September is the time to start rodent prevention because, “It’s summer time and the livin’ is easy…”
Already, it’s September in Wichita and mice are beginning to creep into homes in search of winter quarters. Throughout the warm summer days, their lives have been easy with plenty of seeds and insects to munch on. Yet, somewhere in the back of the primordial sections of their brains, an urge to seek winter shelter is just beginning to stir. “Hmmm…maybe we should explore that structure we’re next to. It could be a great place to hang out,” their instincts tell them. And so, the annual migration of commensal rodents (field and house mice) starts as a trickle and over the next three to four months becomes a surging tide that crests in late November.
At first, the invasion is hardly noticeable—just a pair of little mice sneaking in under a garage door or through a small hole in the foundation. The twosome can settle in quite nicely leaving few clues to their presence, unless someone quite observant or lucky stumbles across a few droppings or nibbled bits of food. Previous mice invaders have left pheromone trails to lead the couple inward. Soon, they drop their first litter of 6-12 pinkies (newborns) and the family infestation has begun.
What simple steps can a homeowner do to help prevent mice?
One of the easiest things a homeowner can do to detect and protect the home from a mouse invasion is to put traps and/or monitors in the places mice are most likely to visit first. Sticky glue traps are often the best option because they can capture mice as they enter and they also will capture insects and spiders letting you know what is moving around in these spaces. Snap traps can also be helpful but they are single use and have to be reloaded each time they make a catch. Sometimes they miss a mouse and they offer no monitoring capability for insects and spiders.
The two most common places rodents first show up are the garage and utility room or closet. Mice entering and exploring a new structure typically go under garage doors or enter through utility penetrations like water and cable lines that go through foundation walls. By placing sticky glue traps on both sides of garage doors at the walls, one can often capture mice as they first enter. In basements or utility rooms the best placement is near or around heaters or hot water tanks. If you find a hole that is the size of a dime, the opening is big enough for mice can get through. These holes should be sealed, ideally with stainless steel wool or copper mesh.
The best solution to preventing mice in the winter is proactive trapping during the late summer or early fall. Although baiting can work, with baiting you need to be careful to keep rodent poisons away from non-target species such as children and pets. Also, rodents that die from poisoning can crawl into inaccessible places such as wall voids and cabinet pedestals and rot, creating bad odors that can linger for a week or two. Hiring pest control professionals is also a very good option since they know where to look and what to do.
My advice to start trapping early in September when the trickle of mice activity begins and to keep an eye on the traps through late winter so that mice do not set up residence in your home. Preventing mice is much easier and better that trying to eliminate an established mouse family that’s familiar with the structure.