How to Get Rid of Mice
The House Mouse is suspected to be the most common mammal in the United States. When the weather turns cooler in the fall and winter, they invade our homes and businesses seeking warmth, food, and shelter. It is estimated that mice and rats enter as many as 21 million households in the United States each winter. With odds like this, most homeowners and business owners will encounter a rodent problem at some point. Especially in commercial environments such as restaurants and apartment buildings, controlling mice populations is important to maintaining cleanliness standards and habitability. Getting rid of mice involves a process of inspection, removal of the mice, and sealing up the structure so they can not get into your house again. Every fall Pest Management Professionals arm themselves with mouse traps, glue boards, rodent bait, and exclusion supplies knowing that the mouse invasion is coming.
Identifying Mice and Understanding Mice Behavior
The House Mouse, is the most common species of mice that we deal with indoors. The House Mouse is small, usually between 2.5” to 3.5” in body length. He usually weighs between ½ an ounce to 1 ounce. Their ears appear very large proportionate to their head, and they have excellent hearing. The House Mouse’s tail is 3-4” in length which is longer than his body. The House Mouse is about the size of a gerbil that you would find in the pet store.
The House Mouse builds nests in dark, isolated areas. They make nests out of materials such as attic insulation, paper products, cotton materials or threads, packing materials, and any other soft material they can shred. They prefer to nibble and are known to eat between 15-20 small meals per day. Because of the frequency with which they eat, they build their nests as close to their food source as possible. The House Mouse is omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and meat. They prefer to feast on nuts, seeds, and grains, but will eat just about anything they can find. The House Mouse does not need access to a reliable water source. If the water content in his food is at least 16% his hydration needs will be satisfied.
Mice are excellent jumpers, climbers, and swimmers and can squeeze their bodies in openings the size of a dime. Imagine your pantry and kitchen counters as a jungle gym for mice; a sort of playground with a food reward! Not only can mice reach the highest shelves of your cupboard, they can chew through most food packaging. Like other rodents, mice’s teeth grow continually. They must constantly gnaw to keep their teeth in check. A cardboard cereal box or plastic bags will not even slow down a hungry mouse.
House Mice are inquisitive and curious. Although they usually follow set runways, if they see something unusual, they will almost always check it out. This trait makes trapping them much easier than rats.
The mice we recognize to be a nuisance, are considered commensal mice. The term commensal means “sharing one’s table.” Commensal rodents, such as mice, live off humans, taking food, shelter, water, and nesting materials, and offering nothing of benefit in return. Commensal mice have even adapted a modified living structure. As food and shelter seems to be an endless resource when mice live in close proximity to humans, mice exhibit less aggressive behaviors towards one another. Since they do not have to battle each other for food, they are more likely to live in larger groups and cooperatively care for their young.
Signs of a Mouse Infestation
We recommend taking swift action as soon as you suspect a mouse in the house. To confirm the presence of mice in your house, you should perform a thorough inspection. Mice have a short life span, in the wild often less than 1 year, but indoors they live longer due to an abundance of food and protection from predators. Mice populations can increase quickly because of their very rapid reproductive cycle. One female House Mouse can have up to over 100 babies in a year. The House Mouse can have her first litter when she is only 2 months old, and in ideal circumstances she can have additional litters every 3 weeks. Most litters contain about 6 young mice, but they can birth up to 12 pups at a time.
If this rapid proliferation is happening in your attic or pantry, you will hear and see signs of a mouse infestation. If you see a small grey flash scurrying along the baseboard, that may be all the proof you need. Of course, these animals do not advertise their presence, so you may need to look closer to confirm mouse activity.
- Droppings – Each House Mouse can produce and excrete between 40-100 droppings per day. Each mouse pellet is approximately ¼” in length and shaped like a grain of rice, pointed on each end. These droppings may be concentrated in areas where the mice are feeding or nesting. If the droppings are soft, they are likely fresh, while older droppings will be hard.
- Noises – In the still of the night, when the house is quiet, you may hear soft scurrying, scratching, squeaking, or gnawing sounds. Mice are small and light; their nighttime activity noises are not alarming and obnoxious, but noticeable, nevertheless. Do not ignore these sounds coming from the walls, attic, or cupboards. If not mice, the sounds could be squirrels, bats, or rats.
- Chew Marks – If you find unexplained holes in bedding or clothes, scratches/gnaw marks on the legs of wooden furniture, or tiny uneven marks on the baseboards and cabinetry, further mouse investigation is warranted. Look for very small tooth marks around windows and the bottom of doors, and possible wood dust or chips on the ground. Aside from damaging household furnishings, mice often chew through electrical wiring creating a fire hazard and damaging home appliances. In addition to gnawing to keep their incisors in check, mice will also gnaw to gain access to your food. If a bag of trail mix is spilled all over the pantry floor in the morning, a mouse may be the culprit. Carefully check boxes and bags that contain food materials for evidence of mouse gnawing. Check pet food containers for evidence of mice gnawing.
- Mouse Nests – House Mice burrow with soft nesting materials. If you notice shredded paper, soft material like cotton or furniture stuffing, or attic insulation out of place, a mouse may have disturbed it for nesting material. Mice may also bring in from outdoors twigs and grass to build their indoor nest. Mice prefer to build their nests within 10 feet of their food source. With this in mind, inspect dark, isolated areas near food storage, pet food bowls, or the kitchen. Check the following areas for the presence of a mouse nest:
Kitchen and Bathroom Cabinets
Inside Storage Closets
Behind or Inside Desk Drawers
Behind or Underneath the Refrigerator and Stove
Basements and Attics
Voids in Furniture
- Odor – Unless the mouse infestation is severe, humans will usually not smell an overwhelming odor. However, household pets may become agitated towards a specific cabinet or begin scratching at or barking at a wall. Your pet may be smelling the mice that we can not.
- Runways – Mice will often use the same paths from their nest to their food source. If an infestation is severe and has been permitted to persist, you may see brown grease marks or rub marks along baseboards and walls. Additionally, you may see a pattern of droppings and footprints along the runway.
Differences between Mice and Baby Rats
During your inspection you may see some of the signs of mice, but not all of them. During your inspection, you may have gotten “lucky” and observed the rodent face to face. But how do you know it was a mouse and not a juvenile rat? It is an important distinction as the elimination methods are different for each. Many of the signs of infestation are similar for both, but you will never catch a rat with a mouse trap.
A baby rat will have a “puppy dog” type appearance, similar to other mammals; large clumsy looking paws and a head that looks disporportiantely large for its body. As rats age and they loose that baby face, their heads become more proportionate to their body and their face is more blunt shaped than a mouse.
Another way to distinguish between rats and mice is to evaluate the droppings you found during your inspection. Mouse droppings are approximately ¼” in length, pointed on both ends and plentiful. Rat droppings are much larger, up to ¾”, harder in texture, shiny black, and there will be fewer of them.
If you observed gnaw or chew marks during your inspection, you can measure them. Rat teeth usually leave marks approximately 1/8” or 4mm in width. Mice teeth are approximately 2mmin width, so their gnaw marks will be about half the size of rat chewing.
Once you have definitively identified the infestation as rat or mouse, you can begin to gather supplies to eliminate the vermin from your home or business.
Why Control Mice in your Home or Business?
While many people keep mice as pets, and value them for their intelligence and charming personalities, allowing wild mice to live and breed indoors presents risks. As a business owner, allowing mice to run free will startle and horrify your customers. Depending on the nature of your business, you could be shut down for failing to maintain sanitary conditions.
While House Mice themselves, rarely bite or attack humans, dangerous diseases can be spread through their urine and fecal droppings. Mice have been shown to spread salmonella through their feces. Salmonella lives in the intestinal tract of animals and is spread when food is contaminated with their feces. Mouse droppings contaminate millions of dollars in stored food every year, causing a severe economic impact for farmers and food processing and storage facilities.
Each House Mouse produces between 40-100 fecal droppings every day, and they discharge a near constant flow of micro-droplets of urine as they scurry about. These fecal dropping and urine droplets can trigger allergic and asthmatic reactions in people, especially children. In addition, with mice, often comes other unwanted pests such as fleas, mites, ticks, and lice. As previously stated, mice chew and gnaw constantly. Aside from damaging furnishings and textiles, they seem inextricably drawn to chewing on electrical wires. Chewed and fraying wires are a fire hazard that must be addressed; and it can be an expensive repair.
Although mice are undeniably cute their presence indoors creates a hazard to the health and safety of our households. For these reasons they should not be permitted to over winter in your basement or attic. Mouse removal can and should be done ethically and as humanely as possible.
Indoor Mice Control Options
The poet, Ralph Waldo Emmerson is credited with saying, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat down a path to your door.” Americans have shown no greater ingenuity than with attempting to build a better mousetrap; the US Patent office has issued 4,400 patents for mousetraps and denied thousands more. It is believed that the mousetrap is the most invented device in U.S. history. While there are some innovative mousetrap designs, the trusty wooden snap trap is still widely used today.
When faced with the prospect of eliminating mice from your property, there are more options than with rats, but similarly to rat control, indoor mouse control begins with sanitation. We are not saying that if you have a mouse in the house, your home is filthy. On the contrary, mice can infest the cleanest of homes. Sanitation simply means to eliminate or reduce the mice’s access to food, water, and nesting materials. Do not store bulk foods such as cereal or grain in carboard boxes or plastic bags which can be gnawed through. Do not leave pet food and water out, and tightly secure the bulk food. If possible, eliminate cotton material and carboard from close proximity to the mouse nesting site. Whether you choose to trap or bait the mice, you want them to be good and hungry.
Snap Traps for Mice Control
A snap mouse trap can be made of plastic, wood, or metal. Snap traps have a hinge that is triggered when a mouse steps on or disturbs the pedal where bait is placed. Depending on the style of mouse trap, when the hinge is triggered, a bar may slam down or “jaws” with serrated edges like teeth may clamp down on the mouse killing it instantly. When used properly, snap traps are considered a humane form of mouse extermination as death is instantaneous. Snap traps are our preferred method of indoor mouse elimination.
Most snap traps require bait. Mice eat tiny little bits at a time, so do not put too large a of bait on the trap. House Mice are tempted by high calorie foods such as peanut butter, hazelnut chocolate spread, or a small amount of soft cheese. If you know from your inspection what they have been eating in your home, a small amount of that food as bait often works as well. Candy, beef jerky, and pet food are also irresistible to the House Mouse. If all of these baits fail to entice mice, try a small piece of cotton or yarn. If food is plentiful but nesting material is not, the female mouse will attempt to gather materials for her nest.
Proper snap trap placement is essential for the best results. Rats are neophobic, meaning extremely wary of new things in their environment. Mice are extremely curious and will more likely wander from their established runways to investigate something new. However, you do not want to rely on their curiosity, it is much better to place the trap where they are most likely to naturally encounter the trap. When trapping mice, the more traps the better. If you know their runway, put traps every 2-3 feet along the wall. The traps should be placed at a right angle, or perpendicular, to the wall with the bait and trigger end facing the wall. Sometimes “smart” mice will jump over the traps. If you suspect this, place several traps 2-3” apart along the wall. The mouse will attempt to jump over each trap individually and will often make a miscalculation resulting in a catch. If you are unsure of their runways, but know the general area the mice frequent, place snap traps along the walls in those areas and in enclosed areas near mouse activity. Place snap traps for mice in cabinets, closets, and behind appliances. The more traps you place, the greater success you will have. It should be noted, use caution with snap traps if you have small children or pets. Do not place snap traps in areas where they can be tampered with.
Snap traps should be checked every morning for mice. Discard any dead mice. You can reuse the successful trap. A used mouse trap smells like mice and usually catch more mouse. Reset and rebait the trap in areas where you caught a mouse. Because you caught one mouse, do not assume your problem is solved. There is usually more than one mouse in an area. Set and reset your traps until you haven’t caught a mouse for at least a week.
Of course, your Pest Management Professionals at Nextgen Pest Solutions handles mice infestations every day. Mice infestations are common and properly eliminating the situation requires significant time, skill, and knowledge. If the process of trapping and physically removing dead mice from your home is beyond your comfort level, there is no shame in calling in us to evict the mice from your house!
Live Catch Traps for Mice Control
Another popular form of a mouse trap is a live catch mouse trap. These contraptions do not kill the mice, rather contain them until you empty the holding area into a wooded natural area, or into your backyard. These traps are designed to hold more than one mouse at a time. These traps are usually a metal shaped box, and some have a clear lid for viewing the captured mice. Although you can put bait inside these traps, they rely on the mice’s sense of curiosity to trap the mice. The mouse is attracted to the small dark hole and tunnel and enter the trap and can not get out until you release them. State and local regulations often dictate catch and release guidelines for nuisance animals. If you use a live catch trap for mice control, be sure you are legally releasing the mice.
Glue Boards for Mice Control
Glue boards are another common method for trapping mice, although they rarely eradicate a mouse infestation on their own. Glue boards are a piece of carboard or plastic molded tray, that is covered with sticky adhesive. Some glue boards have scent attractants added to the adhesive while others don’t. These glue boards can be placed along the edge of runways and inside cabinets and areas of mouse activity. When a mouse scampers across a glue board he becomes stuck on the adhesive. Because mice can struggle for extended periods of time on a glue board, some people believe these to be the least humane form of mouse trap. Glue boards are also affected by extreme temperatures and become ineffective if covered in dirt, dust, and debris. In addition, you are left with the unpleasant task of humanely euthanizing the mouse. As with all devices designed to kill or capture mice, they should never be placed where children or pets are likely to encounter them.
Baiting Indoors for Mice Control
With rats we emphatically state, Never Bait for Rats Indoors due to the high likelihood of a horrendous odor. While we do not suggest it, we recognize that people do use rodent bait on the interior for mice. If you choose to bait for mice, you are assuming the risk of a mouse dying in an inaccessible area. This prospect is unacceptable for a larger mammal such as a rat, but a decomposing mouse often has little to no odor. Of course, the odor emanating from a deceased mouse infestation is dependent upon the number of mice that are decomposing, the ambient temperature, moisture level around the carcass, level of secondary insect activity, and exposure to sunlight.
Should you accept the risk and decide to bait for mice indoors, always read and follow the label and always place the bait in a tamper proof mouse bait station. Bait stations protect children and pets from accessing the rodenticide. Place bait stations with rodent bait in or near harborage, feeding, and nesting areas. Place bait stations near areas where you have observed droppings, signs of gnawing or chewing, and nearby cabinets and closets. Check the bait stations every few days and replace bait as necessary.
Electronic Sonic Devices for Mouse Control
One of the more innovative mouse control devices relies on the mouse’s extraordinary sense of hearing. Electronic devices emit high frequency sound waves that are said to repel rodents from your inside of your home. Many of these devices have a varying severity of noise and frequency allowing you to continue to increase the noise. The sounds emitted by these devices are not heard with the human ear, but would sound similar to a jackhammer. The hope is that these ultra-sonic sounds will irritate the rodents and make them believe the area is not safe. The manufacturers of these products admit they are only effective in the room in which they are installed.
The main drawback of these devices is the lack of independent scientific studies that show their effectiveness. Many scientists believe they may work for a short time, but the mice become accustomed to the noise and eventually learn to tune it out. Also, unless you install a device, at a cost of around $30.00 each, in every room, you simply encourage the mice to move to a different room in your home. Depending on the product you choose, and the sound frequencies it emits, it may have an effect on your dog or cat. Many people have reported their household pets showing negative behaviors when these repellant devices are plugged in, and the symptoms alleviating when the device is unplugged.
While it is tempting to be able to chase the mice out of your home without handling or hurting them, mice elimination is rarely this simple.
How to Keep Mice out of your Home and Business
Mice exclusion is some of the trickiest in all of the pest control industry. When cooler weather sets in, mice are motivated to find warm shelter with a plentiful food supply. Mice holes do not look like the Tom and Jerry cartoon depiction. They are rarely so clearly defined, perfectly rounded, and as large as Jerry’s hole. In reality, mice access points are much more difficult to find. Often, a mouse will gain access to your home via a section of damaged mortar or a gap in the foundation then gain further access to the interior via a damaged section of drywall or paneling. These access points allow mice to enter your home and settle into a cozy cabinet near food, nesting materials, a warmth. If a hole is not quite large enough, mice are more than willing and able to chew a wooden door or window frame to expand the hole in order to gain entry.
Once all of the mice are eliminated from your home, the work of thoroughly sealing your home or business must ensue in order to prevent another mouse invasion. Adult mice can fit through a hole the size of a dime, but adolescent and juvenile mice can fit through a hole the size of the diameter of a pencil. With this in mind, take a dime and a pencil and take a walk around your house. If no exclusion work has been done on your home, you will be amazed at the highways to warmth and food you are offering to mice, rats, and a plethora of other critters.
The job of sealing your home or business to prevent pest access is a time and labor-intensive project. Many pest control companies offer this service to their customers. A thorough exclusion job will utilize a combination of materials including hardware cloth, copper mesh, steel wool, specially designed fill fabric, and various caps and vents. The wiring around our modern necessities such as electricity, air conditioning and heating, plumbing, cable and phone lines, and vents and conduits create opportunities for mice to enter our homes. Filling these gaps with materials that mice and rats cannot chew through keeps them in the outdoors where they belong. Mice are remarkable creatures, they can climb, jump, and swim. Almost nothing is out of reach for them. When sealing your home from pests and rodents, look high and low, if in doubt seal the hole. Hardware cloth with the smallest of holes can be used for dryer and other vents, and specially designed chimney vents can be used to keep critters out of the chimney.
Thoroughly sealing your home is well worth the initial investment. As with all investments, it must be upkept. As the foundation shifts exterior and interior conditions change, we recommend thoroughly inspecting the structure every fall. A quick fill in a spot or two will save you hours of headache and sleepless nights.
Nextgen Pest Mice Pest Control
Mice and rats each have unique characteristics and trapping and baiting techniques. Our well-trained and experienced pest professionals know the differences and how to eliminate them from your home or business. If dealing with traps, glue boards, bait boxes, and rodenticides is not your area of expertise, its OK! It is ours! We are a Veteran-Owned full-service pest control business, service and commitment to results is who we are. We consider it our honor to alleviate your fear of mice and rats by removing them from your home and business and preventing them from coming back. If you are in Florida or Georgia, call today to get your home or business on our schedule for mouse pest control.