on a route you know rodents are using regularly, you may not need to use bait to begin with — as they scurry along they may simply ‘blunder’ into the traps!

The traps must be checked frequently to remove dead animals. Also, they do not always kill cleanly, so you must check them regularly to kill any trapped live animal humanely. If used outdoors they should be placed in natural or artificial tunnels to target the rodent pest and protect the bait from rain and non-target animals and children.

Hi-tech rodent traps

Rentokil has developed the RADAR mouse trap to control mice in a humane manor. A box-shaped container has an entrance at each end for the mouse to enter. When the mouse passes infrared detectors it triggers the doors to close, sealing the container. Carbon dioxide is automatically released to kill the mouse quickly and humanely and keep it isolated to remove any danger of contamination.

A warning light on the outside of the unit shows that a mouse has been caught and an automated signal can be passed through a radio network and the internet to record the capture and signal to a service technician that the unit needs attention. It is designed for use in businesses where a high degree of hygiene and pest control is essential and detailed records of pest control measures are needed for legislative requirements.

Rodent repellents

Ultrasonic rodents repellents

Rats and mice can hear and communicate using ultrasound frequencies higher than the hearing range of humans, dogs and cats:

  • Human: 64-23,000 Hz
  • Dog: 67-45,000 Hz
  • Cat: 45-64,000 Hz
  • Rat: 200-76,000
  • Hz Mouse: 1,000-91,000 Hz

It is claimed, therefore, that high volume ultrasound is able to repel rats and mice without affecting humans, cats and dogs. However, ultrasound dissipates quickly with distance and is blocked by objects, so the sound is unlikely to travel far in a large and complex space — such as a house. There is only some evidence that ultrasound has limited effect when used in very small spaces.

There are many electronic devices on the market that produce ultrasound specifically to repel rats and mice however,  ultrasound has little long-term effect on the behaviour of rats and mice, as they get used to the sound and their overriding desire for food and shelter will be stronger than any noise disturbance. It may have a limited effect for a few days, if the rodents are new to the property but is unlikely to affect an established rodent infestation.The affects will also depend on the ultrasonic frequencies used and their intensity. Rodents are easily frightened by any strange noises, but quickly become used to them, especially if nothing adverse happens while the noise occurs.

Scents that repel rodents

Rodents may find some smells repellent, such as ammonia or moth balls, and folklore and myth claims various plant scents repel them, but none are effective repellents, as rodents quickly become used to them. 

The majority of rodent repellents that you usually think of such as peppermint oil, moth balls or ammonia don’t actually do a great deal to resolve an infestation, they are simply 'old wives tales' and rodent DIY myths.

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