Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mice: A Building's Chronic Problem

I hear this phrase everyday, "I don't see/hear/notice anything".  Usually, this is the phrase uttered when I discover rodent droppings in their home.  They then say, "Well, if it's active, then shouldn't I have seen/heard/noticed evidence of their activity?"  I also get explanations about how mice have routinely, year after year, become active in the house/building during the winter/fall months, but once the temp goes up, the run-ins with mice cease.

To REALLY understand what the reasons are for this, one MUST understand the habits and behaviors of mice.  According to the Michael F. Potter, an Extension Entomologist at the world renowned, University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, mice:
  • Are prolific breeders, having 6-10 litters per year
  • Forage close to nesting sights
  • Travel adjacent to walls
  • Are inquisitive and will investigate new objects in their foraging area
Mice also:
  • Urinate and defecate constantly and everywhere they frequent
  • Have a highly developed sense of smell
  • Poor eye-sight
  • Are opportunistic
  • Live within a hierarchical family structure
  • Colonize with other mice families
  • Squeeze into areas that are the diameter of a # 2 pencil
  • Are extremely adept and equipped climbers
  • Have teeth that grow continuously
Why are these factors important to know when trying to control mice???  Because, if one doesn't fully understand what they are up against, then controlling them is impossible.  The bullet points above show you (and me, even as a professional) what we are up against.  Understanding this makes our appreciation of the pest elevate, which then, will determine how thorough and consistent we have to be to solve the issue.

Mice enter structures year around.  Most people only come into contact with them or evidence of them in the winter due to the fact that it's cold outside and mice activity inside increases due to this fact.  So, the probability of us encountering them goes up.  Think of it like this, the more you drive, the more apt you are to encountering a fender bender.  

Mice are looking for the "Triangle of Life" (3 things)......Food, Moisture and Shelter.  The latter (shelter) becomes very important to them in the winter months.  Entering a structure in the winter is mostly due to the shelter that the structure provides.  It is for this reason that we encounter inside of structures during winter months than we do in the summer months.  With this said, always remember that mice are opportunistic creatures by nature, so given the chance to enter the structure, whether it's January or July, it doesn't matter, they will take advantage.

There is NEVER and I do mean NEVER (not just for affect) such thing as 1 mouse.......NEVER!!!!  Female mice have litters.  Remember, 6 to 10 litters on average per year.  One mouse litter will consist (on average) of 6 baby mice.  Within 3 weeks, the babies are fully weened off of their mothers and at 4 weeks, are fully capable of breeding their own litters.  Mice also have a hierarchical structure, like a pack of wolves, there are matriarchs and patriarchs.  They provide for one another.  So, there is NEVER just 1 or 2 or 5 mice.  There's always more!!!!

Just YouTube "mice climbing" or "mice squeezing through" and you will see a number of videos showing just how acrobatic mice really are.  It's unbelievable what they can climb up, jump from and squeeze through.  It's just as amazing to see what they can gnaw through.  YouTube that too!!!!

How do they navigate   Well, since they have extremely poor eye-sight and only hear about as good as us humans do, they have to rely on some sense to navigate.  That sense is their sense of smell.  As we determined, mice urinate and defecate everywhere.  This behavior creates a scent everywhere they go.  If you live in a home that always seems to have mice, no matter how many you trap.  If this routine repeats itself every winter, then the scent trails are to blame.  Remember, mice are opportunistic and have a great nose.  This means that the mice in your house, which came from outside, poo'd and pee'd its way to your house, all the while creating a strong SCENT that other OPPORTUNISTIC mice can and will pick up.  They also emit pheromones that communicate messages to their family members and colony mates.  Messages contained in their pheromones can convey information regarding mating, food sources and danger signals.   So, when you are catching mice year after year after year, this scenario is being played out right before your eyes.

If you have chronic back pain, your doctor will tell you that you must take your meds, do your physical therapy and consistently see him if you want to be sure that it won't "flare up".  As a pest control professional, I will tell you that you must routinely and thoroughly treat for mice, or any pest for that matter, if you don't want them around your home or business.  The most common mistake I see when trying to solve pest problems is that the treatment method falls short on consistency and thoroughness.  A majority of the time, these two short-comings are due to a fundamental failure to completely understand the behaviors, biology and habits of what is being treated for.  Pest control professionals  (the successful ones) will inspect for free, so never hesitate to get the opinion of a pro.

Ben Davenport
Davenport Pest Management

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