If you’re experiencing a problem with mice now, just wait until there’s a time that regular sanitation services aren’t available. The mild winter, flooding, and record heat have created a perfect storm for the mouse population. If you see signs of one in your home, there’s at least 34 others…for about 3 weeks anyway, in which time another litter of 4 to 6 are bred and the female then immediately begins gestation again. Though the average lifespan of a mouse is 18 months, in that time they can produce 60-80 mice.
Mice are definitely not cute—not in this writer’s opinion anyway. They threaten the safety and security of nearly everything that a person values in a self-reliant world—crops, seeds, food stores, sanitation, clothing, shelter, health, and peace of mind. This is why preventing an infiltration of these critters is on the top of my list.
Thanks to the very mild winter we had last season, mice have made themselves known for the first time in 13 years. Unfortunately I know that I’m not the only one who is experiencing an increase like this. I have to admit that the sight of a mouse causes me to shiver at the very least, but most likely a holler. Why? Well, it might have something to do with them scampering across me while I was saying my prayers on my bed in the Philippines and seeing the death that occurrs as a result of the diseases they bring with them. Perhaps it’s because I know that a pair of mice can eat 8 pounds of food in a year’s time and spread 36,000 feces droppings! They have the ominous past of carrying several deadly diseases with them including The Black Plague (yup, THAT plague) and the most oft times fatal hantavirus.
They are able to enter a home in an opening no larger than a dime. They have no bladder and thus they spread urine everywhere they go. And worst of all they refuse to tap dance in any particular rhythm in the walls and attic of the house.
In a crisis situation their potential to wreak havoc will be heightened as the lack of proper sanitation and medical care will make us that much more vulnerable. It’s highly likely that in a crisis immune systems will be compromised, regardless of the cause of the crisis, as a result of the inherent stress. This is why I believe that being very proactive in preventing them from having any place in our surroundings is critical and the time to prepare for that is BEFORE mice infestation becomes an all out infiltration.
Mice carry and spread various diseases and then transmit them a myriad of different ways, such as their feces, urine, biting, or contaminating food. Even if you keep a mouse as a pet and all nice and clean the insects which live on the rodents won’t differentiate between those mice which are named and those which are hobos hanging out in your home. These insects such as mites and fleas spread the disease as well; and they commonly affect the water supply, too as a result of their fecal, urine, and bacteria contamination.
For those of you who don’t know about the various diseases that are spread through mice and other rodents, the droppings of mice can be dust-like as they age and become brittle and the particles of this dust can be inhaled, thus transferring the Hantavirus (Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome--HPS) through the respiratory system. This is a deadly viral infection that’s spread through mice urine and droppings, which literally can infect the air with miniscule particles of the virus in the air.
Hantavirus isn’t the only thing that mice are known for carrying. They are also well known for carrying Salmonellosis which is a bacteria infection of the food, Lymphocitic, which is a form of leukemia, Rickettsialpox, which results in a bacteria infection caused by a bite from the MITES which live on the rodent, Choriomeningitis - which is a form of cerebral meningitis, Leptospirosis transferred by the urine of the mice, Tularemia which is which is an infectious disease which is transmitted by the insects which live on the rodents, Black Plague—yes, that Black Plague, and Lyme disease—just to name a few. (Yup, I’m having a hard time finding value in mice, but I’ll keep working on it.) If that hasn’t caught your attention yet, in third world nations the people have to sleep with their feet covered or else risk having the soles of their feet chewed at night. Yup, “for real.”
Mice can and will eat through just about anything. If it’s softer than their teeth, the will gnaw their way through. Their front incisor teeth never stop growing and can grow as much as 5 inches in a year’s time. They can jump 12 feet horizontally like a superhero and 12 inches vertically. They don’t require water and thrive in the heat. They have Spiderman-like abilities in scaling vertical surfaces.
With all that being said, now you know why I loathe mice.
While it’s easy to physically see the droppings of mice and rats, it’s quite difficult to see urine and impossible to notice any infected air. This is one of the reasons why I NEVER open a can of anything before cleaning it. For one, I don’t want the virus to contaminate my can opener, nor do I want it to end up in the food I prepare or the air I breathe. I do this regardless of whether or not I’ve just brought the product home from the grocery store or if it’s been in my cupboards and shelves. As you can imagine, the warehouses where food is stored are havens for all kinds of vermin. So, no matter where it comes from, my canned goods get cleaned with hot, soapy water all over the can, not just the lid. This is also the reason why I insist on using one of those safe-edge can openers. I don’t want to risk the lid of the can dropping into the food when I’m opening it—just in case I didn’t get it all cleaned.
How do you stop mice?
Fortunately, in spite of how quickly they can populate, stopping mice is relatively simple so long as you don’t underestimate them. You can poison them, trap them, and you can even create small areas of talcum powder or diatomaceous earth which will cause them to leave footprints, making it easier to find their “home”. Mice don’t travel far from their living center (whereas rats will travel much further distances).
Poisoning them is relatively simple as you can mix poison with rice, however, doing so will cause a nasty smell that you’ll have to live with for sometime as they will eat it then retreat back to their home base. You will never forget the smell of dead mice, let alone a bunch of them. Ugh!
When using traps, use them right next to the known holes of travel and next to walls and such. The mice usually stay near the perimeter as opposed to running right out in the open. Mice CAN swim, though they don’t do so commonly. So it’s not recommended to just flush them down the toilet to kill them. They can still survive it and may actually be fooled into believing they’ve got the front row spot at the latest Disney World water ride.
There are two common mistakes I see when it comes to mouse control. 1—underestimating their number and ability and 2- setting the traps before trying to find and plug up the holes in which they enter and exit the home. There’s no sense setting traps unless you want to constantly be taking on a new slew of them. Mice aren’t allowed to use cell phones ya know…something about causing brain cancer, and thus they don’t communicate very well to tell each other to stay away from such-and-such house because there are traps there. So, plug things up and THEN set the traps.
In terms of underestimating them, don’t underestimate the number of them and set your traps accordingly. Err on the side of too many traps as opposed to too little or you will have an unconquerable infestation on your hands. Remember, there is no such thing as “just one mouse.” The official rule of thumb is that if you see one there are at least 34 more. You’ll want more traps than rodents actually; this is rarely understood by homeowners, though. Secure the traps as they can be dragged away by a big enough mouse or rat. I suggest the snap traps which use heavy-gauged steel and kill the mice immediately to be the best tools for control. The only downside is they can hurt a young child’s hand or the paw or tail of a small pet, but otherwise they are the best, inexpensive option that meets the ultimate goal.
I’m not a fan of live traps. It’s too much effort to dispose of them and they already live in a 200 yard radius. For the enticement in the trap you can use gummy candy, nuts, seeds, oats, and dried fruit, but I’ve found peanut butter to be most effective in that it attracts them to the area and stays on the trap well, making it less likely to be dragged somewhere else. Place at least 1 trap for every site of mice presence you see (such as holes in the wall, mouse droppings, urine, smudge marks, etc.) and place them about 5 to 10 feet away from each other. Once you’ve trapped a mouse successfully in an area, be sure to change where the trap goes again. Also, mice can avoid a trap up to a week’s time, so rotate them every 2 weeks. I’m not a big fan of using rat poison because it takes them up to 5 days to die. Then they end up smelling up the house as they decompose within your walls and you run the risk of exposing pets and kids to the poison as well. I’m also not a fan of the sonic control units. They may aggravate the rodents, but they don’t necessarily make them leave and they are too expensive for a job not performed with certainty.
How do I find mice?
Watch for the telltale signs that mice leave behind. You know that mice have made a home for themselves if you see their small dark droppings or feces as they do so in areas which they frequent. You will also note smudge markings caused by the oils they produce in their fur and you’ll see these smudge markings along the wall as they tend to get set in their travel routes quickly once they’ve found a good food source. Gnaw markings will also manifest their presence. You can also detect them with a black light (including their urine trails). Don’t give them any leeway by having piles of newspaper or yarn about your home. Be sure you keep your woodpile at least 20-30 feet from your home. So your best bet is to target such areas with your chosen traps.
The key to safety in this matter is staying proactive in your rodent control. Prevention is the best way to control them. Once they find an abundant food source of grains and seeds they will go back and forth between their center and the food source as much as 3 dozen times in a 6 to 8 hour period (they like peanut butter too). When they are surviving in a “sparse” food supply scenario, they will literally got back and forth hundreds of times in a 6 to 8 hour period.
Keep an eye out for holes and openings in the house. Steel wool is a good “emergency fix” if you spot a hole that you can’t fix immediately. But keep in mind that this means they will be dying within the walls and bringing their smell of death with them. These odors always attract insects. So it’s better to fix a hole rather than just plugging it up. Look specifically around the holes drilled for cables, duct work, and piping as they tend to be big enough for them to make their way through.
Other methods of prevention are having plenty of traps on hand, keeping food tightly covered, keeping bags and paper boxes off of the ground and preferably storing them in other containers—this include pet food. For example, my boxes of Rice-a-Roni are sealed in a FoodSaver bag (the box and all) and then put in a 4 gallon square bucket. Metal and glass are the best containers to prevent mice; however, I don’t’ store my grains and seeds in glass so that they can continue to breathe. So I use quality plastic containers and exercise all of the other measures I’ve got available to me, such as doing the dishes and keeping the counters and floors clean from all food.
Be sure that you also immediately clean up fecal droppings and urine areas with a sanitizing agent as soon as you find them. Reinforce potential rodent entries with sheet metal, caulking, or cement. Ensure that you don’t’ leave any piles of paper, wood shavings, yarn or even dust balls around. You’d be surprised at how quickly a dust ball can become a new home for a mouse. Set and maintain the traps simultaneously so that the mice don’t have time to get used to one location and quickly choose another. In our house, we don’t leave food out for our pets. They have designated meal times so that we’re not doing anything to continue to attract them.
Let’s not forget the natural rodent protection and prevention that’s provided by felines and fowl (This makes having fresh eggs that much more attractive, eh?). I have only had housecats during my adult life. If you’re going to have cats for the purpose of keeping rodents at bay, might I suggest that you keep your outside cats outside as they can bring with them the diseases of the mice. This is exactly how the man in Oregon contracted the Black Plague recently. Yorkshire Terriers were originally bred to control the rat problem and there are other small canine breeds which will help with this as well.
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