5 questions for Dave Colbert – PCT


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Chewing marks and feces and rubbing marks, oh my! These are three tell-tale signs that there are rodents somewhere in or around a house. Did a customer call because an uninvited house guest was scurrying around? Now is the time to pull out the first, and possibly most important, tool in your multi-purpose IPM tape: the inspection process. But where do you inspect and where do these pesky rodents hide? Rodents are small creatures and, thanks to their flexible backbone, can easily squeeze into and under small spaces. Let’s do a house tour from the perspective of a rodent.

At the beginning of your home tour, ask yourself the following questions: where do these rodents come from, where did they invade and where could their nest be? When looking around the house, we need to identify places where rodents can enter. Mice and rats will fit in holes only a quarter and a half inch, respectively. Ideally, if we can figure out where to get in, this information can help narrow down where these rodents might be hiding in the house.

Then we have to start thinking like a rodent. If we are unable to figure out where rodents get into the house, we need to start by finding all possible hiding spots that they could be. The three things that all pests look for are food, water, and shelter. Where could you find one or more of these three household necessities? Let’s take a walk through the house.

Rodents often look for food and water sources in the kitchen.

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1. The kitchen

As you can imagine, the kitchen is a great place to look for pesky rodents. There is usually food lying around and water to be found, along with plenty of hiding places. They can be found in and behind kitchen cabinets, behind refrigerators, and even in the pantry. When we think of these areas, we think of dark, warm rooms under or behind which the food falls (the pantry is the five-star buffet). These areas usually provide some sort of source of drinking water, making them all ideal hiding spots for rodents. Let’s go on through the house.

2. The bathrooms

When you think back to why rodents are in the house to begin with (food, water, and shelter), bathrooms usually provide some of the vital things rodents seek. Aside from the easy access to moisture that a bathroom offers, it also has a lot of voids. When a bathroom is built, it can have voids under bathtubs, counters, and even toilets. Rodents look for a warm and cozy space to build their nest.

As agile climbers, rodents can enter a home through the attic.

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3. The attic

Have you ever tried to get comfortable and sit down for the evening only to hear a sudden crack, thud, or maybe a few scurrying noises? Most likely, uninvited guests are hiding in the attic. Rodents often find their way into houses through attics. Rodents, especially roof rats, love to be high up. As agile climbers, they often get access to attics through openings in soffits or ventilation openings. Once in a structure, they will likely begin looking for food and water to settle into their new “home”. Sometimes you don’t have to search for water too long: Central air conditioning systems often have condensation and are not only great sources of water, but also great hiding places. Before you inspect an attic, make sure that that floor is. Customers want rodents to go away, but conducting an inspection safely should be a priority.

4. Outside areas

If I’m a rodent, I’m likely coming from somewhere outside the house. I found my way inside through a hole or an open door, or maybe I chewed to make an opening. Looking around for possible entry points and places where I could nest or hide should definitely be part of your IPM rodent inspection. Look for ground nests that could be under porches, sheds, air conditioners, or in a warm place that could be ideal for a rodent dwelling.

5th garage

While looking outside the house, we’re talking about garages. In general, these fall into one of two organizational levels: highly organized and space-optimized or who-cares-it’s-a-garage. The condition of a garage matters from a rodent’s perspective. If a garage is overcrowded, has lots of great hiding spots, and maybe even some garage supplies, watch out! This is another perfect environment for rodents.

6. Crawlspace

The last hidden space rodents use is the often forgotten tool we use to eliminate them: rodent boxes. Has your customer ever had a rodent problem? Have you or another company put a rodent (bait) box in the crawl space? These are often neglected over time and, if left unattended, can create a cozy nesting area for rodents. Make sure you fully inspect a crawl space and all other areas with old rodent stations.

These are just a few of the common areas where we often find rodents in the house. Even if it may seem a little childish or silly at first to take the perspective of a rodent during a rodent inspection, this is anything but child’s play. Rodents are extremely intelligent animals, and unless we take into account all of the factors that make them shelter in and around homes, we cannot pinpoint exactly where they are hiding. So the next time you have a customer call about a rodent problem, put on your best rodent hat and think like a rodent so you can find and control it at the source.

Kristen Stevens, BCE, is the Head of Training at Cook’s Pest Control, Decatur, Ala.

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