Well it’s that time of year again. A time when we get a break from the brutal heat and humidity of summer and finally cool off a bit. These weather changes aren’t lost on Houstonians as most of us take full advantage of our unusually pleasant surroundings. You’ll see people outside on patios and decks, people driving with the windows down, and Memorial park will brim over with joggers on crisp fall evenings. Yes it’s a good time to be alive and an even better time to start thinking about…….rats.
Ok, I’m sure rats and mice are the last thing any of us wants to think about any time, but this is the best time of year to start thinking about fortifying your house against these pesky creatures.
Rats and mice are referred to as “Commensa“ creatures. This basically means that they live with and off of us. Rodents have adapted from very early on to live in and around the structures created by man. They also learned early on that hanging around humans is usually good for an easy meal. Rats are kind of like that deadbeat friend that hangs out at your house; sleeps on you couch making a mess and eating all your Cheetos. They know they don’t have to find their own food or shelter as long as they have you to leech off of. This is the perfect time of year to evict those deadbeats and it can be done with minimal chemical means.
Most of rodent control falls under the category of common sense. It’s very logical but it’s not something most people think about that often. Here are a few things you can do to keep rats, mice, and even possums and raccoons away from your house that don’t involve chemicals. Here are some very simple rodent control methods.
- Don’t feed them.
When it comes to food, most rodents have a veritable smorgasbord to choose from at the average house. In fact, most homes have so many food choices that they actually attract rats and mice to their homes. The two biggest food sources that I have seen are dog food and bird seed. If you feed your dog outside you’re most likely feeding a small army of rats as well. Rodents are very opportunistic in this way. What’s worse is some dog foods contain elements that counteract the action of many rodent baits. It’s always best to only feed as much as your dog will eat in one setting or to not feed him outside at all if possible. To be on the safe side, dog food should be stored inside or in a sealed metal container. Rodents can chew through bags or plastic storage bins. The same goes for bird feeders. The seed that drops to the ground becomes easy pickings for rats and mice. It’s best to keep these well away from the house or just to eliminate them altogether. The same can be said for trash containers and dumpsters.
- Don’t let them in.
Depending on how old your home is, the chances are that it has plenty of pest entry points built into it. Mice and rats can squeeze through some really small holes in the outside of your home and gain entry to the attic and the interior of the house. We recommend sealing any gap in the exterior greater than ¼ inch. Most of this sealing can be done by the average handyman but there are companies that specialize in this service. The most important thing to remember when trying to exclude rodents is that they love to chew on stuff. We recommend hardware cloth be used in conjunction with some sort of caulk. The combination of this screen mesh and a good outdoor caulk usually deters most rodents.
Here’s a list of some of the most common entry points we see on homes;
-Weep Holes-never caulk these as they are designed to vent moisture in the walls-use screen
-Gaps around plumbing, gas, A/C, and water lines
-Holes in eave/soffit screens
-Gaps around dryer and Jen-Air vents
-Gaps in weather stripping around doors
-Holes in the siding or brick
-Pier and Beam Home-seal up the stem wall vents to the crawl space
- Don’t build a home for them.
Now that we’ve blocked their entry into your home we can focus on making the outside less rodent friendly. In addition to removing food sources, we also have to remove their hiding places or harborage areas. One thing I see a lot when I’m at our residential accounts is wood and debris stacked up against the house or garage. Whether it’s firewood, fence slats, or just those extra materials left over from a weekend project, this type of debris pile creates a perfect habitat for rodents and other pests to hide in. Wood piles close to the structure can also attract termites.
Wooden decks are also notorious as rat habitats. The Norway rat is common in the Houston area and they love to make burrows under decks and other man-made structures. There’s not a lot you can do about decks other than remove them and start over with another patio type.
Keep these rodent control tips in mind for this coming winter and you’ll be well on your way to a quiet rodent season. If you need some more professional help, please contact us at Hunter Pest Control.