The National Pest Management Association has declared October 22, 2023, as Rodent Awareness Week, an annual observance to promote greater awareness about the threats rodents pose to health and property. As winter weather arrives, mice and rats will look to come indoors for shelter and food. Terminix Service, Inc., the largest pest control company in the Carolinas, with the help of NPMA, is sharing useful information about the common rodent species found in the U.S. as well as tips on how to prevent infestations this fall.

“According to NPMA, an estimated 21 million U.S. homes are invaded by rodents each year, making proper prevention crucial to ensure your family is protected from the health threats posed by these pests,” said Terminix Technical Director Kevin Hathorne, BCE. “Rodents can spread bacteria and disease, and they can also trigger asthma and allergy symptoms or carry with them fleas and mites.” 

This Rodent Awareness Week, Terminix is sharing the most common rodent species found in U.S. homes and tips on how to keep them out:

  • Deer mice are found throughout the U.S. and prefer to hide in rural areas like old fence posts or log piles. Although rarely an indoor pest, they will wander into homes in search of food and warmth in the winter. This rodent is also a common carrier of hantavirus, a potentially fatal disease. To keep deer mice out, avoid storing pet food or birdseed in places like the garage or a shed where they are accessible.
  • House mice are the most common rodent species encountered and are found throughout the U.S. They typically nest in dark, secluded areas of the home and have great climbing abilities. House mice are known for gnawing through materials like drywall and electrical wiring and can transmit Salmonella. Avoid clutter in the home as house mice tend to nest in boxes or paper.
  • Norway rats, a primarily nocturnal species, can also be found throughout the U.S. They are known vectors of several diseases, including the plague, and can gnaw through plastic and lead pipes. Be sure to seal up any crevices or holes leading into your home, as Norway rats can squeeze through openings the size of a quarter.
  • Roof rats are found throughout the coastal U.S. states and southern parts of the country. Their ideal nesting sites are those in upper areas of a tree and are also vectors of the plague. Ensure all garbage is stored in sealed tight receptacles to prevent attracting this rodent.

“In addition to spreading diseases, rodents can wreak havoc on your home, chewing through cables and destroying insulation,” continued Hathorne. “It’s important for homeowners to know how to spot a rodent infestation within their homes and to take the necessary steps to avoid these unwanted visitors. When rodents come inside during this time of year, they tend to set up shop and stay. They’ll create nests, breed, and forage for food. They will eventually be noticed by the homeowner, or at least signs will show up such as droppings, chewed food items, and the sounds of pitter-patter as they run around at night.”

Common signs of a rodent infestation include:

  • Droppings & Urine Staining: Fecal pellets are often left behind in places where their food is stored, such as attics, soffits, window dormers, as well as wall cavities and on top of wall beams. Dark-colored stains may appear on walls and leak between tongue-and-groove ceilings. 
  • Gnaw Marks: Rodents will chew through air vents, exterior walls, roofs, and fascia boards along the gutter line. Once inside, they are known to bite through walls, wood, and wires. The damage to wiring within walls can increase the risk of a house fire.
  • Nests: Rodents prefer to nest in dark, secluded areas where there is little chance of disturbance. Be on the lookout for shredded insulation, leaves, and woody debris inside attics and void spaces. Debris hanging out of an air vent is a dead giveaway you have a problem.
  • Rub Marks: Rodents tend to leave dark grease or dirt marks — from their oily fur — around entry point holes and on posts or columns as they follow a trail in and out of the home between their nest and food.
  • Strange Noises: Scurrying in the walls or in the attic could mean a rodent family is present. Gray squirrels are most active at dawn and dusk whereas flying squirrels are active only at night. 

To help protect against these threats, the NPMA recommends the following tips:

  • Insert door sweeps and repair damaged screens
  • Screen vents and openings to chimneys
  • Seal cracks and holes on the outside of the home
  • Replace loose mortar and weather stripping
  • Store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly
  • Keep attics, basements and crawl spaces well-ventilated and dry
  • Repair leaking pipes and clogged drains
  • Inspect all packaging for damage before bringing it into the home
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the home

If a rodent infestation is suspected, it’s best to contact an experienced pest control professional to assess the situation.

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