A collaboration with The Boston Globe’s Help Desk:
The holidays are over, the Patriots lost their chance at the Super Bowl, and you’re probably settling into the fact that it’s cold and there’s not much to look forward to. Perhaps you’re also realizing that you’re not the only one seeking refuge from the frigid outdoor conditions.
Bill Horgan, president of Debug Pest Control, which serves residential and commercial spaces throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Eastern Connecticut, draws similarities between rodent and human behavior. Rodents “typically come into the home during late fall and winter for the same reasons we spend more time inside. It’s cold!’’ he said.
Mice and rats have very similar, notoriously fast breeding cycles. According to Terminix’s article titled “The Life Cycle of a Mouse,’’ “just one female mouse in your home can average between 25 and 60 offspring in a single year.’’ Rodent infestations quickly grow out of control — the gestation period is just 19 to 21 days, according to the report — and that same rodent is able to mate immediately after giving birth. At just 21 days old, the pups are already chewing through your possessions in search of food and nesting materials. Merely two weeks after that, the female pups will start producing pups of their own.
This swift maturation and breeding process illustrates how things get out of hand. In addition to rapidly multiplying, the natural lifespan of rodents can triple in length when living indoors and away from predators, Terminix reported.
“In a year, one mouse will produce approximately 18,000 fecal droppings,’’ according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Aside from just being gross, rodents can directly transmit numerous diseases, including hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, leptospirosis, plague, rat-bite fever, and salmonellosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
John Bozarjian, owner of B & B Pest Control of Lynn and South Boston, said no property is immune to a rodent infestation.
“Every property is susceptible in any town or city. Rodents don’t discriminate. If there is shelter and food and a way in, they are going to try and get in,’’ he said. B & B Pest Control receives numerous calls every day throughout Boston for issues with mice and rats, but mice problems are by far the number one pest issue, and they’re significantly smaller and easier to trap than rats, he said.
Bozarjian finds that older fieldstone foundations, crumbling structures, and old doors with gaps are more susceptible. Horgan emphasizes that ideal conditions draw the rodents to your home. If there’s a food source nearby, then rodents will love to live there. Shelter and food in the same place is the ultimate jackpot.
The specialists offered tips for keeping rodents out of your home:
Bozarjian recommends searching your foundation for potential points of entry: “If you find [a gap or hole in your foundation], we recommend sealing it up or calling a contractor to help do so.’’ He also reminds us that if you can see daylight under a door, that generally means a mouse can slip under, [so] consider a door sweep to mitigate the chance of entry.
While surveying your property remove debris from around the structure, keep the grass short, and ensure no food is readily available near your foundation — this includes bird feeders and overflowing trash cans, Horgan said. Leaking faucets, hoses, and clogged gutters present easy access to water for rodents — another reason for them to stick around.
Horgan also recommends blocking points of entry with stainless-steel wool, caulk, or expandable foam — although rodents are known to gnaw through the latter.
As for traps and ultrasonic or electronic pest repellers, not all are created equally. Both Horgan and Bozarjian are highly skeptical of the electronic repellent devices; they find that they are pricier and do not work as well as more traditional methods. The Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate them.
Live traps are commonly considered to be a more humane option; however, this is the case only when used correctly. It’s extremely important to review the instructions and best practices before using any device — for example, accidentally putting food on the wrong part of a snap trap is the difference between instant death and suffering.
Maintaining a tidy home and containing food sources will help manage the problem, and Bozarjian said bait and powders will work quickly in these conditions. Horgan recommends that inexperienced users stick to snap traps and call in a professional for anything beyond that; it’s imperative to know what you’re doing when working with chemicals, how and where to apply the correct amount of rodenticide safely.
Sometimes Fido and Fluffy can assist in the rodent roundup. “They are considered predators of the mice,’’ Horgan said. “This is especially true of cats. Some cats are highly effective ‘mousers’; however, some cats could care less!
“Having a cat does not equal having no mice. The presence of cat/dog food often left on the floor is what may encourage the mice or rats to stay in the home. You should pick up the bowls after the animals have fed . . . [Plus,] cats or dogs may get sick from eating a diseased rodent.’’
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or believe there’s more than a few mice sharing your space, do not hesitate to call in the professionals. Many pest control services offer free consultations and assessments.