[PCT Annual Rodent Control Issue] Something’s in the Attic

Features – Cover feature: Annual Rodent Control Issue

Sanitation, exclusion, repellents, traps and baiting are the keys to a comprehensive rodent control program.

  • September 28, 2015
  • Adam Jones


As the weather turns to fall and rats and mice seek warmer shelter inside homes, pest management professionals need to be ready for the inevitable increase of calls from customers about animals in their attics. Our company, Orlando, Fla.-based Massey Services, recommends incorporating sanitation, exclusion, repellents, traps and baiting in a comprehensive rodent control program.

Taking one action without the others may allow rodent problems to persist, which can make for frustrated customers and service technicians.


Proper sanitation is the first step in controlling rodent pests. All animals have three requirements for life: food, water and shelter. Removal of any one will force an animal to leave. Rodents are first attracted to a home based on what’s available outside. Eliminating debris such as piles of unused lumber or trash will reduce potential shelter areas for rodents. Collecting and removing fallen fruit from backyard trees and keeping lids on trash cans also will make an area less attractive to rats and mice. Suggest that clients store pet food and seeds, such as wild bird seed, in rodent-proof containers.


Rodents can squeeze through any opening their heads can fit through. That is a ¼-inch opening for mice and a ½-inch opening for young rats. Conduct inspections to find rodent access points. Focus around wires, conduits and pipes, or chimney and plumbing stacks. Pay attention to soffits and eaves, and attic or crawlspace vents. Don’t forget doors — rodents can slip under worn or missing door sweeps.

Seal off small access points with rodent-proofing materials such as copper mesh, ¼-inch hardware cloth, 24-gauge sheet metal or cement.


Gel repellents made with plant and pepper oils are effective at keeping rodents from moving through an area. Place the gel repellent in and around the access point. Contact with these products causes skin irritation to the pests and deters them from the site.

Strobe lights also are a good tool to drive rodents out of an attic. The constant flashing of high-powered light stresses the animal and drives them out of the attic space. This method is especially useful in attics with heavily pitched roofs and crawlspaces with large open areas. The light must be placed in an area that allows for maximum coverage.

Traps & Baiting.

Snap traps and sticky traps are excellent tools to eliminate mice and rats. Bait your traps with seeds, fruit and other foods the pest is familiar with so they are enticed to enter the trap. Make certain to secure the trap where it’s placed so the pest cannot move it.

Repeater traps are another effective tool when dealing with mice. Mice are curious creatures and they are attracted to the scents of their own species.

Ensure that frequent follow-up services are scheduled once the traps are placed. This will allow for the removal of any dead rats or mice before the process of decay begins. Decaying pests not only cause odor and staining; they invite other pests in, including flies and beetles. Note that rodenticides should never be used in the attic.
About the author: Adam Jones is vice president of quality assurance, Massey Services, Orlando, Fla.



How to Control Squirrels: Squirrel Problems & Prevention Tips

Spring-Green Lawn Care – 

Deer are primarily a problem in rural areas or near forest preserves. Squirrels, on the other hand, can be a problem in the city, suburbs, or the country. They have adapted to city life very well, and can be a major annoyance in terms of grass and lawn care. They will dig up your bulbs, eat all the birdseed you put out, dig holes in your lawn, chew a hole into your attic, make a mess of your garden, harass your dog, and are generally a nuisance. They can also be very cute when they hold a piece of food in their little paws and delicately nibble at it.

Here are answers to some typical questions you may have when you’re trying to control squirrels:

What are the common squirrels species I should look out for?

The most common squirrels are the gray and black species. They mainly inhabit trees and build their ‘nests’ in the crotch of large trees. They may be cute to watch, but they can be annoying and destructive in their search for food and shelter. Since they can cause a variety of problems, it is difficult to give one yard control method that will work in every situation. As with deer problems, it is often best to implement several different approaches instead of relying on one.

How do I prevent squirrels from hurting my home and landscape?

The first thing to do is to try to prevent their access to the area they are disrupting. If they are getting into the attic or storage shed, try removing any over-hanging branches that may give them easy access to the structure. The same is true for any decorative trim that would also allow access. If they are gaining access across utility or phone lines, there are cone-shaped shields that can be attached to the wire. Some of the commercially-available squirrel repellent products leave a sticky residue on ledges to discourage their entry into an attic or other structure. Other products are placed inside the structure and aid in keeping the squirrels outside.

What do I do if squirrels are on the inside of my house or walls?

If squirrels do gain access to an attic or other structure, they can do a lot of damage. They will rip up furniture, gnaw at windowsills, rip apart curtains, and generally make a mess of everything. They are most active in the early morning (4a.m. to 7a.m.) and late afternoon (5p.m. to 8p.m.). They can be heard scurrying about at these times, causing mischief and mayhem. It may require the use of a live trap in these situations. There are many animal removal services and they can assist in the removal process. Live traps may be rented from many rental companies or villages. Relocation should occur at least five miles away from the point of capture to prevent them from coming back. Be sure to release them in an area where they will not become a problem for another homeowner. Pick a forest preserve or natural area and release them there.

How do I stop squirrels from eating birdseed from my birdfeeders?

Devouring all the birdseed that is put out for the birds is one of the biggest problems with squirrels. They are voracious eaters and will gorge themselves on the feed, especially if the mix contains sunflower seeds. There are many squirrel-proof feeders available, but they are expensive. Prices are more than $75, and are usually purchased by serious bird lovers. Mixing pepper-based additives into the seed mix will act as a deterrent and not affect the birds. Be careful when adding the product as it is very hot, and will cause a burning sensation in the eyes or mouth.

Is there a way to make squirrels stop digging up my landscape?

Another problem with squirrels is digging up grass and feeding on landscape or vegetable gardens plants. Pepper sprays can be used in these situations. Some other sprays have a foul odor or taste, which will act as a deterrent. Check the labels of these yard care products to make sure they can be used on edible plants. Visual repellents are usually not very effective. Squirrels normally ignore them. To prevent them from digging up garden bulbs in your yard, place chicken wire over the area. Bury the fence about an inch underground. The plants will grow through the holes in the fence, but the squirrels cannot get through the netting. Be sure the holes are at least an inch in size to allow the plants to grow through it.

Squirrels can be entertaining, but more often they are a nuisance. As was mentioned with deer, squirrels are part of the environment. It is impractical to attempt to eliminate them. Reducing the amount of the yard damage they cause and putting up with a certain amount of their lifestyle is the best scenario. And they are cute!

Chicago Street Sign

Pest Company Says Chicago Has Most Rats of Any City

PestWeb by Univar

Keep an eye out, Chicago.

The Windy City was the most rat-infested city in the country in 2013, according to pest-control company Orkin. The company based its rankings on the number of rat-eradication service requests it received in specific cities. It says cities, in general, can be great homes for rodents because they can thrive with help from human infrastructure — specifically by eating garbage and taking shelter in  buildings.

From a press release that announced Orkin’s rankings:

Fall is a prime time for commensal rodents to actively seek food, water and shelter when temperatures drop and before the winter weather arrives. Each fall, rats and mice invade an estimated 21 million American homes. It only takes a hole the size of a quarter for a rat to squeeze inside, and a hole the size of a dime for mice. Rodents are also known to chew around holes to make them larger, after which they can slip into homes. It is not uncommon for homeowners and businesses to begin spotting rodents beginning in October.

Orkin reminds city-dwellers that besides being gross and annoying, too many rats in an area can also be a health issue. They can carry and spread respiratory and neurological diseases and are the hosts for several types of insects that can carry and spread even more diseases. Plus, they can trigger allergic reactions. Pregnant women and children are at particular risk.

Five of the most infested cities:

1. Chicago

2. Los Angeles

3. Washington, D.C.

4. New York

5. San Francisco

See the five cities that round out the top 10 most-rat-infested cities in the U.S. at Reboot Illinois.

The City of Chicago website says the Chicago species of rat is called the Norway rat-but the species originated in Asia.

The rat has an average life span of six to twelve months. Beginning at the age of two to three months, a female rat can produce four to seven litters per year with each litter containing eight to twelve pups. Females can become impregnated within 48 hours after giving birth. The number, size and survivability of litters produced depends upon the amount of food and shelter available.

They prefer fresh food, but will eat many things such as pet food, dog feces, garbage and plants. If food is scarce, the strongest rats may even eat the weakest and young.

Norway rats prefer to live in burrows in the ground. They are excellent climbers and swimmers and most active at night. They have very hard teeth and can chew through wood and plaster or any other material that is softer than their teeth. They can crawl through holes the size of a quarter, tread water for three days and land unharmed after a five-story fall.

Norway rats live in colonies that have very well defined territories. The strongest colonies get the best places to live.

A rat in an alleyway may be creepy, but a rat in the home is downright icky. Orkin offered some advice about how to prevent and deal with these twitchy pests:

–Regularly inspect the home – inside and outside – for rodent droppings, rub marks or burrows.

–Seal all cracks and gaps around utility penetrations larger than 1/4 of an inch, as well as install weather stripping at the bottom of exterior doors.

–Trim overgrown branches, plants and bushes near the home, and consider keeping a 2-foot barrier between any landscaping and the home.

–Store all food (including pet food) and garbage properly in sealed containers both indoors and outdoors.

–Remove all pet bowls after animals are finished eating, and remove pet waste from the lawn promptly.

 Contact Global for assistance managing rodents, as these pests can be dangerous and difficult to control.

Chicago has also been named the top city for bedbug infestations for two years in a row and general pest infestations by Orkins, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. According to Crain’s, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti in March suggested the city use a bait that sterilizes female rats as a way to control the animals.