The best method of rodent control is prevention through sanitation and exclusion. But these clever creatures can enter a home or building through spaces much smaller than seems possible, and they are constantly seeking food, water, and shelter. For these reasons, it is important to keep an eye out for signs of mice and rats and understand control methods.
Rat or Mouse Traps
Traps can be an easy and inexpensive option, as the equipment is relatively cheap and the traps, especially if unbaited, can be left in place for long periods. However, all traps, baited or unbaited, must be regularly inspected, as a dead or dying rodent or a food bait can attract secondary insects and cause an infestation.
- Snap Traps: These small wooden or plastic traps are one of the most effective means of capturing and killing rats and mice and can be the most inexpensive. Wooden mouse traps are often packaged in sets for a few dollars, and caught rodents can be removed and the traps reused. Or, if one is squeamish about removing the rodent, the trap can be discarded with the mouse attached without becoming overly expensive.
When using a snap trap to capture a rat, a larger trap specified for rat control will need to be used. The small mouse traps are not likely to kill or hold the rat, and could, instead, inhumanely injure the rodent.
- Live Traps: Live traps take advantage of the rodents' natural tendency to investigate and wiggle into holes. These traps are designed so the rodent can get in but cannot get out. This is often through a wind-up mechanism triggered by touch. When the rodent goes into the hole, the mechanism snaps it to the other side of the trap which is completely enclosed.
These traps must be regularly inspected and emptied. In addition, once captured, the rodent must be humanely killed or released where it won't reenter the home or building or be of harm to others.
- Glueboards: Glueboards have a cardboard base with sticky glue on top. Most have some sort of attractant to lure the rodent to the center where it will get stuck in the glue and die. The glue boards can be effective in the capture of mice, but are less effective in rat control, as these larger rodents can sometimes pull themselves loose from the glue or, if caught by only a foot or two, simply drag the board around stuck to its body.
Glueboards are considered by some to be inhumane, as the rodent generally experiences a slow death and, in struggling to free itself, can cause extensive bodily injury. They can also be very unsightly if a rodent is caught.
Using Rodent Baits
- Baiting On or In Traps: Contrary to popular belief, cheese is not the best bait to use on traps. Peanut butter can be very attractive to rodents, and it can be made more effective by adding a piece of gauze into it which will get stuck in the rodent's teeth and not allow it to drag off the bait without snapping the trap. Other good options can be bacon, nuts, dried food, and sticky candies.
- Rodenticides: Rodenticides are poison pesticides for the killing of rats and mice. While some are available at retail stores, a new EPA regulation has now limited those available to the general public to specific baits that are sold in disposable, ready-to-use bait stations. Licensed pest control professionals have access to bulk rodenticides and further usage of the products. Unless a rodent population is very high, it is generally recommended that homeowners use traps for control efforts.
When any pesticide is used, all label directions must be carefully read and precisely followed.
- Bait Stations: Bait stations are enclosed equipment in which a rodenticide bait is placed. The station does not trap the rodent, rather it provides further protection against accidental contact or ingestion by children or non-target animals.
Bait and Trap Placement
The most important aspect of any rodent control effort is placement of the trap or bait. And placement and baiting will vary for rats and mice. Prior to placing traps and baits, an inspection should be made to determine where the rodents are nesting, traveling, and feeding. As with ants, the traps should then be placed in these areas.
Trapping efforts will generally be most successful if traps are left unset so that the rodents get used to their presence. This will cause the rodents to investigate the traps without fear, and, once set, capture is more likely to be effective.
Label directions must always be read and followed in the use of any pesticide.