The winter months are here and as the temperature drops, the population of your home increases. Whether you know it or not. Bugs and Rodents live in South Florida for the same reason that we do. So when it gets cold outside they move in to our warm homes. The following is some information about three of the most common species.
Important Rat Behavior
The movement of rats and mice is usually related to food, water, or harborage. Knowing where they are likely to go is important to controlling them.
Rats use any method to get to food, water or harborage. Their excellent sense of balance enables them to run on pipes, narrow ledges, and utility wires. Rats, especially roof rats, will climb anything their claws will hold on to, including wires, pipes, and rough walls. Because rats are excellent swimmers, they often live in sewers and occasionally enter homes through toilets.
Rats like to use regular paths or runways along walls or behind debris. To get food in the open, they will run behind things to get as close to the food as possible. They are afraid of strange objects or strange food and may avoid both.
Norway and roof rats are both aggressive species. The Norways are usually more aggressive, driving roofs from the territory. Both species are seldom found in the same building.
Rats and mice frequently gnaw on their surroundings. Their teeth grow 4½ to 5½ inches per year and only gnawing keeps them short and sharp.
Rats and mice are active mostly at night. Rats show greatest activity the first half of the night, if food is abundant. Mice usually are active at night both right after dark and between midnight and dawn. Both rats and mice will be active during daytime hours when food is scarce, when there is an overpopulation of rats, or when a poison has been used and the population is sick.
Rats and mice are entering Florida homes and warehouses for food and harborage . These rodents eat any kind of food that people eat. They also contaminate 10 times as much food as they eat, with urine, droppings and hair. They can carry at least 10 different kinds of diseases including bubonic plague, murine typhus, spirochetal jaundice, Leptospirosis, rabies, rat bite fever, and bacterial food poisoning. Many times rats bite sleeping children while trying to get bits of food on the child that were not washed off before going to bed. Rats and mice also start fires by gnawing matches and electrical wires in homes. The Norway rat, roof rat and house mouse are the most persistent rodent populations in need of control.
In Florida, Norway rats are most common along the sea coasts and canals. They thrive particularly in areas where garbage is not properly stored. Although Norway rats generally prefer to eat fresh meat, fish, and grain, they can survive quite well on an ounce per day of garbage or decayed food along with an ounce of water. Frequently they range 100-150 feet from harborages in search of food or water.
Norway rats are burrowers and often dig in rubbish and under buildings or concrete slabs. Burrowing can cause damage by undermining the foundations of buildings, eroding banks of levees, disfiguring landscape plantings, and blocking sewer lines.
They are reddish-brown and heavy-set with a blunt muzzle. The tail is about as long as the combined head and body. Adults weigh 3/4 to 1 pound. Their droppings are 3/4 inches long and capsule-shaped. Norway rats live about 1 year and reach sexual maturity in 3-5 months. They have 8-12 young per litter and up to 7 litters per year.
Roof rats thrive in attics, roof spaces, palm trees, and ornamental shrubbery. They are climbers and prefer to nest off the ground. Roof rats are destructive to citrus groves, since they live in citrus trees and gnaw on the fruit. They can be quite destructive in attics, gnawing on electrical wires and rafters.
Roof rats generally prefer vegetables, fruits and grain; but they consume ½ to 1 ounce per day of food from various sources. Because they must have water to survive, roof rats also consume an ounce per day and will range 100-150 feet from harborages in search of water or food.
Color ranges from black to grizzled gray to tan with a light belly. The tail is longer than the combined head and body. Adults weight from ½ to pound. Their droppings are up to 1/2 inch long and spindle-shaped. Roof rats live about 1 year and reach sexual maturity in 3-5 months. They have 6-8 young per litter and up to 6 litters per year.
House mice normally live outdoors in fields, occasionally migrating into structures. In houses, they live behind walls and in cabinets and furniture.
They prefer to feed on grains but usually nibble at a wide variety of foods. House mice require only 1/10 ounce of food and 1/20 ounce of water daily, surviving on food alone if it has high moisture. Frequently house mice range 10-30 feet from harborages.
House mice are brown to gray in color with the tail as long as the body. Adults weigh about 1/2 ounce. Their droppings are 1/8 inch long and rod-shaped. House mice live about 1 year and reach sexual maturity in 6 weeks. They have 5-6 young per litter and up to 8 litters per year.