Attracting owls for ecofriendly rodent control

Owls and cats have long been used to control rodents naturally. Getting a cat is as simple as visiting the local shelter, but what about attracting a wild owl? You might be surprised to learn you don’t need a barn or acres of land to create a suitable owl home.

Do owls really help control rodents?

Absolutely. An adult barn owl will catch and eat up to 12 rodents per night while brooding in the late spring and early summer. Even without babies to feed they maintain a steady nightly hunting routine of several rats, mice and moles. Owls fly with almost no noise at all making it easy to sneak up on an unsuspecting rat or mouse. Washington State alone is home to 13 different species of owls.

One important thing to keep in mind if you’re hoping to attract an owl is avoiding the use of rodent poison. At Parker Eco Pest Control we never use rodenticides (nobody wants a rat dying slowly in their wall) but the most important reason to avoid poison is the harmful impact on the food chain. Rats eat a small amount of the poison and owls eat many, many rats, concentrating the poison. The cumulative effect on birds of prey and neighborhood cats can be deadly.

Setting up an owl box

Timing: While you can install an owl box year round, most owl species begin looking for a nesting spot between January

This owl box from Looker is available on Amazon and many other online retailers.

and March. Now is the perfect time to install a box, sit back, and wait.

Position: Follow these best practices to increase the likelihood of attracting an owl.

  • Mount the box at least 10 feet off the ground.
  • The opening shouldn’t face towards the wind. For most locations this isn’t an issue, but if you live on a bluff with a constant breeze you should take that into consideration.
  • Do not put an owl box on a utility pole.
  • Make sure the interior floor of the box is level once it’s mounted.
  • Position it with a clear approach path, not hidden by branches. Owls will likely discover the box by spotting the dark entry hole.
  • Try to face the entry hole out over an open area rather than inward towards nearby trees or buildings.
  • Some research shows that owls prefer an Eastern-facing opening.

Luck: Owls are successfully attracted about half the time. Your best bet for attracting an owl in an urban environment is installing multiple boxes in the neighborhood. Placing a box approximately every 100 yards will boost your chances. Having an owl on your block will greatly reduce your rodent population, even if the owl isn’t nesting in your backyard.

How do you know if your box has a new resident? Look for stray feathers, white droppings around the entry hole, and above all listen for hoots and shrieks at night.

Want help installing an owl box in the Seattle area?

We can help you find and install the perfect owl box for your property, even if you’re in the city. Contact Chris Parker, owner of Parker Eco Pest Control, at 800-326-1698 or Chris@ParkerEcoPestControl.com.

Getting rid of bats safely and legally

Bats are a bit creepy and maybe even scary to your average city dweller, especially if they’re living in your attic. But it’s important to know that Washington State has strict laws to protect bats. Here’s why bats are actually awesome, and how to handle a bat infestation legally and safely.

Why are bats beneficial to your neighborhood?

A female bat can consume her entire body weight in insects in a single evening. Forget the citronella candle, just get some bats! Mosquitos, termites, and other much more serious pests are kept in check by a healthy bat population. It’s difficult to stress just how many more creepy crawlies would be in your house and biting you in your garden if bats suddenly disappeared.

Brown bats in an attic

Why are bats living in your attic?

Bats naturally seek out cavities in trees, caves and other places that protect them from light and predators. As our region densifies there are fewer natural spots for them to live. They begin seeking out attics, wells, and other manmade hidey-holes.  You’re most likely to find bats living on the southern side of a building with full sun.

How do you get bats out of your attic?

First off let’s say that bats are not as harmful to your home as rats or mice. They don’t chew wires but their guano can be smelly and cause water damage to drywall.

While it may be tempting to close off the entry holes, you would likely be trapping the bat pups inside your attic. This is a recipe for a very stinky, and very cruel disaster. The safest, and legal option is coaxing them out on their own volition.

Note that these methods only work when the pups are mature enough to fly so you’ll have to wait until mid-August. That gives you a couple weeks to plan the bat siege…

  • Make some noise. Put a radio in your attic as close to their roosting site as possible
  • Use shop lights to make the space bright so they can’t get to sleep (preferably fluorescent bulbs since incandescent lights risk starting a fire)
  • Install a one-way door so bats can go out, but not back in
  • Put a bat box nearby to encourage these beneficial creatures to stay in the neighborhood
  • Close every entry point and use caulk for the most complete seal job possible

And don’t wait too long! Be sure to do a thorough exclusion job before October or you may be stuck with bats all winter. For more information on bats in Washington State check out the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s guide to living with wildlife.

If you have a bat problem or are interested in installing a bat box call our owner and head technician, Chris Parker at 800-326-1698.

Rain gardens and the pests they sprout

A beautiful Rain Wise garden. Photo courtesy of Seattle Mag

If you live in Seattle you’ve probably seen gardens with signs about the Rain Wise program. Seattle Public Utilities subsidizes rain gardens in certain parts of the city to protect everyone from storm water runoff that causes sewer backups and flooding. You can get details about the program or see if you qualify at the SPU Rain Wise website.

Parker Eco Pest Control Rain Gardens

Diagram courtesy of Seekamp Environmental Consulting

While these rain gardens look beautiful, they can attract unwanted pests like rodents and insects. The rain garden provides added food, water, and shelter – the three biggest attractants for pests. Having one in your yard could leave your house vulnerable to an infestation. Here at Parker Eco Pest Control we often get calls to help people manage ants, spiders, mice, and rats that have been drawn to the home after installing a rain garden.

To get the best of both worlds and protect your home from these pests, make sure you maintain your rain garden on a regular basis. Foliage that falls to the ground should be raked up regularly. Be sure to leave at least a foot of space between any vegetation and your home. If these branches touch your house it can act as a highway for insects like ants, cockroaches, spiders, and more.

Image courtesy of the West Seattle Herald

Even if you don’t have a formal rain garden through the Rain Wise program, you might live in an area prone to the same pests. Take a look at the Rain Wise map and see if your home is at risk.

Overall these gardens provide a public good. With a little knowledge and some careful planning you can keep your neighborhood safe from flooding and your home free of pests. If you’d like more information to keep your home protected from your rain garden, give Parker Eco Pest Control a call and we’ll work together to find a low cost and eco-friendly solution.

We wish you a merry Christmas and a rat-free new year

As the temperature drops you may find yourself with some unwanted house guests this holiday season.  Winter is peak time for rodents as they look for warmth in crawlspaces, attics, and garages. These disease carrying animals make nests in your insulation and chew everything in sight. Rat teeth grow quickly which forces them to chew constantly and grind them down. It’s estimated that rodents cause up to 20% of house fires every year just by chewing on wires. In addition to causing fires they can knaw through pipes and create plumbing leaks within your walls. All these problems are significantly more expensive to fix than they are to prevent. Do yourself a favor and monitor your home for signs of rodent activity this winter to head off any problems before it’s too late!

Notice that the upper wire has been chewed on. The insulation nearby could easily catch fire.

Parker Eco Pest Control offers environmentally-friendly solutions for both preventing and treating infestations.  We use a combination of physical tools to keep the rats and mice out, and chemical tools that kill and repel. Call us today!