As the weather turns colder, like many of us, mice seek warm, dry places to overwinter. The first step in controlling mice that turn your home into a vacation spot is to prevent them from entering. Easier said than done. An adult mouse can pass through an extremely small opening, as small as the diameter of a pencil. You don’t need big holes in your base to attach the welcome mouse mat. Every pipe and cable that enters your home through a wall provides an entrance. Especially the space around pipes is usually large enough for a mouse to pass through. Before the weather turns cold, check the following to make sure you don’t leave a welcome mat for the mice:
· Put new seals around each utility line and cable leading into your home, and look for cracks in your foundation that are ¼ “or more. Also look for gaps under doors.
You can use caulking where appropriate or cover the gaps with steel wool or wire mesh. Make sure to use a material that is not something a mouse can chew on or use to help make a nest like cardboard, insulation, or Styrofoam.
· Your garage door is an ideal place for mice to pass through. Check your weatherstripping, especially on the bottom
Make sure you don’t provide a mouse cafe. The average family of mice can live in a very small nesting area and can survive on small amounts of food. Mice eat a wide variety of foods, but they prefer seeds, cereals, grains, high-fat and high-protein foods such as nuts, bacon, butter, and sweets. Mice are “nibblers” and can make 20 to 30 visits to different food sites each night.
Even the best sanitation practices don’t always prevent a mouse infestation. You have to be persistent in eliminating your food supply.
· Store food in glass jars, metal cans, and airtight storage containers.
Rodents can chew on plastic, so the average grocery store container may not be enough to keep them from feasting on peanut butter, potato chip bags, etc.
Cereal and other dry food boxes are easily accessible and provide great nesting materials.
Store as much food as you can in your refrigerator, especially items like fruits and vegetables that are difficult to place in safe containers.
Mice love to share their pet’s food. Empty pet food dishes before bed each night and keep dry food bags in mouse-proof containers, such as a tightly closed trash can or hard plastic bag.
Make sure your trash cans have tight lids and never put food or trash in open trash cans in your kitchen.
Your first clue of a mouse infestation may be a dead mouse in your garage, pantry, or other entry point. Be very careful when removing dead rodents, as they carry all kinds of diseases that can spread to you and your family. Always wear rubber or plastic gloves to handle a dead mouse. Put it in a plastic bag, put that bag in a second bag and seal it tightly. Place the sealed bag in a garbage container with a tight-fitting lid.
Also wear gloves when cleaning or disinfecting items that may be contaminated by rodents, especially garbage cans and recycling bins. If you have set traps, throw them out with the mice or disinfect them by soaking them in three tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water or a commercial disinfectant that contains phenol.
After disposing of mice, turning off taps, and cleaning contaminated items, keep gloves on and wash your gloved hands with soap and warm water. If you can, add a household disinfectant. Once your gloves are clean, you can take them off and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
If you have seen signs of mice (described in my last article), you can try to eliminate them yourself with products found in stores. These include toxic baits, rodenticides, traps, and sticky boards. Be careful not to put your family at risk by using what may seem like harmless solutions. Keep in mind that anything that is bad for a mouse will be bad for children and pets.
Toxic baits and rodenticides sold over the counter for homeowners use are blood thinners that contain brodifacoum, chlorophacinone, diphacinone, or warfarin as active ingredients. They kill by interfering with the rodents’ normal blood clotting, causing the animal to die from internal bleeding. It is an old wives’ tale that poisoning makes mice thirsty, so they will go out to fetch water. They are more likely to retreat to their nests. And this can cause an odor problem if the mice die inside the house, inside the walls, or in inaccessible areas. Take great care to place the baits in areas inaccessible to children or pets. Dogs, in particular, are at high risk for poisoning, as they are attracted to bait and are good at finding items they shouldn’t be playing with (how many socks has Fido stolen this week?).
Traps are safer than toxic baits and chemicals, but they are still dangerous to fingers, paws, and nose. We recommend using at least a dozen traps or glue boards to be effective in DIY mouse removal. Place them where you see mouse droppings or signs of gnawing.
Most hardware stores and farm supply stores sell multi-catch mousetraps that can capture and hold a dozen or more mice before they have to be emptied. But don’t leave one of these for long, as the smell of dead mice is quite unpleasant. Using cheese as bait only works in cartoons. The most effective options are gum drops, peanut butter, or a cotton ball moistened with a few drops of vanilla flavoring.
You can also find sticky boards in most stores. Mice suffocate to death when they step over boards and get caught in the glue. Again, be careful to place the sticky boards out of the way of children and pets.
Be sure to check the trap litter tables several times a day and follow hygiene instructions when emptying the traps and disposing of carcasses to avoid contamination. If you have found dead mice or signs of an infestation, the best thing to do is call a professional exterminator who uses stronger solutions for commercial use that will work faster and more efficiently. There are also many pest control companies, such as Heritage Pest Control, that use environmentally friendly products.