According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 25% of fires attributed to “unknown causes” are caused by rodents chewing electrical wires and gas lines.
Buying a commercial property is a huge undertaking and performing due diligence is critical. When buying a standalone building or a multi-unit property, be sure to have your inspector check for rodent activity. If you skip this step you might be setting yourself up for a disastrous fire down the line. Rat and mice teeth grow constantly, meaning they have to chew virtually nonstop. They gnaw metal wires and gas lines to prevent their teeth from overgrowing and suddenly you’ve got a fire on your hands.
Areas to check for rodent activity
Crawl spaces. Dirt crawlspaces in particular are vulnerable since rodents can tunnel under the skirting.
Attics are a classic spot for rat and mouse nests. Look for rub marks along walls and around entry holes.
Distinguishing between an old rodent problem from years past and a fresh infestation can be tricky. Droppings dry very quickly, so something a few days old looks similar to something a few years old. The best method is by scent (do you smell fresh urine?) and chew marks (do you see newly exposed wood or old, weathered wood?).
If you find evidence of an infestation the next step is figuring out how they got in. Look for weak points… – Roof lines for dormers and other vulnerable joints – Doors not closing all the way – Entry points along supply lines
Pick the right insurance carrier
A fire in an uninsured building is devastating for almost any business owner. Every carrier is different when it comes to fire claims—that’s why it’s important to know your insurance policy inside and out. In fact it is one reason Parker Eco Pest Control has stuck with the same Seattle business insurance broker for years (shout out to Heather Hanson at Northwest Insurance Group!). We highly recommend having a relationship with a broker who understands your business model and can pull together coverage options, financing arrangements, and answer questions at the drop of a hat.
A poorly maintained home on the block (we know you know the one)
A chicken coop nearby
It’s like the old adage, “You don’t have to run faster than the bear, just faster than your friend.” You don’t have to make your house mouse-proof, you just have to make it less attractive than your neighbor’s house. Mice will go where it’s easiest to get water, food, and shelter.
Natural ways to reduce interest from mice…
Bungee your garbage bins to keep the lids snug
Seal food in airtight containers like glass canisters
Clear a 1 foot perimeter around your house, including brush, wood piles, rockery, etc.
Remove standing water like bird baths
Clean up dog poop since it is full of protein, carbs, and other things mice like to eat
Keep bird seed off the ground by investing in a rodent-proof bird feeder and installing it at least 6 feet from “launch pads” like fences or trees
Trim fruit trees and berry bushes on the bottom and sides to prevent rodents coming up for a snack
Step 2. Seal up your house
How to find mouse entry holes
Check your utility lines to ensure pass-through holes are snug:
Sink supply and drain lines
Plumbing stacks on the outside of the house
Gas lines coming into your kitchen or laundry room
Electrical lines, particularly through exterior walls
Verify all utility vents have tight wire mesh and snug pass-through holes:
Bathroom fan vents
Kitchen fan vents
Weather-proof your doors:
Garage doors should have weather stripping to close gaps
Cracks in concrete pads (such as the area below your garage door) should be filled for a seamless seal with the door above
Exterior doors should hang plumb and square so they seal tightly
Scope out your roof for easy access points, then double down on wire mesh:
Dormers have complex joints between shingles, fascia boards, and windows that require precise cuts to stay mouse-proof. Time and poor craftsmanship can create gaps.
Attic vents are necessary to keep moisture at bay but can decay with time. Wasp nests, bird nests, and other animal activity can also puncture your vent grates.
Chimney caps are metal boxes that cover the hole at the top of your chimney. Check yours for gaps or rust. If you don’t have one, buy one for less than $100.
How to install wire mesh for mouse-proofing
Select your wire mesh: Pick a mesh with quarter inch holes and make sure it’s easy to bend. We recommend galvanized mesh since it has a special coating to resist rust, making it last longer. You can buy products like this at most hardware stores for about $10.
Select your screws: The ideal screw for installing mesh has a large head so it doesn’t pass through the holes in the wire. Again, we recommend galvanized screws to resist rust. Try to keep the length to about an inch and keep the diameter to a minimum. Using a oversized screws means making oversized holes in your house.
Installing your wire mesh: Cut a section of wire that extends at least an inch beyond the edge of the hole in all directions. Bend the wire so it fits snuggly inside the corner or around edges. If there is slack in your mesh the mice will simply push under it. Anchor the mesh with screws, about one every four inches. When on your roof, DO NOT anchor directly into your shingles or you risk creating a leak.
Can you use spray foam or steel wool instead of wire mesh?
Yes, but we don’t recommend it.
Step 3. Trap mice already in the house
There are two key factors in making sure you’ll get rid of mice naturally– picking the right trap and placing it properly. No matter what type of trap you use we recommend baiting it with peanut butter. It’s cheap, natural, and incredibly tempting to mice.
Why you shouldn’t use poison baits
By far the most common type of mouse bait is an anticoagulant rodenticide. That’s a fancy way to say that it thins the animal’s blood, causing them to bleed out and die slowly.
It’s cruel to kill the animals slowly over time.
Poison has terrible consequences for predators that eat mice like urban owls and your neighborhood cat.
The mice die in your walls. Some pest control companies claim the mice become thirsty, seek water, and then die outside. This is nonsense.
Get more information on the negative impacts of rodenticides from the Audubon Society.
So why are poison baits so common?
Traditional pest control companies rely heavily on poison bait because it is cheap and any employee can do it without training. Setting out a bait box is faster and simpler than doing an inspection, sealing entry holes, and setting traps in strategic locations.
Types of all-natural mouse traps
T-Rex snap traps are reliable, humane, & reusable
The plastic T-Rex snap trap from Bell is a highly sensitive trap with interlocking teeth. They are much heavier than a traditional wooden trap so they stay put. You can also wash and reuse the traps indefinitely, so they are more eco-friendly than disposable traps. The plastic teeth have a lot of force, making for a quick and humane death. The traps have small holes in the base so you can feed a zip tie through and secure the traps on vertical pipes and beams. Parker Eco Pest Control uses these traps exclusively (and no, they didn’t pay us to say that!).
Wooden snap traps are tough to set properly
Victor mouse traps are the stereotypical trap you see in the movies baited with a piece of swiss cheese. Setting these traps involves pulling back the pin carefully, setting the bait, and putting it in the right spot without triggering it. They’re pretty finnicky and go off without catching a mouse often, especially compared to the T-Rex.
Glue traps can be cruel
Glue traps come with a lot of well-deserved horror stories. Mice have been known to languish in the glue, starving to death. They sometimes chew off their own legs to free themselves. If you opt for a glue trap we suggest you use it ONLY under close supervision. As soon as you catch a mouse you should either:
Put on gloves and wipe the mouse down in olive oil to free it from the trap. Set it free outside.
Fill a bucket with water and drop the mouse and attached trap in for a quick death.
Live traps require daily supervision
If you can’t bring yourself to kill a mouse you might lean towards live traps. Simply place a tasty treat inside and let the door snap shut once the mouse is inside. Traps like this MUST be checked daily or you risk leaving a mouse to die slowly from starvation – this is far worse than a quick death from a snap trap.
Where to put the traps
The simplest solution is putting traps where you find the most evidence of activity like droppings, urine smells, or rub marks.
There is some finesse to how the traps are positioned. Mice are neophobic, meaning they are suspicious of new things. You need to make it as easy as possible to stumble into the trap. Look for narrow paths next to walls and hidden corners. Do not waste your time by simply opening your attic door and setting a trap on the open space inside.
Step 4. Natural mouse control outdoors
The A24 from Goodnature is a self-resetting trap that kills 24 mice with a single cartridge. Set it up outside, sit back, and wait. Parker Eco Pest Control will gladly install one.
Owls eat as many as 12 rodents a night! Installing an owl box gives you about a 50% chance of getting an owl every nesting season. Learn more about owls for natural mouse control on our blog.
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 avoid 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.
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!