When we think of fall, we think of going back to school, preparation for family gatherings and anticipation of the holidays. One thing that we may not think of is that rodents will be moving in from the outside, looking for a warm place to raise a family.
In Southeast Florida, roof rats are very common. During the summer months roof rats prefer to live in the palm trees. They like to live up high. Female rats do not want to raise their young in the cold so in the fall instinct drives them out of the tree to begin looking for a warm, safe place to spend the winter. They begin searching roofs, soffits and roof stacks for entry points.
Rats, mice, and other rodents are part of Florida's natural environment. Rodents have been responsible for, or implicated in, the spread of many diseases to humans and domestic animals. Some of those diseases include plague, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, and rat bite fever. When rats enter structures they also bring in vermin like ticks, fleas, bed bugs and rat mites.
Rats damage structures by gnawing. A rat’s incisors grow two inches per year. Rats are constantly gnawing on things to keep their incisors short and sharp. By gnawing, they damage structures including pool and patio cages, furniture, roofs, a/c ducts and pipes. They also gnaw on electrical wires which have resulted in fires, equipment malfunctions and power shortages.
Roof Rats vs. Norway Rats
Adult roof rats are 12–14 inches long and have a long-pointed nose. The tail of a roof rat is longer than the head and body, and they use their tails to balance themselves while climbing. In Florida they can be one of the following colors: black back with a slate gray belly, gray back with lighter gray belly, and brownish gray above with a white or cream colored belly. They leave black banana-shaped droppings about 1/4-1/2 inch long. They do not hibernate, and they reproduce all year long. The female has a litter of 5 to 8 pups which are born after a gestation period of 21 to 23 days. A female roof rat can have 4 or 5 litters per year.
Due to all of the canals and other bodies of water in the area, there are also a large number of Norway rats. Norway rats live down low in burrows underneath the ground. They also live under the vegetation along the beaches, under boat docks and in the sewers. Norway rats can enter into structures through crawls spaces or broken or disconnected water pipes which allow the Norway rats to come up directly from the sewer.
Adult Norway rats are 6-8 inches long. They are reddish-brown and heavy set with a blunt nose. 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.
It is recommended that structures are rodent proofed before the cold weather sets in to avoid an infestation. To start with, hire a pest management professional to inspect the attic areas for signs of rodents. Hometown Pest Control offers free inspections. Our technician will look for current and previous infestations. He/she will inspect for droppings, entry points, grease marks, gnaw marks, shredded insulation, chewed electrical wires, holes in air conditioning vents, and rat footprints and nests.
If rodents were in the structure in the past and no steps were ever taken to keep them out, it is very likely that rodents will re-infest. Rodents often travel the same routes that they or another rodent has already taken. They leave a pheromone trail (a scent) so that when new rats move into the area, they will be able to find areas already frequented by rats in the past.
Hometown Pest Control
As part of the free inspection, the Hometown Pest Control will inspect the attic, roof and soffit areas. There are often construction gaps that if left open will allow access for rats directly into the attic. Not only that, all structures have vent stacks on top. If these are not professionally excluded, rats and frogs can go into the vent stacks and gain entry into the structure through the toilet.
As part of the inspection, we will give you a quote to have a Rodent Exclusion Service done. The service would include sealing all accessible entry points into the structure that are a ¼ inch or larger in diameter. Rodent traps may also be placed in the attic to remove any live rodents. We also recommend that you allow installation of tamper-proof rodent bait stations that are fixed to patio stones to the outside perimeter of the structure. These boxes contain a rodenticide that will help suppress rodent populations living outside. The boxes are usually monitored on a monthly basis, depending on the severity of the rodent population.
As a side note, if a structure will be unoccupied for several weeks or months, we recommend that the water be left on. Some people say that if you leave the water on while the house is unattended a water line could break and flood the house. That is true, but it is more likely that if you turn the water off, rats will enter the home through the toilet from the sewer. Rats will go into an empty home and leave droppings all over the entire home. They will chew the walls, ceiling and furniture. In Southeast Florida, it is more likely that you will get a rat inside the home than you will have a leak, so leave the water on.
Finally, if a structure has had a rodent infestation in the past and you go ahead and have a Rodent Exclusion Service done, you should also purchase an Attic Clean-Up and Disinfection Service. When rodents get into an attic, they contaminate the insulation with urine, feces, shed fur, parasites and other contaminants. Unless removed, these disease-causing contaminants will remain in the insulation, creating an unhealthful condition that remains long after the rodents are gone.
Unfortunately your attic may not qualify for the Attic Clean-Up and Disinfection Service. It can only be done if you have rolled fiberglass insulation because we cannot use a vacuum on blown insulation. We can disinfect it, but we cannot remove the droppings. Also, it can only be done in accessible areas of the attic. Some areas are just not accessible. In some cases, because of the tremendous amount of droppings and the rancid urine smell, all of the insulation must be removed. The attic must then cleaned and disinfected. Finally, new insulation could be installed.
It is fall and the rodents are on the move. This is Florida. The rats are here. It is only a matter of time before they find the openings. Take preventative measures now to protect your structure. Call Hometown Pest Control today for your Free Rodent Inspection and Quote for Rodent Protection. In the long run, it will save you time and money.