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House mice may be common, but they are by no means wanted inside our homes. The sight of a mouse can conjure up feelings of disgust and usually brings with it the overriding thought--"Get rid of it!" Exterminating mice from your home can be accomplished by the use of traps or poisonous baits.
Aside from observing a mouse, signs of a mouse infestation include:
- Round droppings one-quarter inch or less in length
- Circular holes in walls or boxes, especially cardboard food packages
- Sounds of movement in walls or ceilings
To discourage mice from living in your home, all food sources must be kept securely sealed. This means that all crumbs on counters and tables should be cleaned up and disposed of right away, spills should be wiped up immediately, and foods may need repackaging. Commercial food products, like cereal and crackers, are packaged in containers which mice can easily chew through. These foods should be placed instead in plastic containers with tight fitting lids.
To completely eliminate the mice food supply, small appliances like microwaves and toasters should be moved so that all the crumbs behind them can be cleaned up. It will likely also be necessary to move the refrigerator and other large appliances and clean behind them. Cabinet and pantry shelves should be wiped thoroughly on a regular basis to eliminate those inevitable crumbs. No matter how small they seem to you, they're a welcome meal for mice.
Pet food will also need to be resealed in a plastic container, and pet food dishes should be kept on an above-the-floor area, such as a stool or tray with legs. This will prevent mice from eating your pet's food.
Having kitchen garbage in the house is, of course, inevitable. To prevent mice from seeking their food in the garbage, use a can with a lid that fits snugly. Some garbage bags offer an odor-blocking feature that may make mice less likely to detect the food there. Garbage should be taken out daily.
Outside the Home
Besides removing all potential food sources, successfully exterminating mice must include making your home as inhospitable as possible. It's important to check all around the exterior of your home and yard to see if any areas are providing a warm, safe shelter for mice.
- Piles of firewood, lumber, or tree branches
- Old tires
- Scrap from a building or remodeling project
- Compost piles
These mouse havens need to removed right away. They should be disposed of or securely locked inside a mouse-proof shed.
The next step in exterminating mice is to prevent their entry into your home. Mice can squeeze through openings as small as a quarter inch wide, so it will take diligent searching to locate all of the potential entry points. Each hole should be sealed as soon as it is found.
Very small holes can sometimes be covered with caulk, but larger holes should be sealed with metal flashing. The flashing can be nailed or screwed into place. It's important to make sure that no cracks or crevices are left open after sealing.
Once you have prevented any possibility of new mice entering your home, it is time to begin exterminating any mice that are left inside. Either mouse traps or mouse poison should be effective. Mouse poison, however, is less preferable because the mice may die inside a wall or in another inaccessible area. The resulting odor can linger for weeks.
If using mouse poison, all package directions and precautions should be followed carefully. The poison should be set only in areas where children and pets cannot reach it. For best results, the poison should be located along walls and at the backs of cabinets where mice are known to travel.
Like poisons, mouse traps should be kept away from children and pets and placed in areas of frequent mouse activity. Two main types of mouse traps are available--lethal and non-lethal. The non-lethal varieties may be chosen in an effort not to cause the mice any physical harm. When checked daily, any trapped mice can be taken to a location far away from the house and released. This is not a guarantee, however, that the mouse will live peacefully. House mice have difficulty living in the wild and often die quickly from lack of food or attack by predators.
Most mouse traps require some sort of bait to attract the mouse into the trap. House mice will eat basically anything. Popular choices include:
- Peanut butter
- Unshelled peanuts
- Oats, by themselves or mixed with peanut butter
- Meat, cooked or uncooked
Your mice may prefer one type of bait over another, and some experimentation may be necessary to find the bait that works best. It's important to keep in mind that many of these baits can attract other pests like roaches or ants. Traps should be checked daily for mice and for the presence of other pests.
Lethal Mouse Traps
Lethal mouse traps are designed to kill mice as soon as they enter the trap. Several styles exist, and most work equally well.
- Snap traps, the traditional choice, have a spring-loaded metal bar intended to break the mouse's spine. If mice avoid this kind of trap, it can be hidden with a layer of cornmeal or sawdust.
- Bucket traps cause death by drowning. They can be purchased or homemade.
- Electric or 'zapper' traps use battery power to electrocute mice as they enter the trap.
- Carbon dioxide traps allow mice to enter a sealed container where a sensor causes a flood of carbon dioxide inside the container. The lack of oxygen causes death.
Some mouse traps are designed to catch mice without directly causing death. Because they prevent the mice from escaping to go find food and water, however, these traps will cause death by starvation if mice are not released daily.
- Glue boards are a common choice and consist of a plastic or cardboard surface that is coated with a strong glue. When mice cross the surface, they become stuck and will remain there until removed. The mice can be detached from the glue if vegetable oil is poured over them.
- Catch traps are containers with an opening that mice can enter but cannot escape. Some have a sort of "funnel" entrance that mice can easily jump into but cannot possibly crawl back out of, while other have a door that snaps shut as soon as the mouse enters.
Making a homemade bucket trap for catching mice is pretty simple and quick. Items needed are:
- 5-gallon bucket
- paper towel tube
- metal clothes hanger
- stiff cardboard or a piece of wood to use for a ramp
- water (for a lethal trap) or butter or shortening (for a non-lethal trap)
The bucket's handle should be removed and the straightened clothes hanger should be passed through the holes. The paper towel tube should be placed around the wire hanger so that it is suspended over the top of the bucket. The hanger needs to be very straight, and the cardboard tube needs to extend from one end to the other without actually touching the edges of the bucket. Ideally, the mouse will need to make a little hop to get from the ramp onto the edge of the paper towel tube.
The center third of the paper towel tube will need to be well-coated with a bait. Peanut butter works very well for this purpose and may be combined with oats or small nuts if desired. The next step depends on whether you want the mice to be killed or to simply be caught.
For a lethal trap, the bucket should be filled about half way with water. For a non-lethal trap, the inside bottom and sides of the bucket should be liberally coated with butter or shortening. The bucket should be placed in an area where mice are likely to go, and the ramp should be carefully set in place.
Mice are attracted to the bait and crawl up the ramp to get it. When they try to stand on the cardboard tube, it rotates and causes them to fall into the bucket. If it is filled with water, the mice will die. If it's coated in a lubricant, the mice will be unable to climb back out. In either case, the trap needs to be checked daily and any mice removed. The water should be replaced as well.
Making your own bucket trap for exterminating mice can be just as effective as using store-bought traps. Traps or baits should be kept in placed and properly set up until no evidence of mice has been seen for several weeks.