Hollywood always portrays mice in a positive light and casts them as adventurers and lovable characters in movies and cartoons. However, mice are much different in the real world. These nuisance pests have been responsible for some of the worst outbreaks in human history, such as the plague, also known as Black Death. Though rats mainly carry the plague bacterium, mice and other rodents can also spread this disease to people.
The Problem With Mice
Mouse feces along the wall - Image by Animals in Your Attic
Some people feed mice to pet snakes; others keep mice as pets. Even pet mice can carry diseases and transmit them to their owners. Some of the more common mouse-borne diseases include:
- Rat-bite fever
You don't have to come into direct contact with mice to get sick. As mice invade interior spaces, they build nests in areas behind the walls or in attics and basements. They scurry about in the dark and leave behind feces and urine as they search for food and water. Fur and dander also fall behind and get caught up in ventilation systems, spreading throughout the interior and causing allergic reactions and respiratory problems in people.
If mice infest pantries and other storage areas, their feces can contaminate food and make you extremely sick. They chew holes in boxed and bagged goods and ruin everything from cereal to flour. However, the problem gets worse as the mice increase in number.
Yet Another Problem With Mice
Mice breed uncontrollably. In fact, a female mouse can produce as many as 300 offspring in her short one- to two-year lifetime. She can have up to 10 litters with as many as 10 babies each time, creating a massive infestation within a year. The gestation period is between 18 and 21 days, so it doesn't take long for an infestation to happen. Her offspring will go on to procreate and cause tons of property damage as they chew through wires, clothing, walls and other items.
Rodents have to chew every day if they want to prevent their teeth from growing into their jaws. They'll chew on anything in their sight, from chair legs to doorframes. If an infestation is left untreated, it can go on to causing hundreds and thousands of dollars in damages. Once you see a mouse, it's time to take preventative action. However, is it really a mouse that you see or something else?
How to Identify Mice
A field mouse looking for a way into your home.
Don't skip this section thinking that you know a mouse when you see one. It's not as easy as you think to identify mice from other rodents. Voles look a lot like mice, but they're quite different in appearance. They're often referred to as field or meadow mice as people mistake these stubby rodents for mice in their homes and yards. Mice and voles each have their own characteristics and are easy to identify if you know what to look for.
Is it a mouse?
- Mice have large ears.
- Mice have black, bulging eyes
- Mice have long back legs for hopping
- Mice weigh about 1 ounce.
- Mice have long tails.
- Mice grow to about 7.5 inches in length.
- Mice are normally brown or black with short fur.
Is it a vole?
- Voles have short ears.
- Voles have small, black eyes.
- Voles have short legs.
- Voles weigh only a few ounces.
- Voles have short tails.
- Voles grow between 3 and 7 inches in length.
- Voles have brown or gray fur.
Depending on your region, you may see several different mouse species in and around your property. The most common species is the house mouse, which has a pointed snout, rounded ears and a very long and hairless tail. Other common mouse species include:
- Deer mice
- Harvest mice
- White-footed mice
- Wood mice
- Yellow-necked mice
If you live near the woods or a field, you may encounter harvest mice, house mice and voles on your property and in your home. However, house mice also infest other buildings across the world, including:
Where to Look for Mice Indoors
Now that you know how to identify the intruders, it's time to find out where they hide and build their nests. Mice build nests out of shredded paper, cloth and other soft materials. They may chew apart cardboard boxes and use the debris to build nests behind the walls or in attics and garages. Some of the more common places to look for nests are:
- Inside drawers
- Within unused furniture
- Under kitchen appliances
- In crawlspaces
- Inside wall voids
- In laundry rooms
- Inside the water heater closet
Where Can You Find Mice Outdoors?
When mice build nests outdoors, they try to pick a spot that provides shelter and protection from the weather and predators. They'll build their nests with scraps and debris that they find around the yard, such as old cloth or grass clippings. You can usually find their nests in, around or under:
- Wood logs
- Tire piles
- Old car parts
- Random junk
- Undisturbed tarps
If you find a nest, it's important to take quick action and to eliminate it on the spot. The mice will continue to return to the nest and to raise more young in the future.
When You Should Look for Mice
Mice are nocturnal creatures and come out when the sun goes down. They use their round, black eyes to see in the dark for food, water or debris for building their nests. They avoid lights whenever possible, preferring to scurry around unnoticed when you turn off the lights for the night. If you suspect that a mouse has invaded your space, listen or look for these common signs:
- Black droppings along baseboards, under cabinets or in closets
- A lingering urine odor
- Holes in the drywall
- Gnaw marks on wall corners or random objects
- Scratching sounds in the ceiling or behind the walls
- Holes or gnaw marks on food containers in the pantry
- Nesting material in wall voids
- Squeaking noises during the night
You may not hear or see any signs even if a mouse or two has infiltrated your home. You can always perform tests to check for mice, such as:
- Sprinkling flour or powder along the baseboards or the counters to check for footprints
- Leaving a clump of peanut butter in a container out overnight to check for bite marks
- Setting up motion-sensing cameras with night vision and recording any activity while you sleep
If you've seen a mouse or noticed the signs, taking preventative action is the first step in rodent control. You'll want to sanitize your home and property as a way to avoid attracting mice now and in the future.
How to Prevent Mice Indoors and Outdoors
Keeping mice out of homes starts with cleaning the interior, maintaining the landscape and removing rodent attractors. Although this step won't completely eliminate mice, it may prevent future infestations on your property.
- Caulk and seal any cracks and crevices around doors, windows, vents and pipes, including cables and wires that come in from the outside.
- Organize the attics, basements and junk rooms to reduce clutter and to minimize rodent hiding spots.
- Clean up after every meal, and make sure to remove any and all crumbs and liquids from the surfaces.
- Always keep a tight lid on the trash bin to prevent mice from sniffing out garbage and raiding your kitchen.
- Transfer pantry items such as flour, rice and cereal to sealed plastic containers for better protection against mice.
- Put away your dog's or cat's food bowls overnight to stop mice from picking up on the scent.
- Pick up the clutter throughout the lawn to prevent mice from finding places to nest.
- Clean out drainage ditches, and mow the lawn to a short height to take away the rodents' nesting sites.
- Always put trash bags in a sealed bin, and set the bin farther from the house to keep mice away from the foundation.
- Seal any exterior gaps and crevices around the foundation to stop mice from infiltrating the interior.
- Cut back the shrubs from touching the exterior, and trim the bottom to expose hiding and nesting spots.
- Store your firewood away from the foundation to keep mice from nesting next to your home and coming inside.
- Remove all potential food sources from your property, such as low-hanging bird feeders, dog bowls and fallen fruit.
How to Eliminate Mice Infestations
You can eliminate mice infestations using rodenticide bait blocks, bait stations, glue boards and snap traps. Each product has its own benefits and helps to cure existing infestations while preventing future recurrences.
Rodenticide Bait Blocks
Bait blocks are an effective control option for mice. Because mice chew on everything, the bait blocks give them something on which to gnaw and to wear down their teeth. The rodenticide blocks are usually scented or flavored with peanut butter to lure the rodents to the bait. Not only can they gnaw on the blocks but also use them as a food source. As the mice feed on the blocks, they ingest the poison within the flavorful bait, resulting in their death.
Poisonous baiting blocks don't kill the mice right away. Instead, it can take between three and 10 days depending on the brand and the toxin that they contain. Regardless, bait blocks do the job well and help to reduce the rodent population not long after you've placed the poison in the target areas. Some of the more effective bait blocks to use include:
- JT Eaton Bait Block
- Contrac Blox
- Fastrac All-Weather Blox
When using bait blocks, place them at least 8 to 12 feet apart. Set them in areas where you suspect activity or in places where the mice would travel, such as along foundation lines and baseboards. Place them beneath counters, in sheds and other areas where mice have built or may build nests. You can also set the blocks around the perimeter of the property to tempt the mice as they invade the lawn. You should place the bait out of reach of children, pets and wildlife as the blocks contain poisons that will harm their health. For maximum safety and protection, it's wise to use baiting stations.
Bait stations rarely come with bait. They're made to secure the bait and to keep it protected from inclement weather, children, pets and nontarget animals. They typically come with a locking mechanism and a tamper-resistant design to deter people and wildlife from opening the stations and becoming exposed to the poison.
Depending on the bait stations, they can hold numerous bait blocks or one or more snap traps. They work for residential and commercial applications, including industrial and agricultural settings both indoors and outdoors. One of the most common bait stations for mice is the Protecta mouse bait station. It can hold up to four Contrac Blox baiting blocks or a single snap trap. Set the stations in common mouse traveling areas such as:
- Near baseboards
- In corners
- Along walls
- Inside crawlspaces
- Around perimeters
A snap trap normally consists of a wood base with a wire trap, which comes down on the mouse once it contacts the trigger. Some snap traps are made of heavy-duty plastic with strong springs, producing extreme velocity as the trap comes down and instantly kills the mouse. Traditional snap traps require some kind of bait on the trigger to lure the mouse out of its hiding spot. Some common food baits to use include:
- Beef jerky
- Peanut butter
You can even set nesting material on the trigger, such as yarn or dental floss. Mice use these materials to build nests, so if the rodents see the materials along their path, they'll take the bait.
Not all snap traps require food bait. In fact, the Victor M325 Pro looks like a traditional wood-based snap trap but has a yellow trigger area. This trigger is scented with cheese and attracts mice to the trap without the need to add peanut butter or foods that could lure other pests such as ants. Snap traps are effective rodent control products, but they should be placed throughout the property to eliminate the mice.
Some species are smarter than others and avoid snap traps, so you may have to try different baits to see which ones provide the most effective results. Check out the following snap traps to use indoors and outdoors:
- Catchmaster 612
- Mini T-Rex
- Victor M325 Pro
Some traps are made to catch live mice. These pest control products are called live-catch traps. The most common is the Catchmaster 612. It can hold up to 30 mice at once and only needs a little bait to lure the pests inside. Once a mouse enters, it triggers a lever that keeps the rodent trapped within the clear container. The Catchmaster 612 provides effective results and works best in areas where you're not allowed to use poisonous baits or deadly snap traps.
Glue boards capture mice and keep them trapped to an adhesive surface. The glue usually has a peanut butter scent and attracts the mice to the board. When the mice step on the glue, it traps them instantly and keeps them stuck in place. If they struggle, more of their body parts contact the glue. Before they know it, they're trapped and can't move at all from the board.
You can set glue boards in Catchmaster traps and some bait stations. Not all glue boards provide effective results outdoors. The glue may melt in direct sunlight or freeze in colder temperatures. If you're trying to target mice in walk-in freezers or colder climates, select a cold-temperature glue board such as the Catchmaster 48WRG. It works in 0 degree temperatures and keeps trapping mice until the surface is completely covered.
If you decide to use glue boards indoors or outdoors, we recommend the following products for your home, business or landscape.
- Catchmaster 150MBGL
- Catchmaster MaxCatch
- Catchmaster 48WRG
- Trapper Max
- Trapper LTD
Set the glue boards in areas where mice activity is high. Place them along baseboards and other areas where the rodents travel. It's important to keep the glue boards out of the reach of children and pets because the glue is extremely sticky. However, it dissolves easily with vegetable oil in most cases.
DIY Mouse Control for Your Home and Property
It takes more than a clean, well-maintained home and landscape to prevent mice from invading your property. Sometimes you have to take extreme measures to eliminate the problem. Mice will breed and become a costly and unhealthy infestation if you don't take quick action. Whether you use baits, glue boards, snap traps or a combination of each, you can reduce the mouse population indoors and outdoors with the effective products available at Pedchem.