Rats are a familiar pest to many in the United States. Understanding rats’ behavior is key to utilizing proper rodent control, and this includes knowing what kinds of rats you’re dealing with. One of the two species of rats found in the continental U.S., the roof rat is a sleek and agile rodent with its own set of adaptations and preferences apart from its cousin, the Norway rat. Knowing the differences helps with identification and thus prevention or removal, whether done by yourself or with professional Baton Rouge pest control service.
What Is a Roof Rat?
The roof rat (Rattus rattus), also called the black rat or ship rat, was introduced to North America and elsewhere in the world via trading ships. In the United States, it lives along the West Coast and in the southeastern states, unlike the Norway rat’s nationwide range, preferring the warmer climates. Roof rats typically have a mix of brown and black fur with a uniform gray, white or black underside, as well as a slim and slender build compared to the larger Norway rats. They possess the same keen senses of smell, taste, hearing and touch as other rats, as well as an adept sense of balance. Combined with their sleek build, this makes them very capable of climbing and walking across utility lines, tree branches and other narrow pathways to find food and evade predators.
Roof Rat Behavior
True to their name, roof rats like to nest above the ground, settling in trees or atop vine-covered fences and walls. Their natural agility lends itself well to this, as they have little trouble scaling such surfaces. They may be found along streams and riverbeds, within parks that have natural or artificial ponds, or in groves and farmlands - and, of course, within homes and warehouses, entering from the roof and nesting within the upper floors when available while Norway rats prefer the ground floor or basement. Utility lines and trees close to a building’s rooftop are common entry points.
Roof rats are omnivorous and will feed on nearly anything if necessary, but they often have a preference for fruits, nuts and seeds. In homes or on farms, they can develop a taste for livestock feed or dry pet food. The search for food begins early in the evening and may take roof rats as far as 300 feet from the nest to find something to eat. They have no problems gathering heaps of food to eat safely. Roof rats tend to stick to familiar travel routes and feeding locations once identified as safe, so they are not likely to wander into traps laid out traditionally. This is compounded by roof rats’ noted neophobia, or fear and aversion to new objects in their environment, which is stronger in this species than in Norway rats. This means they tend to avoid bait stations and traps, and if sufficiently disturbed, they will change their routes and feeding spots entirely, a behavior that complicates pest control efforts.
Damage and Dangers of Roof Rats
A nest of hungry, omnivorous roof rats presents an obvious concern for homes, food processing and storage facilities, and farms alike. Frequently, roof rats in residential buildings will tear up insulation and electrical wiring as they build nests, particularly in the attic. Wiring damage may also occur in the kitchen when rats hide under the refrigerator or freezer. Gardens and outdoor landscaping may suffer from the foraging of roof rats as they feed on fruits, vegetables, nuts and ornamental plants.
Agricultural orchards are especially endangered by roof rats, which are already inclined to climb trees for food and shelter. They can eat away the pulp from oranges and leave empty rinds hanging and will gladly feast on avocados and nuts as well. Norway rats are more partial to rice and other crops than roof rats, which will prefer the tree crops if present. Roof rats also climb and feed on maturing sugarcane stalks, often leaving them vulnerable to other pests.
Like other rat species, roof rats are carriers for a number of diseases that can be transmitted to humans or domestic animals, as well as potentially carrying parasites. This especially mandates swift rodent control to prevent the spread of such diseases.
Identifying and Controlling Roof Rat Infestations
The specific damage done to outdoor vegetation can help distinguish between a roof or Norway rat infestation. Ruined tree crops are a sure sign of roof rats, in particular. Rat signs, such as tracks, urine and droppings, are not as readily visible with roof rats since they primarily live and travel in overhead and utility spaces rather than along the floor, except when obtaining food.
Visibly confirming the presence of rats naturally works to identify an infestation. Setting a trap to collect rats can help, with the aforementioned caveats regarding roof rats’ aversion to traps. The location of nesting and food caches also helps confirm and distinguish rats, with these found in attics or upper floors mainly for roof rats. Nighttime searches are ideal as rats will be more active at this time and can be heard scurrying about.
To rodent-proof your building against roof rats, the key is to minimize roof level access. When possible, eliminate vines and overhanging tree branches that could permit rats to reach the roof. Given their climbing abilities, this will not completely keep them out alone, and sealing openings greater than 1/2 inch in diameter further ensures exclusion. Use steel wool, concrete mortar or other hard substances that the rats can’t easily chew through.
Proper sanitation can discourage roof rats from moving in; proper disposal of garbage and sealing of food containers makes feeding difficult. Prune outdoor vegetation such as dense shrubbery and vines that roof rats can use to hide or travel.
Baton Rouge pest control services can use rodenticides in bait to control roof rat populations, though they have some resistance to common anticoagulants compared to Norway rats. Trapping is another option, whether using kill traps or live traps, though the tendency to spread disease means releasing trapped rats can cause other problems. Other rodent control methods are of questionable use; fumigants have little effect since roof rats rarely burrow, and deterrent devices using noise or lights are only initially effective until the rats acclimate to them.
What are the Pests of Fall?
There are plenty of things to love about fall in New Orleans. However, while autumn in the city can bring fun times and pleasant weather, it also brings a new group of bugs and pests to worry about. Where moist conditions in the spring and summer create ideal environments for roaches and mosquitoes, the dryer weather in the fall is ideal for spiders, rodents and other insects that like to create nest-like homes in attics and other typically dark spaces. Worst of all, these pests have had the entire summer to breed and build their population before emerging in the fall. Their high numbers mean homeowners must be aggressive when it comes to fall pest and rodent control. What types of pests should you be on the look out for come fall in the city? Here are a few of the worst offenders.
It’s a well-known fact that rodents are some of the city’s most despised residents. In fact, one 2016 report ranked New Orleans top in the nation for rat and general pest infestations. The common house mouse is a main offender, taking up residence in the walls and basements of New Orleans homes in the fall and winter. As the weather cools down, these critters like to sneak into buildings through cracks in the foundation, window gaps and the like. They need no more than a quarter inch of space to get into your home in some cases. Once inside, they can quickly wreak havoc as they chew and shred up everything from paper to furniture to wiring. They can gnaw holes into walls and in extreme cases can even weaken a home’s infrastructure. Take the first steps toward rodent control by:
While those steps can provide a good start, mice can be notoriously difficult to get rid of both because of their rapid reproduction and how tricky they can be to catch. This and the dangers associated with their waste makes it a good idea for homeowners to leave rodent control to New Orleans pest control experts.
Fall is a prime mating season for spiders, which means they are more likely than ever to come out of hiding and cross your path. Southern Louisiana is home to more than 16 different types of spider, including the black widow and brown recluse spiders with bites that can be fatal to humans. That makes a spider problem more than a creepy inconvenience and as important as rodent control.
Spiders typically prey on small insects. When those pests come into your home seeking warmth and food in the fall, spiders have a tendency to follow them. Some of their favorite homes include attics, crawlspaces and basements. Because spiders aren’t much interested in human food, wiping down counters, disposing of trash and other typical pest prevention efforts aren’t likely to work. Instead, focus on:
Because of the unique threats some species of spiders can present, consider asking about experience with spider extermination when choosing a New Orleans pest control expert for general critter and rodent control.
At less than an inch long, the common clothes moth might not seem like a major threat. But it can cause a lot of damage to personal property, as countless New Orleans homeowners discover each year. These cream-colored menaces like to feed on just about any fabric item, especially wool and cashmere. The insects aren’t necessarily more plentiful in the fall, but they are more likely to be noticed around then, as homeowners pull cardigans and other thicker clothing out of storage boxes. When you notice tiny, unexplainable holes in your favorite shirt or fall pants, these moths are a likely culprit. The fall, when you’re likely packing up summer clothes, is a great time to address these pests. You can fight back by:
Like rodent control, moth control can help you avoid damage to your personal property.
Termites are a known problem in New Orleans, particularly in the French Quarter. What many people don’t realize is that termites cause trouble year-round, even when you can’t see them. These wood-chewers don’t hibernate. Instead, they prefer to dwell in a warm area that’s roughly 75 degrees. As the temperatures cool down outside and warm up inside, more and more of these creatures are likely to show up in your home, where they can destroy its infrastructure with shocking speed. Unfortunately, the city doesn’t provide any funding or help with termite eradication in private homes. That leaves it up to you, the homeowner, to take steps to keep them out of your house. Take action by:
Termites present one of the most destructive and challenging pest menaces in the city. It’s a good idea when you are investing in rodent control or other pest prevention to ask your specialist about their specific experience with these creatures.
The fall months can bring a welcome respite from some of the heat and humidity of a New Orleans summer. But the change of seasons may also bring new types of pest headache. When fair-weather pests are ruining your autumn, consider calling a pest management expert to provide the rodent control and general extermination to help you reclaim the season.
Most people don’t give a second thought to pests. For the most part, when they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind. A new event seeks to change that. The first-ever World Pest Day was started on June 6, 2017 to get people thinking differently about bugs and vermin. The CPCA (China), NPMA (USA), FAOPMA (Australia) and CEPA (Europe) wanted to shed light on the importance of protecting homes, families, food, lives and businesses from various insects and rodents. These creatures are more than just a nuisance, and while you may not want to celebrate the day with cake and ice cream, you should care more about the reasons driving World Pest Day.
The Rodent Scourge
Fairy tales and animated films suggest that rats and mice are adorable, magical creatures. While carefully controlled, domesticated rodents can be safe, the uncontrolled variety can cause considerable damage to crops, infrastructure and human health. Some species have adapted so well to coexisting with humans and their environments that they’re thriving.
These animals can multiply exponentially if left unchecked, and like all living creatures, they require food. In the wild, away from human civilization, this isn’t as big of an issue, but coexisting with humans has driven them to seek out food supplies that humans also eat. These pests can quickly contaminate and damage food and water sources. The scale of the problem can be as small as an individual home to as large as entire regions. The intrusion of rodents into human food and water supplies poses a serious risk to health.
Rats and mice also have a habit of gnawing anything and everything. This causes damage to various infrastructures, but one of the more susceptible victims of rodent malice is electronic equipment. It’s estimated that these pests set back work productivity by eight days a year based on the destruction they wreck.
While contaminated food and damaged infrastructure is unpleasant enough, one of the most dangerous aspects of rodent populations can be the diseases they carry. It’s estimated that rodents can claim responsibility for more deaths than all wars in the past 1,000 years. These pests can carry the following diseases:
Minimizing your individual risk of rats and mice can be facilitated by cleaning up trash, sealing up cracks in your home’s foundation, closing garbage bins, ensuring proper food storage and refraining from feeding birds large amounts of seed.
The Growing Threat of Mosquitoes
There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes; however, three species are primarily responsible for most of the diseases humans contract from them. Approximately 1 million people die each year because of mosquitoes. The bite itself is inconsequential, but the diseases these pests transfer are deadly. Almost half the human population is at risk of malaria, and 300–600 million people are infected each year. Mosquitos are also responsible for the following diseases:
Because of their reliance on water for breeding, eliminating or disrupting standing water sources is important to keep mosquito populations in check. Pesticides can also be used to eliminate the bugs. Unfortunately, scientists warn that climate change may exacerbate the current mosquito problem. Mosquito prevention is key to minimizing these pests. The following are steps the average person can take:
The Encroaching Cockroaches
Another bug that that World Pest Day is trying to shed light on is the cockroach. These bugs are estimated to be 280 million years old and have around 4,000 different species. If you happen to see one, chances are there are many others just out of sight. Cockroaches are incredibly hardy and can live in harsh environments. They tend to be attracted to warm, moist areas, so sewers, pipes, and garbage make ideal living situations. They can live for a month without food or even a head for that matter.
These bugs aren’t picky when it comes to food and eat just about anything, from other cockroaches to garbage to animal feces. Because of these unhygienic feeding habits, these pests spread several foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and cholera. The body parts, saliva and feces of cockroaches can also trigger allergies and cause asthma attacks.
Preventing cockroaches requires a multi-pronged approach. One of the most important things you can do is keep your living space clean and dry. This is especially important if you suspect you have a cockroach infestation because cleaning helps to remove their food sources and waste produced by the bugs themselves. Another step is to seal cracks in your walls and foundations to prevent them from gaining access inside. While your home is undergoing these repairs, it’s also a good time to fix water leaks, because these insects are attracted to damp places. If you find yourself with a cockroach infestation or a problem with any of the other pests, calling a professional exterminator can help you get a clean slate in your fight against these bugs and vermin.
The Goals of World Pest Day
For many people, these pests are mostly invisible, but that doesn’t change the fact that they can cause irreparable damages to the lives of people around the world. These infestations can drive up food prices, disrupt economies and kill millions. World Pest Day seeks to raise awareness of these issues. There are several things you can do to help address the problems caused by these pests:
For billions of people around the globe, pests and bugs are more than just an uncomfortable collection of creatures. They wreck serious havoc on lives and wellbeing. By being aware of these problems and supporting World Pest Day on June 6, you can have an impact on improving the quality of life for many people.
I really enjoy researching and writing about pests. The more we know about bugs, the easier it becomes to control them.