As winter approaches, days get shorter, temps begin to finally fall, and rats start to look for places to settle in for the season. Even in South Florida, where temps stay relatively warm, cool spells can send rodents scurrying for warm and cozy places to escape predators, where they can find food, water and focus on enlarging their families. They don't take up much space or eat that much food but if your home becomes a winter retreat for rats, you could be in for a rough season.
Rats create fire hazards, cause structural damage and carry diseases
Rats not only cause damage to structures and create fire hazards, they can carry at least ten diseases including bubonic plague, murine typhus, jaundice, rabies and ratbite fever as well as cause food-related illnesses. Resilient and intelligent, rat brains closely resemble human brains and by studying lab rats, researchers can better understand how the human brain works. But that's a different story for a different day. For now, let's focus on how to identify rats in your home and eliminate them from your property.
Two of the most persistent rats in South Florida are the roof rat and the Norway rat:
- Roof rats: These rodents are also known as fruit rats, citrus rats and black rats
- Ranging in color from black to gray with tan to white undersides, roof rats have large ears and eyes and measure up to 16 inches, including their tails, which are longer than their bodies.
- Roof rats like to live above the ground, usually in trees and in your attic.
- Maturing in 3-5 months, roof rats produce 6-8 young per litter, up to 6 times per year
- Roof rat droppings average ½ inch long and are spindle-shaped
- Norway rats: Rodents are known by their more popular names such as sewer rats, wharf rats, brown rats and river rats
- Reddish-brown, with scattered black hairs, gray to white undersides and blunt noses, Norway rats are larger than roof rats, measuring 18-20 inches, including their tails.
- Norway rats live near water and burrow under homes as well as in your basement (should you have one in Florida) and crawlspaces.
- Reaching maturity in 3-5 months, the more prolific Norway rats can produce 8-12 young per litter up to 7 times per year.
- Norway rat droppings average ¾ inch long and are capsule–shaped.
Rats need to gnaw and will chew through almost any substance
With teeth harder than platinum and incredible jaw strength, rats can chew through wood, metal, stucco, electrical wiring and even concrete (CBS). Rats, also excellent swimmers have been known to chew through sewer caps, entering homes through toilets. To survive they must constantly chew to manage their rapidly growing teeth, rodents make up the list of prime suspects in house fires of unknown origins. Norway rats can cause foundation damage by burrowing under concrete slabs and under home foundations. Rats possess superior balance, running easily on pipes, ledges and utility wires. Roof rats will climb anything they can hold onto, including pipes, wires and rough walls.
Rats can spread diseases and other pathogens in a variety of ways
Rodents are vectors for Bubonic Plague, Hantavirus and a number of serious diseases. Rats carry fleas and ticks that feed on their blood, infecting them with pathogens that pose risks to human and pet health. Hantavirus, a respiratory condition, can be contracted from inhalation of airborne particles in dried rat feces, urine and saliva. Rats can transfer bacteria to food sources causing salmonella and E-coli.
Rodents coming into direct contact with humans and your pets spread diseases and viruses by:
- People and animals handling or touching dead rats
- Live rodents biting people and/or animals
- Humans inhaling dried rodent excrement, while cleaning rodent affected areas- Never clean-up without a mask.
- Humans ingesting food contaminated by rats
Nocturnal pests, rats tend to sleep and stay put during the day, moving about at night in search of food and water
Unless you actually see a rat in your house, chances are you might not even know there's a population growing in your attic, basement or inside your walls. Since rats multiply at an alarming rate, Hulett suggests homeowners learn to recognize tell-tale signs of a rat issue early on, in order to prevent an infestation.
- Scratching and scurrying noises in your walls and attic can indicate rodent activity, as rats make for your kitchen at night
- Chewed food bags and rat droppings in your kitchen indicate rat activity
- Chirping and squeaking noises in your walls and attic are indicators of rats nearby
- Rats like to use regular pathways, so packed down areas near walls and greasy marks on walls indicate rodent activity.
Your first line of attack when dealing with a suspected rat situation: Contact a professional
Rats are intelligent and leery of anything new in their environments, relying on trained and licensed pest control professionals can save you time and money investing in traps and baits that either don't work and/or in retrieving rat carcasses from hard to reach places, due to improper placement of traps and baits you are exposed to disease and unpleasant smells. At Hulett, our integrated pest management system (IPM) uses the most current rodent capture equipment, in addition to non-toxic, environmentally responsible baits, placed in strategic locations to reduce rat populations. We then remove carcasses, until rats are eliminated. Monitoring for additional rodent activity, Hulett affixes locked, tamper-proof feeding stations to patio stones around your home's perimeter that use an anticoagulant material to finalize your rat elimination process.
Exclusion seals the deal
- Rats can squeeze through holes no larger than a nickel. Sealing or caulking all small cracks, crevices and holes in your home's foundation and around windows, doors and other entryways makes a huge difference in rats gaining access to your home and loved ones.
- Fitting all pipes, drains, vents and other potential entryways with screens can further deter rats from entering your home.
Make your home uninviting to rats
- Maintain an uncluttered clean home, with attention to food storage and wiped down food surfaces.
- Eliminate clutter inside and outside your home.
- Remove debris and leftover construction materials from your property.
- Repair or remove moisture-prone areas in and around your home.
- Keep tree limbs and branches trimmed away from your home and your lawn cut short.
Hulett offers a variety of options in our Healthy Home programs that create a pest-proof barrier around your home, so you won't have worry about rats, mice, and other household pests any time of the year. Customer satisfaction is our priority; we guarantee it. Contact Hulett for a free pest inspection today! Just call Hulett at (866) 611-BUGS!