Written by: Stuart Steele
With winter fast setting in and temperatures dropping, as with us, rodents are also seeking warmth and shelter to spend the cold days, not to mention them seeking food and water.
For commercial or residential property owners, this means there is an increased likelihood of rodents making their way inside your building or home, and happily setting up a new home for themselves.
Being nocturnal, rats are normally active in the evenings between dusk and dawn, and usually are skittish and hide away from areas where there is a lot of movement, noise and human activity during the day, and prefer to come out at night to seek food, water and material to be used for shelter.
I’m certain, as you reading this, that you concerned as to not knowing if you have any of these unwelcome guests trying to get in your home or building.
It is often easier to see the signs of rodent activity than to see the actual pests themselves, so it’s important to know what to be on the lookout for.
Signs of rodent activity
This is the first sign to look out for. They are by no means healthy and rodents can deposit up to 90 droppings per day. The droppings are small and dark (approximately 5-8 mm in length) and scattered in areas they have been active such as in cupboards, along walls, behind appliances, in your garage or in your ceiling.
Grease Oil Markings
Rats produce a body oil that is contained within its fur and when a rat is active and moves on its familiar travel paths, and as it passes through various entry and exit points, it will leave a grey to black type oil/ grease marks or smudge, caused by their fur constantly brushing the areas they are moving against such as entry holes into buildings on walls, floors and against skirtings on these regularly used routes.
Urine Odours and Pillars
When there are instances of high infestations, with body grease combined with dirt and rodent urine can build up into small mounds that are a few centimetres high. A strong pungent rodent urine odour could also be evident in rooms or spaces where rodents are breeding.
Rats and Mice urinate frequently, particularly when they jump or are alarmed by something. The urine has a strong musty, ammonia-like smell. The odour is normally at its strongest near the main site of activity or in enclosed spaces. This smell will linger for a long time even after an infestation has been removed.
People often report to us hearing either scratching noises or the sound of movement in their ceiling. This usually is a sign of rats being active in one’s roof, and it is more common of this occurring during the winter months than in the summer months, due to rats seeking shelter, warmth and breeding material to nest in. However, even if you are hearing noises, one has to ascertain if the noises you may be hearing are indeed rats, as noises in one’s roof can also be the result of birds nesting in the roof.
It is more common to hear rats moving across one’s ceiling between dusk till dawn, and it won’t be just a noise confined to one area of the ceiling- it would be the sound of shuffling or small footsteps running or jumping across the ceiling boards. In the case of birds- there would be shuffling sounds contained in one area of the roof, and the noises are usually during the day in the case of birds as the roost in their nests at night.
These are very easy to spot, as mice or rats would chew on various types of material to create suitable nesting material with. These materials include fabrics, paper, cardboard and any soft material.
Check behind stoves, fridges, garages, storerooms and ceilings for possible signs of these infestations as nests will contain their young.
In any dusty environment that has rodent infestation, rats or mice can leave foot prints and tail mark tracks which show up in the dusty surfaces they walk over. If you uncertain, one can check for activity in these types of areas by sprinkling down flour or talcum powder and then check the areas for any fresh rodent tracks the next day.
Due to the rapid pace in which rats and mice can breed and multiply, rodent infestations or suspected infestations should be treated sooner rather than later.
After mating, rodents give birth on average after three weeks of mating and have the ability to become sexually mature within ninety days.
In South Africa, we primarily have the Roof rat, Norwegian rat and the house/ field mouse that enter urban environments. Depending on the species, a female rat can have as many as a dozen young per litter, and can produce up to seven litters per year.