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Last Update: 05/26/14
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common house mice
U
sually you don't SEE the mice.  You discover that they've been there.  By finding their droppings
on your kitchen counters, pantries, drawers or cabinets. That doesn't mean you can't find them other places. Once they gain access to your home, they can get virtually anywhere.

Sometimes you'll find some kind of foodstuff broken into. They especially seem to like chocolate - even more than cheese!  Even though it might never have happened before, this is a very common occurrence.  There are a lot of mice around at certain times of the year.

WHERE DO THEY COME FROM AND WHY ARE THEY HERE?
They come from the outside, so that's where to begin. They live around our yards and fields all the time, with some years (and areas) being worse than others. New construction often causes problems in newly-developed areas. Mice are driven mostly by curiosity, and will enter any hole or crack they find in a structure. If they find it better on the inside, than it is on the outside, you have mice.

Mice are quite adaptable, they can live in a freezer, below freezing all of their lives, feeding on nothing but frozen foods. Naturally, I don't mean YOUR freezer, the one you might have at home, but in large, commercial operations, we see this often.

The following suggestions and scenarios are geared towards the residential customer that wants to attempt control themselves.  If you have a commercial or multi-family dwelling, you should contact a professional exterminator you feel comfortable with, to handle or monitor rodent problems.

RODENT-PROOFING THE STRUCTURE
Naturally, rodent-proofing your house is a necessity.  It is imperative that you do this. A mouse can fit in a hole the size of a dime.  If your little finger goes in there, the mouse can. If they can get their head in, they can squeeze the whole rest of their body through that hole. Think about that: Can you get in a hole the size of your head? Pretty amazing trick....

And once inside, mice can get anywhere. You start rodentproofing the OUTSIDE, not the inside. Walk around the outside of your house, check for any entrance points that mice can use to enter. Do this at least every year, your house changes over time. Make sure all windows and doors (garage doors, too) are weatherstripped properly.

Have someone inside your basement or crawl space shine a strong light (at night) towards the outside while you circle the outside at the same time. Also do this in the daytime, but it may mean you have to do more crawling around if you have a crawl space. Holes and other flaws may show up better under the strong light, eliminating a mouse problem you might not have found otherwise.

If you have an attached garage, you are especially prone.  Garage doors never fit like an ordinary door, and can allow easy access for mice. Use the same light trick to discover if your garage allows the easy entrance for mice. Check the garage more often, especially if it's attached to your house. Once mice are in an attached garage, the rest of the house is easily available.

THOSE WITH GARAGES - ATTACHED OR OTHERWISE
If you keep your trash in the garage, remember to keep them in SECURE, covered trash containers, not in plastic bags on the concrete floor.  This is the first invitation for mice. Best to keep trash outside.  (Watch out for the raccoons!)  If you recycle (and even if you don't) wash out all cans and bottles with hot, soapy water before disposing. If you don't, it will be a great attraction for any animal in or around your garage or trash.  

Remember, there are a lot of things mice like to eat, so don't store any foodstuffs in your garage.  Including grass seed.  Mice love grass seed.  Or birdseed or pet foods. They like leather, any kind, and furs too.  They even like soap!  Although they are kind of picky about their soap.  They only like real soap - like in Ivory.  They won't touch a detergent bar, but they love Ivory!  Ivory soap, of course, is some 99% animal fat (the rest is lye). Tastes terrible to people, but not to mice.

There's a lesson here:  Leave a chip of Ivory soap under your kitchen sink.  Inspect it occasionally, and when it has been chewed, guess what chewed it?

SHEDS OR OTHER TYPES OF OUTBUILDINGS
Don't keep foodstuffs, trash, birdseed, or even grass seed in your shed.  All are considered "food" by these animals, and they'll be in it in no time.  A shed is where you might want to routinely use bait for the mice that will enter.  Put it on the floor, right next to the wall, write the date on the package, and inspect the package occasionally, to detect any activity.

I don't use any bait in my shed, (I'm cheap) but when - and not if - I notice there have been mice inside, I'll leave the shed door open for a couple of nights and let the neighborhood cats clean up the problem.  Don't do this for too many nights in a row, you don't want anything deciding that this is a good home.  You can do this a few times a year without worrying about homeless animals taking up residence.

OTHER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT

rats love fruit trees
Got any fruit trees?  Nut trees?  ANY kind of tree or bush that grows berries or flowers? Don't we all.  Well, this is what mice (indeed, all omnivores) love to eat.  So if they are going to be that close to your house, you have to expect that sometime it may happen.  So there are a few things that you DON'T do: Like; feeding birds or other wildlife.  Leaving pet food outside for your pet.

If you keep your pet outside, remember mice will even eat droppings from other creatures, so policing up the area is very important.  Animals like sand.  So try not to have any dry, sandy patches anywhere close to your house. Self-contained children's sand boxes are okay, but get one with a cover, and cover it when not in use.

SO WHAT DO I DO NOW THAT THEY ARE IN?
Fortunately, mice are not very smart. And they're creatures of instinct, so that once you know how they think, it's easy. AFTER you have fixed all of the above, the best solution is a trap. ANY trap. Snap traps, glueboards, repeating traps, whatever. The trick is where to place them.  

In addition to being dumb, mice can't see too well. Actually, only a few inches in front of them. So traps need not even be baited, just put them where the mice will trip across them. Always place them up against the wall, perpendicular to the wall, (click to see our mouse trap placement guide) since mice mostly navigate using their whiskers, and usually run alongside something. Place several traps around the areas of suspicion and move them around to different positions each night. Mice are territorial, and will investigate their territory every day, so wherever that mouse was yesterday, most likely he will be there today. Leave a trap for him.

WHAT MICE CAN SEE
While mice can't reliably see more than a few inches, they do have excellent peripheral vision that detects movement quite well.  This is why, with you sitting stock still, watching television or something, mice will think no one's around, and the report we get is, "He came out when I was right there!"  And then, of course, when the mouse detects your movement, he scampers away.  The mouse isn't 'brazen,' in cases like these, he's just blind to you - if you remain still and unmoving.
mouse eating caterpillar

WHAT MICE CAN HEAR
Mice can actually hear quite well.  They can hear into the very high (ultrasonic) range. This is the reason you see those "sonic" devices, marketed as being able to repel mice. It doesn't work, however, the mice become acclimated to the devices and learn to ignore them.

However, male mice are thought to communicate with females by using "songs" that are inaudible to humans.  They seem to do this in the presence of females, much as how our songbirds do.  While mice don't seem to be as accomplished as our songbirds, it may be they can help us to unravel the mysteries of communication in humans too.

BREEDING CYCLES OF MICE
Normally, a female mouse will begin breeding at 40-45 days old, they have a gestation period as short as 18 days, with a litter size of 5-8 pups. And they do this all year 'round. So it's easy to see, very soon, you could be up to your ears in mice, if the conditions are just right.



BAITING A MOUSE TRAP
So now, you ask, if I do bait the trap, what do I use? Cheese? Peanut butter? What is the best? There is no pat answer. First of all, save the cheese for the dip. Actually, mice really don't like cheese as much as other foodstuffs. The cheese thing, I guess, is a result of Walt Disney's ideas of mice.

Peanut butter does work, they don't get too much peanut butter in other places, and mice are actually mostly grain eaters, so peanut butter might be a pretty good idea, it's usually what I use. But you only need a tiny bit. Don't pile it up on the treadle so it looks like an ice cream cone. All you really need is the smell. So you just rub a tiny bit on. If you can see it, you've probably got too much on.

You can also try this:  Put a drop of vanilla extract on a Q-tip and swab the treadle of your trap with the Q-tip for a good odor clue. Almost everyone has some vanilla, and one tiny drop is all you need. A very powerful attractant.

Something else you can try, is cotton - as in cotton ball. Mice are always looking for nesting materials and will be attracted to cotton. It also has the advantage of not attracting other things - such as bugs looking for a free meal. Just use a bit of it, you don't have to put the entire cotton ball on the trap - just enough so that he'll feel it with his whiskers.

CAN I HANDLE THIS PROBLEM  MYSELF?
Easily! Don't forget, if you're reading this, you are smarter than that mouse. Arm yourself with mousetraps (that's plural) - a half dozen is not too many. Where did you find those signs of mice? That's where you place the trap. Mice will come out to explore if they think you're not around. Usually, this is at night, but it can be anytime you're not around. They will even come out when you ARE around - if you're not moving, they won't see you. While mice can't see too well, they can detect movement over a very wide range, so the minute you move, they will disappear.

WHAT ABOUT BAIT - DOES IT WORK?
Sure, it works.  Sometimes too well.  Usually you use bait (for mice) only when you must. Although baits are designed to "force them outside," oftentimes it doesn't work, and then you might have a dead mouse smell.  And then, later, a scourge of flies resulting from the animal(s) decomposing.  Doesn't always happen, but it happens often enough. Leave baiting to a professional - he knows how, where and when to use it. Traps? Anyone can use traps - they are cheap, effective and can be used many times over. Not only that, but when you catch him you know it. He doesn't curl up and die behind some wall where you can't find him.

For the most part, exterminators usually take the easy way out and leave bait. It's easier for the exterminator, and less costly for the customer. And the chance of the smell problem is usually minimal. Most people don't want the hassle of attending to mouse traps, but it is better to trap mice, certainly on the inside.

You can also roll your own bait placements!  It's easy, cheaper, and, if you're good, much more precise.
Roll your own!


MAKE YOUR OWN (OUTDOOR) BUCKET TRAP FOR MICE
You can also use a homemade trap (outdoors) with items you probably have right there
at home.  This also works with chipmunks, I put it all
right here on this popup.

And for those of you considering the purchase of one of those ultrasonic devices, save your money. They don't work. They don't work for any other kind of animal either. Check right here for the straight scoop on those "sonic repeller devices."




BAITING OR TRAPPING YOUR RV IN OUR NATIONAL PARKS

National Park Service
OUTSIDE YOUR RV
Often people ask what they should do when they are camping by RV within any of our National Park Service properties, should they bait or should they trap?

The answer, for the most part, is that you should live trap. Using bait, you won't really be able to control what target animal is consuming your bait. If you live trap, however, you can always
release your 'innocent bystander' without harm. You would need to use a trap small enough so that it can't trap larger, difficult to handle animals. Place your small trap behind the wheel of your RV or trailer, where it won't be visible to passerby.

ON THE INSIDE OF YOUR RV
For mice on the inside, you're better off using traps of some sort, if you can. Baiting may well cause your mice to die in some inaccessible place, with a resultant 'dead smell' for awhile. Not a nice thing in the confines of any RV....  Follow the directions on our mouse trap placement guide, move the traps around to the areas you discover droppings. When you have caught all the mice, and you're getting no more activity, you can lay out snap traps baited with cotton - so it won't attract other pests. (Mice love the cotton for bedding.)

A note of caution, when you discover you have 'insects' inside your RV. BE CAREFUL using those bombs you pick up at the hardware store. I very seldom advise the use of them, and in a confined space of even the largest RVs, you can have very negative (and sometimes dangerous) results using these.

If you use these bombs for anything, (in your RV or anywhere else!) make sure you turn off all pilot lights and follow the label on the proper dosages. These bombs are designed for regular sized rooms, so if you use too much, you'll (at the very least) get everything all greasy, or, (at the worst) blow it up!

Besides, they really don't work that well, I wouldn't use them on my RV, and I can get the best bombs made!



FEEDING THE BIRDS  -  Part II
Can we say it again? Don't feed the birds or other wildlife. We have all heard it before, but many of us do it anyway. Don't do it. You will cause them more harm than good, no matter what you think or what you've heard. First of all, unnatural feeding spots attract a wide variety of animals. Some of these you wouldn't wish on your worst neighbor.  How 'bout a skunk living under your deck? And rats too. Rats and skunks live almost comfortably together. The rats don't care about the smell (you will) and your deck will smell like a skunk for over a year after the skunk(s) leave. Each time it rains, it will smell worse - for years! By the way, (to get rid of the smell) tomato juice doesn't work!  A method that does work pretty well is posted here.



Unnatural feeding spots will also vector diseases and insects among each of the visitors. This also means you, your children and pets.  Keep your wild animal neighbors at bay and don't feed them, attract them near your home or habituate them to humans.  This is the worst single thing you can do to our wildlife.
DON'T FEED THE WILDLIFE!



WHAT YOU CAN DO IF YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING
Instead of feeding animals or birds, provide an area (away from the house) with some fine sand.  All animals love sand.  This is much better than food.  Food instills a feeding frenzy, with all species hurrying to get their share.  Not the same with sand.  It's always there, doesn't spoil, and animals can visit anytime.  

But you can't just throw sand out there and forget it.  It does require some participation on your part.  Every once in awhile you must rake out any droppings and trash them. Wild animals use sand to roll in to get rid of parasites.  In the summertime, you can sprinkle a bit of flea powder on the sand patch - that helps you and them.

With birds, set up a birdbath with sand in it.  Add to it when the birds scatter it about. They like a sand bath about as much as a water bath, and a good safe sand spot is hard to find!  Sprinkle a tiny bit of flea powder (any brand) to the sand bath, after it rains and the sand dries, but only in late summer and fall, not in the winter or early spring.

hummingbird feeder
Hummingbird feeders are okay - once they find it, you'll be surprised how many times they visit.  Use a colored feeder to attract them, but DON'T use a coloring agent in the feeding solution.  Naturally, keep the feeders away from domestic cats, and not attached to your house. Towards fall, you may find that bees are attracted too. The bees and hummingbirds get along just fine.

And, of course, we can also perform any aspect of the job for you, just in case you don't want to.

Would you like us to send you a price quotation for any of the services described on this page? Just fill out this form and we will reply by email, with a quotation tailored to your personal requirements. Include your phone number if you wish us to call you.

To find an experienced, professional and expert exterminator in your area, please visit the International Pest Control Operator Page.  
International Pest Control Operator Network

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