Got mice? It’s been a ‘bumper year’

March 26, 2019

Many homeowners and apartment dwellers have been hosting some uninvited furry guests that they’re eager to see go.

On Facebook, NextDoor and other social media channels, conversations abound about marauding mice and how to try to dispatch them — with or without mercy.

Kathy Manderscheid of St. Paul and her husband, Marc, occasionally get mice on the first floor of their brick house. Their cat would generally take care of those mice. But this year, the numbers overwhelmed the cat and Manderscheid alike.

“I had four mice between December and February in my bedroom,” she said. “Not tolerable.”

Manderscheid decided to bring in reinforcements because, after all, the 12-year-old cat can’t keep mice from coming in.

“And she can’t always catch them,” she said.

So it was time for an exterminator, Tedde Zumwalt of Plunkett’s Pest Control.

In initial visits, Zumwalt found mouse droppings in the attic and set about sealing up possible entry points to the house.

“A lot of what we do is being a detective and figuring out how they’re moving, how they’re entering,” Zumwalt said. “These little clues that they leave us lead us to where we need to concentrate our efforts.”

She found an air conditioning conduit that allowed mice to enter. And Zumwalt discovered the critters could then sneak into Manderscheid’s bedroom through a hole left by a long-removed radiator pipe at the back of a closet.

Zumwalt said mice can get through a hole the diameter of a pinky finger. And if entry points into a home are not sealed, mice can use them again and again — and lead more critters into the building.

“Mice leave pheromones for other mice to follow to get into your home,” she said.

“This year was kind of a bumper year for mice being mischievous in customers’ homes,” said Jeff Warner, sales manager at the Warner Stellian store in Falcon Heights. He said it’s not unusual for a homeowner to discover mice in a dishwasher or cooking range. He said that problem can be self-correcting but can also create a new one.

“In the case of a range, I’ve had mice actually zap themselves on the control panel, just completely burned out the control panel,” he said.

It’s important not to let a mouse problem fester unaddressed, said Matt Ferguson with Rainbow Pest Experts.

“Mice can reproduce about every 30 days or so, and it’s two to seven mice per litter. Then those two to seven mice, in six weeks, they’re old enough to start having their own litters. So you can see how that can cascade and get out of control fairly quickly,” he said.

DIY or hire a pro?

Lots of homeowners figure they can vanquish mice themselves. Some get tough fast, deploying poisoned bait, snap traps and glue boards.

Others figure they can rely on live traps, cats or mice irritants like peppermint and other scents.

Some people call exterminators immediately because they abhor mice and often worry about the dozens of diseases the tiny mammals can transmit.

An exterminator’s visit can cost a few hundred dollars.

For the homeowner going it alone, Zumwalt suggests starting with chocolate as bait. She said it’s important to keep your guard up. Don’t assume that catching one mouse ends the problem.

And she said mice are pretty smart.

“They do learn to avoid things. If they’ve been caught on a glue board and they have worked themselves off, they likely will not go near another glue board,” she said.

Ditto for traps.

In clearing a house of mice, Zumwalt may use poison, snap traps and glue boards. If homeowners prefer a less terminal approach, she said, “Well, we have to have a talk. If they want the mice gone, they need to be eliminated.”

And Zumwalt said her experience is that mice are happy to take advantage of home remedies that do little to remedy an infestation.

“They use Bounce dryer sheets for nesting material. I’ve seen the Irish spring soap around and show the people that the mice are chewing on the soap. Cotton balls with peppermint — you’re providing nesting material, really,” she said.

Fortunately, Minnesota mice and rats don’t have the reputation that their cousins in, say, New York and Chicago have for chewing on home electrical wiring and causing fires. The state fire marshal’s office said that’s such a rare problem in Minnesota that it’s not even tracked.