There’s good reason that Jerry the mouse is always outsmarting Tom the cat in the classic cartoon – mice are small, sneaky, quick, and clever! They can easily enter a home that isn’t properly rodent proofed to take up residence, especially in the colder months. A mice infestation, in addition to being down right disgusting, is dangerous because mice can carry diseases and are destructive to personal property. Read on to learn more about the most common mice that may invade your home:
The house mouse, the kind that one might keep as a pet or use in a lab, is active year-round. They are incredibly adaptable to their surroundings and environmental conditions, which makes them even more of a threat! They typically live in the ground and tend to burrow, but they can climb. House mice have a length of about 3 to 3.9 inches and weigh about 1.5 ounces. They
can vary in color and have short hair, with little hair on their ears and bellies. House mice are sometimes confused with the young brown rat but are distinguished by their small feet and heard and large eyes and ears.
Deer mice typically live in wooded areas, and prefer it there, but may find their way into structures in or near the woods. They are extremely agile and are excellent climbers, so don’t be surprised if you find them on your second or third levels or in your attic. Deer mice are nocturnal and hunt at night. The deer mouse head and body is about 2.75 to four inches long with a tail that can range from 2 to 5 inches long. They can be pale gray and reddish brown with a white belly. Their very long tails are usually bi-colored and covered in short hair.
The white-footed mouse, also known as a woodmouse, is found throughout the eastern United States. They are generally timid mice and will avoid humans but occasionally build nests and store food in ground floor walls. As its name implies, the white-footed mouse has white feet and a white belly. The rest of its body and tail range from gray to reddish-brown. The white-footed mouse is about 3.5 inches long with the tail adding another 2.5 to 4 inches to its length.
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Sunny and beautiful spring days have seemed a bit hard to come by in New England this year, with cold and damp weather ruling the day. Unfortunately that’s not great news when it comes to our tick population, which thrives in the dampness and is less active in the dry, hot weather. 2017 promises to be a banner year for these pests – which means the diseases they carry pose an added concern for all of us. When it comes to the most common one – Lyme disease – the recent surge of cases has sparked a lot of awareness and some rumors, too. So how do we separate fact from fiction when it comes to tick-borne illness, and how we can best protect ourselves?
First, some basic facts about ticks and Lyme:
- Ticks aren’t born carrying Lyme disease; they contract it from animals they feed off of, and then spread it to other animals and people through bites.
- Ticks are most likely to infect people when they are at the nymph stage, when they’re the size of a poppy seed, and their bite is painless. In fact, some studies report that only about 30% of people diagnosed recall ever getting a tick bite.
- Contrary to popular belief, not all people infected with Lyme get the tell-tale bulls eye rash! So it’s important not to rely on that visual cue to determine your risk.
- The most common early symptoms of Lyme include flu-like feelings (achy, feverish, nauseated); painful or swollen joints; feeling light headed; feeling especially stiff in the head and neck area; and shooting pains in limbs.
So how can you best protect yourself and your family from tick exposure? Our experienced teams at Freedom Pest Control can come to your home and assess your risk. And there are also preventive steps you can take on your own right now:
- Cut your lawn. Ticks like hanging out in the cool long grass, waiting for a person or animal to latch onto.
- Move leaf, wood, and mulch piles. These are other favorite spots for ticks to hide and breed. Bag up the leaves, get rid of extra mulch, and keep wood piles off the ground and away from the house.
- Keep deer and rodents away. Ticks don’t usually move by themselves, but rather hitch a ride typically with mice, rats, and deer. Deter rodents by moving any bird feeders out to the perimeters, where any tasty seeds that drop are well away from the house. If you live near an especially high deer population, consider installing a deer fence; alternatively, dot the property with patches of fragrant lavender and herbs that help mask the scent of shrubs that deer love to nibble on, like azaleas, fruit trees, berry bushes, and clematis. Stone walls are a magnet for mice to hide in – so if you’re thinking of building one, consider alternatives.
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With the instances of Lyme disease in New England increasing each year, there’s a fair amount of awareness out there as to the dangers of tick-borne illness. But there’s also a bit of a misperception that the weather can play in the tick life cycle; many of us assume the threat goes away once the snow falls and the temps drop. Unlike mosquitoes, which die off in the colder months, ticks survive the winter in a number of ways, depending on their species and the stage of their life cycle:
• Ticks can go dormant outside, hiding in leaf litter and woodpiles. Snow cover doesn’t kill them, but rather ads a layer of protection and insulation.
• They can survive inside your home, garage, car, or woodshed for months without requiring a meal, dormant in rugs, carpets, walls, and tiny crevices.
• They can latch onto a larger host. The blacklegged tick, which carries Lyme disease, stays active all winter long. They typically begin their feeding activity around the time of the first frost, and will latch onto anything from a mouse to a dog to a human, any day that temps are near to or above freezing.
When you’re outdoors, particularly during the milder spells of winter, it’s just as important to practice tick awareness and check yourself and your pet before going back inside.
There are other key steps to protecting yourself and your home during the winter months, including:
• Clear any lawn debris away from the house – leaves, branches, etc.
• If you have a woodpile, keep in mind that they’re often nesting and resting places for mice and other rodents, as well as ticks. Keep it well away from the house, and check logs carefully before bringing them inside.
• Remember that mice are the preferred host for most tick species; all the more reason to act swiftly at the first sign of them nesting in your home, barn, or garage.
• Check your pets regularly, and continue to give them regular doses of tick prevention medications.
• If you live near a wooded area, or enjoy walks in the woods, be mindful that ticks are often found on tree trunks and hardwood habitats.
Want to learn more about how to guard against ticks? Our team will create a plan for you to keep your home and family protected, 12 months a year. Chat with a live customer service representative on our website, or call us toll free at 877-742-2350!