We Wait For Cooler Weather, Then…. Eek!
It happens every year… We can’t wait for the weather to change – from way too hot to cooler autumn evenings. Unfortunately, when that happens, we must also plan for the cold weather to come. We protect our homes from moisture, heat loss and other concerns that tend to make our life uncomfortable. Some folks put up garden vegetable harvests to enjoy throughout the winter months. In some cases, people even move to warmer climates so these concerns are no longer an issue.
If this sounds all too familiar, you must now put that same attitude into context – This is what our little friends outside think about when the weather changes. They must protect themselves from the weather, find secure warmth and harborage and put up (cache) food to survive long winter months.
The House mouse is the single most successful rodent on earth. They lead the list of Commensal rodents, meaning they have an intimate relationship with humans. The House mouse finds all that it needs to survive within the confines of one’s home. Once they arrive, there is no reason to go elsewhere to live, unless their numbers grow to such a rate that there is competition for survival. It is when the problem reaches this point that people tend to start to see evidence and admit that a problem exists.
Mice are also communal, and enjoy living around other mice. Where there is one… You get the picture. Their reproductive rate is nothing short of astounding. From birth, it takes only four to six weeks for a mouse to reach sexual maturity. From that point, mice reproduce approx. every four weeks. That’s another six to eight mice per brood. It doesn’t take very long for the colony to reach a critical level, since most people can’t stand the thought of a single mouse in the house.
While it is not a comfortable topic of conversation, knowing the biology of the house mouse is critical to understanding their behavior and controlling where they live. Mice have poor eyesight, so they normally hug walls and stay in areas where they are less likely to be seen. They do not urinate like most other animals, but continually release micro-droplets whenever they travel. This leaves a trail for them to follow in the future. They have an amazing sense of smell, and can tell where they (and their cousins) have been before. This increases their sense of security and provides a safe pathway to other areas. Frankly, it is not the droppings found in your kitchen cabinets that should cause concern, but rather the unseen urine droplets left behind. Mice have the ability to climb almost impossible heights when they have a surface to grip. It is not unusual for us to find them climbing and hanging on a second floor exterior wall when startled during our inspections. They readily climb walls and enter attics through roofline soffits without entering into living areas from ground level.
If you wait until droppings are found in your home, the problem is already established. As mentioned before, the House mouse is a prolific breeder. When the infestation is finally noticed, there are most likely multiple generations and the control efforts required are far more intensive and time consuming.
As a homeowner, there are things that can and should be done to minimize mouse entry points. While you cannot completely eliminate possible incursions into your home, you can limit their comfort level at the foundation of the house. Seal any openings – mice can fit into any “dime size” hole. Anything a half inch or larger is a potential entry point. Remove built up leaf matter and dead brush near the house. This is a natural harborage for mice; remember, they do not like to be exposed to potential predators. Limit mulch and heavy shrubbery against your home for the same reason. In most cases, removing mulch in a band against your home, then replacing it with landscaping cloth and decorative stone will prevent mice from digging tunnels around the structure. Firewood and other stored products should be moved as far away from the house as possible.