MEMPHIS, Tenn., Dec. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- (TERMINIX) - Homeowners are heading indoors for winter, and unfortunately rodents are following close behind.
Experts estimate rodents scurry into 21 million American homes each winter, searching for food and shelter during the harshest months of the year. Rodents can get into homes through surprisingly small openings. A gap the size of a quarter is large enough for a rat to squeeze through, and mice can enter through voids as small as a dime.
"Rodents normally feed on seeds and plant life, but when winter wipes these out, rodents invade human structures in order to find food," said Stoy Hedges, entomologist and director of technical services for Terminix.
American homeowners are most likely to encounter these rodent species this winter:
House mouse: The house mouse is the most common rodent infesting American homes. With a body generally less than two inches in length and less than an ounce in weight, this rodent can slip through very small openings. Common entry points include under doors, openings around utility lines and even exterior vents.
Norway rat: The Norway rat weighs nearly one pound and measures more than one foot in length as an adult. This species is also called the sewer rat because it is commonly found in sewer systems. The Norway rat is generally found in urban areas but can make itself at home in agricultural settings.
Roof rat: Known for their acrobatics, roof rats are capable of scaling vertical pipes and even tight-roping utility lines to gain access to vents and openings on the roof of a home. Roof rats are not as widespread as other rodent species and are most common in the Southeast and along the West Coast.
Rodents are considered a health threat, and their presence is cause for concern. Rats and mice can carry diseases that they spread through their bites, urine and droppings. In rare cases, some of these diseases can be life threatening. Rodents are also considered a fire hazard because of their habit of gnawing through electrical wiring.
"Some people mistakenly associate the presence of rodents with unclean living conditions, but that's not always true," said Hedges. "Rodents are opportunistic and will live in even immaculate homes if they can find a way inside."
Look for these signs to tell if you're living with rodents:
- Dark-colored droppings, one-quarter-inch to one-half-inch in length
- Gnawed boxes of food in cupboards
- Oily, "rub marks" along walls, caused by their habitual use of the same paths
- Gnawed door frames or furniture legs
- Sounds of movement in pantries, ceilings and behind walls
Homeowners who believe their home has been infested by rodents should contact a trained pest control professional. Pest experts have specialized tools and knowledge that can provide faster, better results than commonly used do-it-yourself methods.
Use these tips from the experts at Terminix to keep rodents from invading your home:
- Move piles of firewood and other debris as far from the home as possible to eliminate potential rodent harborages.
- Seal holes or cracks in your home larger than one-quarter of an inch. Large openings should be stuffed with steel wool or wire mesh before sealing.
- Ensure attic and foundation vents are equipped with tight-fitting one-quarter inch hardware cloth.
- Install a tight-fitting weather strip on the bottom of all doors, especially the garage door.
- Move bird feeders as far from the home as possible. This food source can lure rodents closer to the home.
- Trim shrubbery away from the home. Rodents do not like traveling in the open. A well-manicured area near the house can discourage activity.
For more information about rodents and other pests, visit www.terminix.com.