A guide to identifying common mice and rat species

During the winter season, it’s estimated that rodents seek shelter in more than 21 millions homes in the United States. This means that many homeowners will likely be dealing with mice or rats in their abode over the next few months – and you could be one of them.

Rodents can spread dangerous diseases and can cause major property damage, so it’s important for homeowners to familiarize themselves with the types of rodents that invade homes this time of year. Here is a guide to help you identify common mice and rat species.

Deer Mice

  • Region: Deer mice are found throughout the United States.
  • Habitat: Deer mice prefer to nest in rural areas, specifically in fence posts, tree hollows and log piles. Deer mice are rarely a problem in residential settings, but they can wander indoors during the winter months while searching for shelter from the cold weather.
  • Threats: Deer mice pose a significant health threat because they are the most common carrier of Hantavirus. This virus is transmitted primarily by the inhalation of dust particles contaminated with the urine, feces or saliva of infected deer mice.
  • Prevention tip: Don’t store pet food or birdseed in garages or storage sheds, where it is especially attractive to deer mice.
  • Unique fact: Deer mice always have a bicolored tail that is usually half brown, half white.

House Mice

  • Region: House mice are found throughout the United States.
  • Habitat: Unlike deer mice, house mice usually nest in dark, secluded areas within structures. They are excellent climbers and can jump up to a foot high.
  • Threats: House mice can cause serious property damage by chewing through materials. In fact, they have been known to spark electrical fires by gnawing on wires inside homes. These rodents are also a health threat, as they can contaminate stored food and spread diseases like Salmonella, tapeworms and the plague (via fleas).
  • Prevention tip: House mice hide in clutter, so it’s important to keep storage areas clean and store boxes off the floor. Also, keep food in sealed, rodent-proof containers.
  • Unique fact: House mice can fit through an opening as small as a dime. Although they have poor vision and are color blind, their other senses are very keen.

Norway Rats

  • Region: Like house and deer mice, Norway rats are found throughout the United States.
  • Habitat: Norway rats are primarily nocturnal and often burrow in piles of garbage or under concrete slabs. They tend to enter homes in the fall when outside food sources become scarce. Indoors, Norway rats nest in basements, attics and other undisturbed dwellings.
  • Threats: Norway rats can cause significant damage to property by gnawing through a variety of materials, including plastic and lead pipes, to obtain food and water. They are also vectors of disease, such as plague, jaundice, rat-bite fever, cowpox virus, trichinosis and salmonellosis. In addition, these rats can introduce fleas and mites into a home.
  • Prevention tip: Regularly inspect the home for signs of an infestation, such as droppings, gnaw marks, damaged food goods and grease rub marks caused by rats’ oily fur.
  • Unique fact: Norway rats can gain entry to a home through a hole larger than ½ inch, or the size of a quarter.

Roof Rats

  • Region: Roof rats are thought to be of Southeast Asian origin, but they are now found in the coastal states and southern third of the U.S.
  • Habitat: Roof rats live in colonies and prefer to nest in upper parts of structures or in trees.
  • Threats: Historically, roof rats and their fleas have been associated with bubonic plague. Although cases are rare, roof rats also spread typhus, jaundice, rat-bite fever, trichinosis and salmonellosis.
  • Prevention tip: Clean up fruit that may have fallen from trees in the yard. Also, ensure the garbage is stored in tightly covered receptacles.
  • Unique fact: The roof rat is also called the black rat or ship rat. These rodents are excellent swimmers.

If you suspect an infestation, contact a licensed pest professional. Rodents are known to reproduce quickly, and what may seem like a small problem can turn into a big issue overnight.

Pantry pests are able to tear through flimsy packaging and settle right into food supplies, and can contaminate common baking ingredients, such as flour, chocolate, dried fruit and nuts. To keep pantry pests out, NPMA experts suggest the following tips:

  • Keep counters, floors, pantry shelves, cabinets and sinks clean, as crumbs and spills are obvious pest attractants.
  • Add a bay leaf to canisters of dry goods. The herb’s pungent scent repels many pantry pests.
  • Only purchase food in sealed packages that show no sign of damage.
  • Once packages are opened, move ingredients into sealed glass or Tupperware-type containers with secure lids before storing them in the pantry or cabinet.
  • Check expiration dates on baking ingredients before use and visually inspect previously opened items before adding them to a recipe.
  • Dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles.
  • Seal cracks or holes around the stovepipes and water pipes.
  • Eliminate all moisture sites, including leaking pipes and clogged drains.
  • Consult a licensed pest professional if an infestation has already taken root.

YumaSun.com (Yuma, AZ): Dengue Concerns Prompt County to Issue Mosquito Prevention Tips

The appearance in San Luis, Ariz., of a mosquito that can carry dengue plus confirmed cases of the illness in Mexico has prompted the Yuma County Health Department to issue tips to the public for preventing the spread of the insects.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water, say health officials, and residents can go a long way to curb them by emptying or removing receptacles in their yards that can trap water.

Eggs of Aedes aegypti, a mosquito variety that can carry dengue, were found in mosquito samples collected last month in San Luis, Ariz., by the Yuma County Pest Abatement District.

There have been at least four confirmed cases of humans contracting dengue in San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., although county health department officials say no cases so far have been reported on this side of the border. Humans contract dengue from bites by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that got it from biting from other, already infected humans.

“San Luis (Rio Colorado) has identified cases of dengue, so we’re just trying to be proactive,” said Maria Nunez, deputy director of the health department.

Whether they are dengue carriers or of other varieties, mosquitoes need standing water to lay their eggs, health officials say, and even a small puddle is sufficient for breeding.

The arrival of cooler temperatures does not necessarily make concerns about mosquitoes a moot point, said Joey Martinez, a vector control specialist for the health department.

“There can still be a risk,” he said. “As long as standing water doesn’t freeze, mosquitoes can still breed.”

He added that mosquitoes also can breed indoors, in drinking glasses and plant and flower vases filled with water, pet water dishes, and puddles from plumbing leaks

The department is offering these tips to the public for eliminating mosquitoes:

• Empty, remove or cover any receptacle in the yard that can contain water, particular discarded cans or bottles.

• Discard or move old tires that can trap water.

• Change the water in flower or plant vases twice a week.

• Screen or cover rain barrels and openings to water tanks.

• Repair leaky plumbing and outside faucets.

• Clean clogged rain gutters.

• Change the water in bird baths twice a week.

• Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito fish.

Experts from Arizona Pest Control recommend the following five simple steps that homeowners can do today to thwart an ant infestation.


1.       Block off access points. Take time to inspect the outside of your home for cracks and crevices, paying special attention to areas where utility pipes enter. Seal any small holes or gaps with a silicone-based caulk. Keep tree branches and other shrubbery well trimmed and away from the structure.

2.       Eliminate sources of water in and around the home. Indoors, routinely check under sinks for areas of moisture and repair any leaky pipes. Consider using a dehumidifier in damp basements, crawl spaces or attics. Outside, ensure that downspouts and gutters are functioning properly so that water flows away from the home’s foundation.

3.       Keep a clean kitchen. Wipe down counter tops and sweep floors to remove crumbs and residue from spills. Store food in sealed containers, and keep ripe fruit in the refrigerator. Also, make sure to dispose of garbage regularly.

4.       Don’t forget about the pets. After mealtime, keep pet bowls clean and wipe up any spilled food or water around them promptly. Store dry pet food in a sealed plastic container rather than the paper bags they often come in, which can be easily accessed by ants, rodents and other pests.

5.       Work with a pest professional. Eliminating ants can be challenge without the proper treatment. Some species of ants, like carpenter ants, can cause serious property damage while others can pose health threats. If you see ants in your home, contact a licensed pest professional to identify the species and recommend a course of treatment.


Arizona Pest Control Reviews – Tucson, AZ 85712.

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Tucson Pack Rat Control Services

The key to pest management is to deny them shelter and nesting sites. Follow these steps:

  • Avoid storage boxes and other items that may give shelter to pack rats on patios or along the sides of buildings and walls.
  • Store fire wood off the ground and away from any wall or other obstruction.
  • Keep carports clear of stored items to eliminate hiding places.
  • If pack rats have been in a car engine compartment, have it steam cleaned to destroy the scent and leave the hood open at night. Leaving the carport light on at night will help.
  • Rodent-proof/exclude all possible entry points; be sure the pack rat is not trapped inside the building!
  • A pack rats  can squeeze through a half-inch hole.
  • Be sure doors fit correctly and have door sweeps.
  • Be sure windows are screened properly.
  • Exhaust fans and ventilation vents on the roof/attic level should be Screened.
  • Keep ground covering plants cut/mow low to the ground.
  • Do not allow Agaves, Aloe, Yuccas and other cacti to grow in tight groups.
  • Do not allow a skirt of dead branches to form on Agaves and Yuccas.
  • Keep the bases trimmed.
  • Thin out dense cactus and landscape plantings.
  • Trim off any paddles that turn sideways providing overhead shelter.

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