Showing posts with label rats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rats. Show all posts

Friday, April 10, 2015

How to Get of Rats and Mice

I have recently completed a series of videos describing how to identify rodent infestations, what products to use to get rid of rats and mice, how to use those products, safe use of and disposal of rodenticides and how to prevent rodent infestations.

Q: Where do mice park their boats?
A: At the hickory dickory dock.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What to do on ANZAC Day

ANZAC day tomorrow! Let’s hope the weather remains good. We have been having something of an Indian summer this autumn and this has meant ongoing, or even increased, problems for some people with insect pests.

The weather has been warm during the day but clear skies at night have meant low temperatures and even a frost this morning in the fields around my home. This time of the year is normally when rats and mice move indoors to find fresh sources of food and shelter from the cold. Perhaps a good use of your time would be to take 30 minutes of your ANZAC day off and look around your home for places that rats and mice could enter.

It is almost impossible to make any building 100% proofed against rats and mice but 95% makes having an infestation 20 times less likely. Setting out some rodenticide baits and traps would add to the protection; controlling any rodents that find their way in.

What do you get if you try to cross a rat with a skunk?
Dirty looks from the rat! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Target Your Pesticides and Protect Beneficials

Pests are defined as organisms in the ‘wrong place’; the ‘wrong place’ as defined by us.


But there is more to what we regard as pests. A single aphid on your rose is not a problem for the rose except that it is likely to become hundreds of aphids if left unchecked. A rat in the bush is not a problem, but thousands of rats in the bush will be sufficient to impact seriously the population of native birds, reptiles and invertebrates. One wilding pine on a hillside is not much of a problem, but if the whole hillside is covered they exclude native plants and change the entire eco-system. So it is often excessive numbers of an organism that make them a pest.

The reason numbers of organisms get out of control is, more often than not, and imbalance caused by we humans altering the environment to our own ends. The aphids on our roses get out of hand because we have bred roses for their brilliant flowers and not always their ability to resist aphids. Rats were accidentally introduced to New Zealand along with our own migration to this new country and we build buildings that suit rats as home almost as much as they suit us. We planted and grow pines for lumber and should not be surprised that they spread to none cultivated areas.
Pest control is our attempt to redress this imbalance. But there is a danger when carrying out pest control of again creating imbalance. When we spray the garden to control the aphids on our rose we may also kill beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hover flies and bees.

There are ways to make your re balancing of the environment using pesticides more effective and reduce the risk of creating a new imbalance.

Be targeted! Only treat the places where pests are a problem. If you have aphids on your rose. Check the other roses in your garden. Aphids are mostly host specific, that is rose aphids only attack roses. You will probably find that some of your roses are unaffected; they may be resistant. Do not spray the unaffected roses and do not spray other plants. Even though spraying them might seem to be a sensible precaution to protect them it is more likely to be a costly waste of insecticide and will kill many beneficial insects you should protect.

Be targeted! Use pesticides that are as specifically targeted at the pest as possible. For example if your pest is caterpillars eating your cabbages you could use a standard insecticide such as pyrethrum. But pyrethrum will kill all sorts of insects. Consider using caterpillar control products such as Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk) which is harmless to insects other than the larvae of moths and butterflies.

Be targeted! Don’t use pesticides at below the recommended rate even in an attempt to reduce the affect on beneficials. Using pesticides at below the recommended rate risks not controlling the pest but still harming beneficials and the need for further treatment will only harm beneficials further. It also risks leaving sub-lethally dosed pests that survive and develop tolerance to the pesticide. A proactive early treatment of pests is better than protracted series ‘half’ treatments of pests that never quite gets control.

In these ways you will re balance the systems in your garden, your home and your environment.

There were three engineers in a car; an electrical engineer, a chemical engineer, and a Microsoft engineer.
Suddenly, the car stops running and they pull off to the side of the road wondering what could be wrong.
  • The electrical engineer suggests stripping down the electronics of the car and trying to trace where a fault may have occurred. 
  • The chemical engineer, not knowing much about cars, suggests maybe the fuel is becoming emulsified and getting blocked somewhere.  
  • The Microsoft engineer, not knowing much about anything, came up with a suggestion. “Why don’t we close all the windows, get out, get back in, and open all the windows and see if it works?”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Autumn – Time to Stop Rats and Mice

This autumn could see a larger than usual influx of rats and mice into our homes, offices, shops, factories and farms. We haven’t had much of a summer in New Zealand but the wetter than usual weather has been good for the growth of plants and their production of fruit, seeds and nuts. The abundance of food this provides for rats and mice means that rodent numbers are likely to be high in the bush, parks and gardens of the country.
At this time each year pest rodents move into our buildings. When autumn gets colder and the fruits, seeds and nuts diminish the rats and mice seek shelter and alternative food sources. When they find a nice dry insulated sheltered attic with food to be found in the kitchen below they will quickly build a nest, and continue breeding. Timely action now to prevent rats and mice getting inside and to deal with them quickly if they gain entry, will save time and effort later during winter.
I have discussed proofing in a previous blog postingHere is my 3 point plan for proofing your building against rats and mice:
  1. Deny rodents entry – Go outside and examine your buildings for possible entry points. A mouse can squeeze beneath a door if there is a gap large enough to fit a pencil a young rat is only a little larger than a mouse! Draft excluding brush strips, are an ideal method of proofing such gaps. You might also consider placing some rodenticide around the exterior of the house to reduce the numbers that might find their way in.
  2. Deny rodents food – Take 10 minutes to look around your kitchen and check that should a mouse or rat get in that there is no food behind the fridge, or spilled down the side of the cooker. Check that dried good such as cereals are in sealed, preferably metal, containers. Make sure butter and even bars of soap are out of the reach of rodents. Remember, rats and mice are excellent climbers and just putting food high on a shelf may not be out of their reach.
  3. Be ready for rodent entry – No matter how carefully you find and seal possible entry points if you can get into a building through and open door so can a rat or mouse. They may also get in carried in a box of goods and there are almost always other possible entry points around any building. So it is always wise to keep fresh rodenticide bait in place in safe places such as the roof void so that any rodents that get in are dealt with before you know about them.
    1. Put bait in safe places NOW. Don’t wait for signs of their entry. Place the bait where rodents might encounter it but where pets and children cannot. Set traps as well.
    2. Rodenticide baits are more effective than traps but once a rodent has taken some bait it is more likely to get caught in a trap and body can then be removed.
    3. Particularly if dealing with roof rats block baits should be fixed in place so that the rats cannot take it away and store it. Some baits have holes so that they can be nailed in place in voids and fixed by use of a wire. Block baits without holes can be put in a plastic bag and the bag fixed in place.
Carry out this rodent proofing now and you give yourself the best chance of staying free from pest rats and mice this winter.

Three rats are sitting at the bar bragging about their bravery and toughness.

The first says, “I’m so tough, once I ate a whole bagful of rat poison!”

The second says, “Well I’m so tough, once I was caught in a rat trap and I gnawed it apart!”

Then the third rat gets up and says, “Later guys, I’m off home to beat up the cat.”

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Zoonoses from Pest Rodents

    Rodent droppings and urine can carry serious disease
    Zoonoses are diseases caught from animals. Wild rats and mice carry several diseases that can be passed on to humans. The most famous epidemic caused by close association of rats with people is the Black Death which caused the death of millions in 14th century Europe. The disease was the plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis


    Plague still infects and kills people world wide but thankfully not in New Zealand. But there are other serious diseases that can be caught from wild (and pet) rodents in New Zealand.

    Leptospirosis – Wiel’s Disease

    Leptospirosis, also known as Wiel’s disease, is caused by  the bacteria Leptospira. It is carried by rodents, and other wild animals.  Infection is through contact with water, food, or soil containing urine from an infected animal.  Cuts or breaks in the skin will also allow in infection.     Infected people experience a range of symptoms from mild or no illness to severe or life-threatening meningitis, liver damage and kidney failure.  Infection can be prevented by avoiding contact with water that might be contaminated with animal urine.


    Salmonellosos is commonly associated with poor hygiene or inadequately cooked food, but can also be acquired from rodents.  Salmonella bacteria may be found in the feces of many animals including wild and pet rodents. Infection can be contracted by people who do not wash their hands after contact with rodent droppings or if food, drink or eating utensils are contaminated with rodent droppings.

    Rat Bite Fever (RBF)

    Rat Bite Fever is caused by Streptobacillus bacteria that is found in the mouth of apparently healthy rats and mice.  People are infected through bites or scratches from rodents or may also become ill after eating contaminated food or drink or through close contact with rodents.  In cases of bites and scratches, the wound often has healed before symptoms begin (2-10 days after the bite).  Antibiotic treatment for this disease is very effective.  Illness in those who do not seek medical attention and treatment can be very serious and result in death; therefore it is important to immediately clean and disinfect wounds and promptly seek medical attention after any rodent bite or scratch.

    How to Prevent Infections from Rats and Mice

    • Wear gloves when carrying out pest control against rodents or working in areas where there are signs rats or mice a have been active. Wash hands after handling anything that rats or mice may have urinated on. Rodents continually dribble urine where ever they travel.
    • In roof voids and other enclosed spaces where rodents have been it is sensible to wear a mask as dust may carry disease organisms.
    • Clean up rodent droppings where ever they are found and disinfect surfaces where rodents could have travelled. 
    • Dispose of any food that have been eaten or may have been contaminated by rodents.
    • If biten or scratched by rodents always clean and disinfect wounds and seek medical attention immediately.

    Two rats are in a bar. One turns to the other and in a drunken slurr says “I slept with your mother thats right your mother” the other just looked at him and said “Dad go home your drunk.”

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Snow Blizzards Stop Flights

    With snow falling around me I was on my way to Christchurch Airport early yesterday morning. When I heard on the radio the airport was closed I checked and found that my flight and all those in the morning were cancelled. I re-booked for an evening flight and was confident that the runway would be cleared by then. False confidence as it turned out. I have had to cancel my trip to Auckland to attend the Bunnings Expo where I was to be the ‘expert’ for pest control questions. I am sure that Kiwicare Sales Manager Neil Martin and garden expert Ben Adams will be able to hold the fort.

    Working from home yesterday I watched the snow continue to fall and considered what such a widespread cold snap might mean for pest issues around New Zealand.

    Cold is the enemy of insects and small mammals. The smaller a creature the more affected by temperature they tend to be. Insects may be able to survive cold conditions by being in a state similar to ‘hibernation.’ Their metabolisms are slowed and energy reserved. Small mammals will seek shelter and use energy reserves to keep their bodies at a temperature that will sustain their lives. If they have sufficient reserves built up through plentiful times in autumn they will survive, if not, they die.

    Some insects are adapted to survive freezing for short periods, but few can survive for extended periods. Some insects survive as grubs or adults deep in the soil where they are less affected by cold. Short cold snaps of a few days will not penetrate more than a few inches into the soil. Those insects or small mammals such as rats and mice that take refuge in heated homes can survive easily through the coldest periods. Not only are they protected from severe temperatures but they often find access to food supplies that sustain through the winter.

    In consequence the short cold snap and snow will reduce both insect and rodent numbers in the wild, it will drive more to seek refuge in homes and other buildings, but it will not affect better adapted insects such as grass grub or sheltering pests such as cluster flies or rodents that enter our buildings.

    What do snowmen wear on their heads?
    Ice caps.
    It snow joke!

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Mild Weather Leaves Rats and Mice Out

    In April I predicted that rodents would be a problem of larger than normal proportions this winter, particularly in quake damaged Christchurch. See here.

    Rats Surviving Outside This Winter
    I am happy to say that this prediction has not come to pass yet. Rats and mice have been able to survive outside due to the mild weather that New Zealand has experienced so far this winter. While many rats and mice have invaded homes in search of food and shelter, this has, so far, been in the normal range and not been a plague.

    The unseasonably mild weather has had implications for ski fields and the lack of snow has meant resorts like Queenstown have not been able to start the ski season leaving many ski field employees without work and skiers seeking alternative entertainment.

    For animals in the wild it has meant that more food is available to them and less food is needed to keep warm. The result is a high survival rate but less movement of rodent pests indoors. However, if a cold snap does come along there is still a likelihood that rodents will move indoors to escape the cold. So it is important to be proactive and be prepared.

    What did the lab rat say his mate?
    "I've got my scientist so well trained that every time I ring the bell, she brings me a snack."

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Rat “Blows In” with Auckland Tornado

    I had an interesting enquiry from a home owner in Auckland’s North Shore along with a series of great photos. Graham sat at his kitchen window shortly after the tornado that devastated parts of Albany and watched a young Norway rat sitting in a fern stump for 10 minutes before making a get away.

    It is possible that the heavy rain the accompanied the tornado flushed the rat out of its burrow. Norway rats, sometimes referred to as brown rats, water rats or sewer rats, normally live in burrows, often near river banks or sewers. So rising water can flush them out. It’s cousin the Black rat (aka roof rat, ship rat) is arboreal and lives more in trees and high places such roof spaces.

    The pale colour of this rat is not uncommon, the Norway rat can vary from dark grey to even paler than this individual. The very pale underside is the easy way to differentiate Norway from Black rats.

    Graham said the rat slowly walked down the fern stump and he was amazed how agile it was. Norway rats are good climbers as can be seen by these photos, but they are not as good as Roof rats. It is good advice to make sure trees and vegetation do not lead to your roof. Rats and mice will readily climb  a tree and drop down onto a roof where they are likely to find a way in at the eaves.

    I suggested Graham set some bait out for this rat and his friends.

    NO Rats & Mice weatherproof blocks would be most suitable. Use short lengths of pipe such as spouting down pipe approx 60cm long. Place the bait in the middle in a plastic bag and secured by a piece of wire or nail through the pipe. Rats and mice will happily eat through the plastic bag and the bag will keep the bait in place and fresh for longer. The bait tunnel should be placed securely against a wall or where rats have been seen travelling. Rats prefer to be in enclosed spaces and the tunnel will protect the bait and keep pets and birds out. Check and replace bait regularly and continue until no more bait is taken.

    Thank you to Graham for letting me use his great series of photos.

    Did you hear about the dyslexic rats?
    Each thought they were a star.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Do Rats and Mice Need Water With Their Bait?

    This week I have received several queries from people asking whether it is necessary to place water out with rodent baits. They have been told, or have read, that poison baits make rats and mice thirsty and that they will gnaw pipes to get at water to drink; so that placing water with the bait means they are less likely to gnaw pipes.

    This is one of those stories that has some truth and sounds plausible but but comes to the wrong conclusions.

    Damage to cables from gnawing rats 
    Almost all rodent baits contain an anti-coagulant toxin* such as the coumatetralyl used in NO Rats & Mice. Anti-coagulants do indeed have a slight tendency to make the rats and mice thirsty, but the rodents are likely to find water in their usual places if they are able.

    Rodents do indeed often gnaw at pipework and cables causing considerable damage. But they do this because their incisor (front) teeth grow continually throughout their life and must be kept worn down and sharp by regular gnawing. This is why rats and mice gnaw things other than their food. Plastics, including plastic pipes and cable covering, seem to be of a consistency that they get ‘pleasure’ from gnawing.

    Placing water alongside baits is unlikely to influence the likelihood of them gnawing pipes. Anti-coagulant poisons take several days to begin to take effect. So the rats and mice are likely to be some other place when they begin to feel ill and thirsty. In most cases they fall ill and die in their nest.

    The delayed action of anti-coagulants is very important for their effectiveness and in making anti-coagulants a safe type of poison for use in homes.

    If a poison makes a rat or mouse feel ill quickly, they will associate the illness with the bait and will avoid eating any more. If they have not yet consumed a lethal dose they can recover and will be ‘bait shy’ meaning baits will no longer be effective. With ant-coagulants the delayed onset of illness means they do not associate the illness with the bait and they have already taken several feeds of bait ensuring they have taken a lethal dose from which there is no recovery.

    The slow onset of illness also has the advantage of giving plenty of time to administer the antidote to any non-target animal, such as a pet,  that accidentally takes bait. Vitamin K is a fast and effective antidote for anti-coagulant poisoning.

    Another interesting fact about mice is that they can obtain all their water from their food and may live their lives without ever needing a drink.

    In conclusion, there is no need to leave water out with rat and mouse bait. But it is important to control rats and mice promptly to reduce the risk of damage to pipes and cables caused by their gnawing habits.

    *Kiwicare Natural NO Rats is a novel rodent bait that does not contain an anti-coagulant poison. It does not contain any poison! Instead it works by physical action. Rodents do not posses the enzymes in their gut necessary to break down the cellulose in the bait. Rodents cannot vomit and so the bait remains in the alimentary canal where it prevents feeding and causes dehydration and death by heart attack. The bait is safe for other animals.

    Who is the king rat in Rome?
    Julius Cheeser.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Christchurch Vulnerable to Pest Plagues

    Rats Plague Christchurch
    I have been warning that the damage caused to Christchurch’s infrastructure has left the city and its people vulnerable to plagues of pests. Rats and mice are able to take advantage of damaged sewers and buildings. Flies, mosquitoes and midges find new breeding sites in stagnant and contaminated puddles. Ground dwelling ants have been disturbed and have moved into homes and other buildings. Plus the normal pest operations that keep pests under control have been disrupted.

    As the weather cools in autumn it is normal that rats and mice seek shelter and food in buildings. This annual influx of rodents is likely to be more serious this year, particularly in areas where damage to buildings and sewers provides them with easy access. I previously predicted a greater than usual problem with rodents this year. Warm and moist weather across the country has provided near ideal breeding conditions with more available food than normal.

    Now is the time to be proactive, and whether you are in Christchurch or elsewhere in the country, it is the best time to place rodent bait in vulnerable places around buildings. Weatherproof bait blocks should be used around the exterior of buildings and the blocks or bait and tracking powder should be placed in attics, garages, and other places where rodents are likely to look for food and shelter. “The trick is to intercept them before they have time to set up a nest in the building.

    The Kiwicare offices and factory are in Bromley, one of the hardest hit parts of Christchurch. We have been luckier than many. The strong building has meant that production was only disrupted for a week. But we are seeing at first hand some of the pest issues that are likely to be a particular problem in the damaged areas of the city. Disruption to the nearby sewerage settling ponds and the standing water formed in sink holes and liquefaction is providing breeding sites for mosquitoes, midges and flies. These insects have been seen in and around the offices. The midges, which can be mistaken for mosquitoes, are found covering the windows and walls. Although they don’t bite, not having mouth parts, their large numbers can be an unpleasant nuisance.

    Rodents and flies are carriers of disease and increased number of these pests combined with the problems of sewerage leaks makes for a serious risk to health.

    Cooler weather is likely to help keep the insect pests reduced, but it will also encourage the rodent pests to move in, so whichever way the temperature goes it is likely to cause increased pest problems for the already embattled people of Christchurch. You can help the city by making sure your property is not a breeding ground for pests.

    A swarm of flies go into a bar.
    “What’s the buzz?” Asks the bartender.

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    Pests and the Canterbury Earthquake

    There are many things more important than pests for the people of Canterbury to think about at this time; friends and family, making buildings safe, continuing aftershocks, the clean up etc. However, there should, perhaps, be some thought put into pests. In the case of rodents and flies they can be transmitters of disease, and this is a time that disease is one of the major threats. In the case of borer and ants this would be an opportunity to carry out effective control programs.

    The ground in Christchurch and surrounding districts has been given a good shake up. The buildings that many pests live in have also been shaken and many destroyed. Pests that naturally live and nest in the ground or live in buildings with us, such as rats, mice, borer, flies and ants will have had a shake up also. What is likely to happen to the pests? What effect will the quake have on them?

    Rats and Mice
    Norway rats (sometimes known as water rats) normally live in burrows but often make their homes in sewers, drains and buildings. They are strongly commensal with human activity. Roof rats are naturally arboreal, usually living and nesting in trees, but they often live in the roofs and higher parts of our buildings, as their name suggests.

    It seems likely that rats of both types will have been shaken out of their normal routine. While many will have been killed as their nests collapsed, many more will have been induced to leave their ‘homes’ and will scatter, seeking new places to find food sources and shelter. The destruction of buildings and their contents will have broken food storage containers and facilities perhaps allowing access to the food for rodents and other pests.

    With broken sewers and water systems there comes a risk of direct contamination of water supplies from sewers, but also of rats that had been living in sewers carrying disease to new areas. The same is probably the same with mice. Rats and mice dribble urine continually and produce many droppings each day.

    Take care when cleaning up your home or workplace. Wear gloves and carry out good hygiene to prevent picking up disease such as gastroenteritis, Wiel’s disease, salmonella, E. coli etc. Remove or secure possible food sources for pests as soon as possible. Carry out preventative rodent control.

    Ants and Other Insect Pests
    The major ant pests in Christchurch are Darwin and Argentine ants. Both these species commonly live in nests in sandy soil. Both also produce ‘super colonies’ where several nests co-operate and act as a single colony. Each nest contains multiple queens, each capable, with only a few workers, of setting up a new nest.

    It seems likely that many ant nests have been destroyed. However, as with rodents, it seems likely that many more nests will have been disturbed and the colonies will have ‘budded’ as queens with their own groups of workers leave damaged and disturbed nests in seek of new places to set up home. So there may be an initial reduction of ant numbers across the city but those remaining will be seen more as they move. As warm weather arrives, ant colony size will rise quickly. New ant nests are likely to find new sources of food and shelter quickly.

    While ants are under environmental stress from the disturbance of the earthquake it would be a good time to carryout an ant control program around your property to prevent ants setting up home there.

    A similar story is likely to be the case for many other insect pests that casually intrude into buildings.

    The damage to wooden buildings is not likely to have any impact on the borer larvae within. Many damaged old buildings will have to be pulled down and rebuilt and new timber will be treated and protected from borer attack. Many homes and other buildings will not be damaged to such an extent and will be repaired.

    Some thought should be taken about rebuilding. If borer infested timbers such as weatherboards, joists, beams etc. are exposed during repair this is an ideal time to treat the bare timber with borer protection such as NO Borer fluid. You can get up to 20 years borer protection from such treatment.

    The temperature reached 21C in Christchurch yesterday, which was pleasant for those living without electricity, but it is an indication of warmer weather to come in spring and summer and immediately encourages flies to breed. The warm weather combined with broken sewers, spilled food and other fly breeding places may see a rapid increase in fly numbers. Flies are carriers of disease and may move from sewerage to your kitchen work surfaces or food. It would be advisable to carry out pre emptive fly control and use surface sprays such as NO Bugs Super and NO Flies to reduce the risks and annoyance of flies.

    Kiwicare product will continue to be available from our retailers throughout Canterbury. Kiwicare is a Canterbury company and we wish everyone in the region all the best in this difficult time.

    A mouse walks into a bar and asks the bartender “Have you got any cheese?”
    “No” says the barman.

    “Got any cheese?” Repeats the mouse.
    “No, I have no cheese” says the barman.

    The mouse: “Got any cheese?”
    Barman: “NO. Are you deaf? I said I have NOT got any cheese.”

    “Got any cheese?”
    “I am cheesed of with you! But I have no cheese and if you don’t stop asking me if I’ve got cheese I’ll nail you to the bar.”

    “Got any nails?”

    “Got any cheese?”

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Typhus Carried by Rat Fleas in Northland

    Auckland Public Regional Health Service has warned people in the Hellensville-Kaukapakapa area of Northland, New Zealand, to be specially careful to avoid contact with rats as they have been found to harbour fleas carrying the disease murine typhus.

    Murine typhus is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia typhi. Flea faeces may contain the bacterium and infections are passed to humans by infection via the bite of the rat flea or other cuts and abrasions contacted by the flea faeces. Symptoms include fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Murine typhus is rarely fatal (2% of infected people may die) but can be very unpleasant for those affected. The onset of symptoms may not occur for for one to two weeks following contact with the bacteria. Prompt antibiotic treatment is usually sufficient to cure the disease.

    The public health department in Auckland is warning farmers, lifestyle block holders and others in the affected area to be pro active in ridding their properties of mice and possums as well as rats because these other pests can also carry the infected fleas. Preventative treatment against fleas in the home may also be a good policy to protect against infection.

    Rodney Times Story

    If there is a species of flea for every mammal, it begs the question:
    Is there one for vampires?

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Caught a Rat or Mouse in a Live Capture Trap – What Then?

    There is a great lifestyle block website community that I contribute to when I have the time. is a very lively and interesting site with a forum that has threads ranging from what people are eating for dinner to ‘Escape artist sheep.’

    A thread was started yesterday on ‘Humane killing of rats?’ This reminded me of a couple of incidents I have had when faced with the problem of catching live rats or mice and what to do with them. Here is one.

    Shortly after I arrived in New Zealand about six years ago, and while working for a pest control service company, I got a call from a distressed home owner who claimed she had trapped a rat in her kitchen. Her house was not far from where I was so I donned my armour, mounted my white steed, and went to the rescue.

    Normally in these situations I have found the rodent has escaped by the time of my arrival. So I was expecting the same again. The lady stood on a chair in the sitting room while I, trousers tucked down socks, entered the kitchen and began my search armed with a bucket. I had opened all the cupboards, pulled out the fridge and almost exhausted the possible hiding places. The last places to look where the drawers. As I pulled out the last drawer I was content to find it empty too. Then I looked underneath and behind. In the shadows the rat looked back, it’s whiskers quivering. “Ummm?” What to do now? The home owner was watching my every move through the glass serving hatch. How was I going to look cool?

    There was noting for it but to pull the drawer out, flush the rat and try and catch it. Bucket at the ready, I slid the drawer out, the rat leaped across the kitchen floor and I dived headlong like a scrum half’s dive pass. No one was as surprised as I that I managed to trap the rat under the bucket first try……..not even the rat. I felt great satisfaction.

    Then it dawned on me I was going to have to remove the rat and deal with it in a humane manner. I slipped a piece of cardboard under the bucket and deftly upturned it, keeping the rat trapped. To ‘applause’ from the home owner I took the rat out to my Ute where I knew I had a hammer. A swift knock to the head is the recommended humane method to kill a rat in this situation. However, it is easier said than done. Thankfully out of sight of the home owner, I opened the lid of the bucket with hammer at the ready. With leather gloves as protection the plan was to grab the rat, hold its head steady and inflict the fatal blow.

    The rat had other plans. It made a leap for freedom as soon as the lid was partially off. The second scrum half’s dive was not so successful. Off it leaped across the road and down a drain before I hit the ground.

    Sheepishly I returned to the house and told the home owner that the rat ‘would not be seen again.’ This slight of the tongue reassured the lady. But I left her only after giving her house the ‘once over’ for possible entry points and sealing several up.

    In the Lifestyle Block forum there are several methods of dispatching rats discussed; drowning, gassing, shooting and the hammer. The difficulties in dispatching a rat trapped by a live capture trap suggest to me at least, that snap traps are the best and (usually) most humane method of catching rats and mice if baits are not an option.

    In another blog I will tell you the story of the Mars Bar Mice.

    Why do some experiments use lawyers instead of lab rats?
    Because there are more of them, there are some things even rats won’t do, and the experimenters prove less likely to become emotionally attached to lawyers than rats.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Alpha Rateo Damage

    I was in Mitre10 Mega yesterday picking up some things for my bathroom and went along to the Garden and Pest Control isle to check out the Kiwicare products; as I often do. A lady was examining rodenticide bait on the shelves. I introduced myself and asked if I could be of help. She related a story of how she was hearing mice scurrying and gnawing in the walls of her house. She had used traps and caught some but the noise was continuing. She was particularly worried about possible damage to the wiring in her house as her neighbour had just had to pay an electrician $1,500 for repairing damage to wiring caused by mice. I was able to advise her to use Kiwicare NO Rats & Mice Bait Blocks in several safe places around the home such as the roof voids, garage, under kitchen cupboards, hot water tank and sub-floor.

    I told her the story of a house I was called to recently where neither of the cars in the garage would start when the owners returned after a couple of weeks away. When we opened the bonnet of the Alpha Romeo it was found that rats had made ‘minced meat’ of the wiring and plastic cover of the engine. The Toyota had been similarly attacked and on a full inspection of the house I found that the rats had gained entry to the home via the integral garage and had destroyed the pump for the spa bath.

    The lady in Mitre10 returned to the isle and bought three times as much bait saying “my husband has two vintage cars in the garage. If he thinks his ‘babies’ could be damaged he’ll want to put bait everywhere.”

    Much of the physical damage caused by rodents results from the fact that their incisor teeth are continually growing and they must gnaw to keep them sharp and worn down. They gnaw not just food, but objects that bar their way such as joists, beams, walls and doors. They also gnaw things that seem to give them ‘pleasure’ in gnawing, including plastics such as cables, with consequences of electrical failure and shorting, and pipes with consequences of flooding and water damage.

    Also rats and mice carry disease. Their habits of continually dribbling urine, leaving droppings wherever they go, and travelling from sewers and compost heaps onto fruit and vegetables in the garden and, if they gain access to the house, onto kitchen surfaces and food, mean that there is a risk of infection and food poisoning where rodents are present.

    So don’t underestimate the risks involved in rats and mice being in your home. Luckily there are simple and effective ways to get rid of infestations and keep them away. For advice on getting rid of rats and mice and keeping them away go to or contact Kiwicare on 03 3890778.

    How do you know a smart rat?
    He’s the one in the maze with a GPS.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    What is the Scratching I Hear in My Roof?

    I get questioned occasionally about how to tell what it is that is making a scratching noise in a roof. “Is it rats, mice or birds……..or elephants?”

    If you are hearing scratching or gnawing sounds in your roof void it is unlikely to be elephants (well, not fully grown ones) but what ever it is can sound ‘pretty big.’ Ceilings amplify sound like the sounding boards of musical instruments. And if the noises are heard at night when there is little other sound our ears are more sensitive and amplify the noise in our minds.

    A good guide to deciding whether the noise is caused by birds, rodents or other animals is the timing of the noises. If you are hearing the noise predominantly in the middle of the night, you almost certainly are sharing your home with rats or mice. If the noises are only occurring during the day or at dusk and dawn check around the eaves for birds entering and leaving.

    OK. So you are hearing the noises in the middle of the night. Is it rats or mice? Rats are larger and do make louder noise but that is little help if you have nothing to compare with. Listen instead for the frequency of the scurrying feet. Mice make a sound where their paw sounds follow each other so quickly it is very difficult to separate them, so the sound is almost continuous. The sound of rats running displays a more definite sound of their individual paws.

    Rats and mice have incisor teeth (front two teeth of each jaw) that are large and continually growing. The teeth have hard enamel on the front surface and softer dentine behind. As rats and mice gnaw they wear the teeth down and sharpen them into chisel like implements through uneven wearing. Rats and mice gnaw things other than food to keep their teeth worn down and sharp. Unfortunately for us they often choose to gnaw wiring, plumbing, joists and items stored where they are.

    If rats and mice regularly use a hole or gap to pass through they will gnaw around the gap to open it up and make it easier to enter or exit. They will gnaw wood, plastic, metal and even concrete if they need to. The sound of rats or mice gnawing can can be distinguished by the rate of biting. Mice gnaw at about 4-5 per second, rats 1-3 per second.

    A simpler way of determining which rodents you have in your roof is to enter the void (if possible) and look for evidence in the form of droppings. Mice produce small black-grey droppings approximately the size of a large grain of rice. Rat droppings are much larger, 1-2cm long.

    In New Zealand the other animal that can be a cause of noises in the roof is the possum (Australian Brushtail Possum). This is a much larger animal than a rat or bird and it usually easy to tell its presence from the much heavier and slower footfalls and they don’t gnaw wood like the rodents will.

    Other causes of sounds in a roof can be tree branches rubbing on the roof or eaves; usually heard only when the wind is blowing, or expansion and contraction of timbers and gutters as the roof warms up during the day or cools down at night.

    Why did the rats move into the roof?
    Because they heard the people say the cheese was high.

    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    Kiwicare Success at Fieldays

    There was success at the National Fieldays for Kiwicare. The Kiwicare display won a Valued Exhibitor Award for the display and the friendly, professional and informative advice freely given to visitors to the exhibit.

    Thank you to all of you that came along to visit us. We enjoyed providing help and advice if you had a particular pest or garden care problem to solve and we enjoyed having a chat with those that just came along for a chat.

    The most common problems that visitors asked for advice on were rats and mice followed by possums, ants and cockroaches. It is interesting that at almost mid winter two insect pests should still be a problem to many. This is a symptom of what has been a mild autumn and start to the winter. If you are having a problem with these or any other pest in your home workplace or garden check out the Kiwicare website or contact us directly for help on 03 389 0778.

    What do you call a cow with no legs?
    Ground beef.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Plague of Rats in Nelson

    Last night’s (Wed 9th) TV3 News had an article on a rat plague taking over Nelson. It was reported that rats are running a muck in the market gardens in the region. One pest controller claimed to have removed 15,000 rats from one property! While I suspect this may be an over estimate as he had based it on the amount of bait used and not carcasses found*. It does support my assertion in a previous blog that rodents have had a prosperous summer and numbers are high.

    The report showed how rats can afflict fruit and vegetables such as pumpkins. One market gardener showed how rats will feed on the seeds in a pumpkin and use the fruit/vegetable as a home. If rats are in significant numbers the damage and contamination they cause can have a serious impact on the productivity and profitability of such businesses.

    Nelson is a relatively warm part of New Zealand and rats will survive happily by living in the field and finding shelter in pumpkins or elsewhere. But here and particularly in cooler parts of the country they seek shelter in homes, offices, factories and other buildings.

    For advice on how to prevent rats (and mice) entering your home check out the advice here.

    *Rats and mice eat usually eat much more bait than a lethal dose because anti-coagulant toxins do not make them sick for several days. They will continue to eat the bait until they fall ill. This is an important feature of anti-coagulant baits such as NO Rats and Mice. It means that rodents do not become ‘bait’ shy’ after eating a sub lethal dose and also there is plenty of time to administer an anti dote in the case of accidental poisoning.

    A rat goes into a bar. The barman notices it is missing it’s front teeth and says “Hard cheese!?”

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Wet Weather Drives Rats and Mice to Seek Shelter

    I think we can say winter has arrived. The wet weather across the country today and forecast for the next few days is likely to induce rats and mice to move indoors seeking shelter and food.

    The long mild autumn has allowed rodent numbers to remain high and take advantage of the fruit, grain and nuts available. As these food sources dwindle and the wet and cool weather takes hold, rodents must find warmth, shelter and a new food source to survive. All too often they find their way into our homes, offices, farms and factories. Here they find shelter and access to food that we have spilt or not sealed out of their reach.

    Take 10 minutes to look around your kitchen and check that should a mouse or rat get in that there is no food behind the fridge, or spilled down the side of the cooker. Check that dried good such as cereals are in sealed, preferably metal, containers. Make sure butter and even bars of soap are out of the reach of rodents. Remember, rats and mice are excellent climbers and just putting food high on a shelf may not be out of their reach.

    Put bait in safe places NOW. Don’t wait for signs of their entry. Place the bait where rodents might encounter it but where pets and children cannot. Set traps as well. Baits such as NO Rats & Mice blocks or bait and tracking powder are more effective than traps but once a rodent has taken some bait it is more likely to get caught in a trap and body can then be removed.

    When the rain stops go outside and examine your buildings for possible entry points. I have discussed proofing in a previous blog posting. You might also consider placing some rodenticide around the exterior of the house to reduce the numbers that might fins their way in.

    What is a mouse’s favourite game?
    Hide and squeak.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Where Do Rats and Mice Go to Die?

    I am often asked by worried enquirers “where will the rats and mice killed with poisons go to die?” The worry is they “don’t want a bad smell from dead rodents in the house”.

    Almost all rodenticides are anti-coagulants. An often perpetuated ‘old wives tale’ is that anti-coagulant poisons like NO Rats and Mice make the rats and mice thirsty and they go outside in search of water and die there. There is a little truth in this, there is a slightly increased likelihood of the rodents dying outside, but in the vast majority of cases they will go to their nest and die there. Often the nest is inside.

    However, even if the rats or mice die inside there is little likelihood of a bad smell. Bad smells are only a problem if the rodent dies somewhere very warm and un-ventilated. In 99% of cases there is not a problem. In order to prevent bad smells it is more important to deal with the infestation as the pests will be dying of natural causes and there is a higher chance of a bad smell. Rodenticide baits are the most efficient and effective way to deal with rat and mouse infestations.

    I suggest to worried enquirers that they use traps in conjunction with rodenticides. When a rat or mouse has taken some poison it is more likely to be caught in a trap and then the body can be removed and the risk of bad odours reduced.

    Once the infestation is eradicated then I suggest paying attention to proofing the house to prevent further infestation. You can get more information on how to prevent rats and mice getting in on the Kiwicare website.

    A drunk walks into a bar with a rat and a frog. The drunk asks the barman if he can have a free drink if he shows him something amazing. “OK” says the barman, “But it must be truly amazing.”
    The drunk puts the frog on the bar piano and the frog begins to play the most amazing jazz.
    “Wow!” says the barman. “That WAS truly amazing. Have a drink on me.”
    On finishing his drink the drunk asks “Can I have another drink if I show you something even more amazing?”
    “OK.” Says the barman. “If it is better than before, you can drink all night.”
    The drunk then sets the rat on the bar. The frog starts playing the piano and the rat sings along.”
    “Drinks all night for you.” says the barman impressed.
    An agent who has watched all this comes up to the drunk and says “I pay $1,000,000 for the frog and the rat.”
    “No deal” says the drunk.
    “OK. What about $1,000 for the singing rat?”
    “Done!” says the drunk.
    “Are you mad?” says the barman to the drunk when the deal is done and the agent has left.
    “Relax” says the drunk. “The frog is a ventriloquist.”

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Rat and Mouse Numbers Explode

    It is normal for the numbers of both rats and mice to increase over summer months to a peak in the autumn. But judging by the continued high sales of Kiwicare rodenticides there are more rats and mice about in homes and workplaces than usual at this time of year. It is not clear what the reasons for this greater than usual explosion of number is, but it is reasonable to assume that the weather conditions over this summer have been suitable for both the breeding of rodents and the food which they eat.

    What will this mean for the annual autumn invasion of rodents?
    I think it is likely to mean more rats and mice than usual invading our homes looking for food and shelter this autumn and winter.

    How to Stop Rats and Mice
    1. If you have seen rats or mice, or evidence of them around your property, the most efficient and effective way to get rid of them is to use rodenticide baits sometimes in conjunction with simple traps and proofing.
    2. NO Rats & Mice rodenticide bait is placed at strategic, safe points, inside and outside the buildings, in order to reduce populations around the building and to deal with individuals that enter, before an infestation can take hold. The NO Rats & Mice Weatherproof Blocks is a rat bait well suited to using outside or in damp areas while NO Rats & Mice with Tracking Powder is ideal for use in dry areas inside the house. If you do not wish to use toxic rodenticide bait, Kiwicare Natural NO Rats is a bait that is harmful only to rodents. However it should only be used in dry areas where other food sources can be controlled.
    3. NO Rats and Mice Traps are useful to use where poison baits cannot be placed or as a helpful way of catching rodents that are ‘dopey’ from taking bait. The rodents can then be removed without risk of causing an unpleasant smell.
    4. Prevent the rats or mice getting in. A mouse can squeeze beneath a door if there is a gap large enough to fit a pencil a young rat is only a little larger than a mouse! Draft excluding brush strips, are an ideal method of proofing such gaps. However, there are almost always other possible entry points around any building. So it is always wise to keep fresh rodenticide bait in place in safe places such as the roof void so that any rodents that get in are dealt with before you know about them.
    5. This is an important and often overlooked aspect of controlling pests. For example, rodents are what we would call agoraphobic, they fear open spaces, and like to be under cover. A wide clear area around a building will deter rodents from reaching and entering the building. And the removal of available food and shelter from within a building can have a powerful deterrent effect.
    Stay rodent free this winter.

    What is the difference between rats and mice?
    The difference is in their size or the size of their incisors.