Rodents’ instincts make them difficult to control, and they present a serious menace to your home. If you’re in need of rodent control services, here’s what you should know about these pests:
- Instincts: Rats are instinctively wary of 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, lice and ticks into your home.
- Access: They invade your home seeking food, water and warmth. Without mouse control intervention, one pair of mice may produce 200 offspring in four months.
- Contamination: Each mouse can contaminate much more food than it eats.
This summer an Alberta woman died after contracting Hantavirus, a rare respiratory disease primarily carried by deer mice, while cleaning her garage. Though usually regarded as winter pests when they venture indoors to escape the cold, this unfortunate incident serves as a reminder of the year-round need for protection against mice and rats, which spread numerous diseases through their droppings, and the fleas and mites that live on them.
For property owners and managers, the threat of disease is only one part of the problem. Rodents can also pose a cost risk to any building. Mice and rats instinctively burrow through walls and gnaw through electrical wiring, forcing expensive repairs. And, of course, a rodent sighting by a tenant or guest can have a devastating effect on a property’s reputation.
DETECT THE SIGNS
Rodents prefer dark covered areas so infestations can sometimes go unnoticed until it’s too late. Given the damage they can cause, it’s best to uncover any existing rodent problems as soon as possible. The most obvious sign of an infestation is an actual rodent sighting, but there might not always be such blatant evidence, so look for other signs of rodent presence. They leave behind plenty of physical clues if you know what to look for.
Gnaw marks on electrical or other wiring are a sure sign. Sometimes rodents will gnaw through wiring completely, causing otherwise unexplained power outages in buildings or even individual units. Inspect storage areas and other places that don’t get a lot of foot traffic. Are there “rub” marks along the base of walls? Oils and dirt on mice and rats’ skin can rub off and cause discoloration along the wall’s surface as they squeeze through tiny holes into the building or scurry along the side of walls.
Are there small holes in the wall near the junction with the floor? If so, they are probably caused by burrowing rodents. And, unpleasant though it may seem, keep an eye out for the small, pellet-like droppings that are a sure sign of infestation.
If there is any evidence of a rodent infestation, the first step is to physically remove the pests from the building. Snap traps and glue boards are normally the preferred tactic for indoor rodent elimination, since they can effectively remove the pests from the environment without chemicals.
Snap traps should be placed with the trigger end of the trap against the wall in locales that show evidence of a rodent infestation. If using glue boards, they should be placed at the junction of the floor and the wall and firmly secured to the floor with tacks or tape.
Larger rodents often can escape unsecured glue boards. Rodent remains and droppings pose a serious health hazard, so be sure to have a trained pest management professional remove them properly.
Many facilities also use tamper-resistant bait stations containing rodenticide bait blocks around building exteriors or at the property line. Such bait stations allow rodents to enter and feed on the poisonous bait, while blocking non-target organisms, such as children and pets, from gaining access to the bait inside.
Like the traps placed indoors, bait stations should be located at suspected rodent entry points. As a general rule, avoid using baits inside the building.
After addressing existing rodent populations, the next step is to ensure that they don’t come back. A rodent prevention program focuses heavily on sanitation and also targets elements that make an area attractive – namely food, shelter and water. Most property managers know that sanitation is important, and keeping a site neat and free from excess debris or waste is also a way to make sure that it continues to remain an unattractive habitat for rodents.
The overall cleanliness of a building requires a commitment from tenants also. Property managers need to emphasize the connection between sanitation and pest prevention. Typically, pest management companies will provide educational materials, on request, for property managers to distribute to residents or tenants. Some service providers may even be willing to conduct sanitation-training sessions with key staff members or tenants.
Rodents are not particularly picky eaters. Some species eat fruit, vegetables and meat, while others can survive solely on seeds and grains. This means that many mice and rats can be just as satisfied with organic waste found in dumpsters as they would be with a piece of fresh food.
Anywhere food is found is at high risk for a rodent infestation so pay special attention to these areas. Eliminate potential pest food sources by keeping such areas as clean as possible.
Dumpsters and outside trashcans are also high-risk areas. Smells can be a powerful attraction so dumpsters should be cleaned and frequently rotated, and trashcans should be tightly covered at all times.
BARRIERS TO ENTRY
Although rodents can take up residence in a building even in the summer, they aggressively seek shelter in the fall as temperatures begin to drop. Rodents like to be warm and temperatures below 15°C typically bring them inside.
Landscaping and structural tactics can make it less likely that rodents will approach a facility. First, trim back all vegetation from the side of the building and install a gravel strip three-quarters of a metre wide around the building’s immediate exterior. Since rodents do not like to be out in the open, this buffer will discourage them from coming too close to buildings.
In the event that rodents do get near the building, it is necessary that all possible points of entry be blocked. Rodents often enter through back rooms or storerooms when doors are left open and frequently they gain entrance up under roofing tiles via the rain gutters.
They can penetrate the building through very small holes and cracks in the siding. Mice can squeeze through openings as small as 1.75 centimetres wide, while rats can get through holes as small as 2.5 centimetres. If you can fit a pencil into a crack or hole, it should be sealed with weather-resistant caulk or foam.
Rodents also tend to enter buildings in search of water. Rats must have water to survive, and although mice can acquire most of their water from moisture in their food, they certainly won’t eschew water if it’s readily accessible.
Almost any source of moisture around your facility will be attractive to thirsty rodents. Pay special attention to appliances like soda and ice machines and HVAC units that might leak or perspire, and work with maintenance personnel to repair them if necessary. Also, monitor and remove any standing water around the exterior of the building.
By detecting and eliminating rodent problems quickly and implementing a comprehensive rodent prevention program, a property manager can hang up a “no vacancy” sign for rodents, keep tenants happier and help protect the longterm value of any real estate asset.