Rodents: What You May Not Know, but Should (Part 4 of 6)

MYTH:  Cheese is a favorite rodent food, and good bait for traps.

FACT:   Traditionally, cheese became a common bait because it was readily available, could be fastened or tied to a trap, lasted along time and had an attractive odor.  Professional rodent trappers, however, usually have cheese far down their list of preferred baits, if it is on the list at all.

Peanut butter is a common and effective bait, where it can be used without concern of peanut allergies.  Meats such as bacon are highly effective, as is chocolate.  In dry locations, moist food may be more attractive.  Cotton balls can be good bait because female rats and mice will try to take them for nesting material.

Kaukeinen, Dale E.  “(More) Myths about Rodents.” Pest Management Professional May 2008: Vol. 76 No. 5.  Print.

Last week we began learning about the Norway rat.  This week we will learn more about this rodent’s habits.

[The following information is taken in part from Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Management Operations, Sixth Edition]

The Norway rat is a social animal and lives in colonies, often as a ground-dwelling animal in exterior earthen burrows.  On farms they inhabit barns, granaries, livestock buildings, and silos.  In cities, the rat nests in the ground when space is available.  It may also nest and spend its entire life inside urban buildings.  Rats inhabit residences, all types of food facilities, warehouses, stores, hotels, zoos, sewers, and dumps.  It is also common to find rats living by ponds and lakes in parks, as well as in the wild near rivers and streams.

Adult rats consume about one ounce of food daily.  They prefer food with a high carbohydrate and protein content although almost any type of food will be taken (food items in household garbage provide rats with a balanced diet).  Cereal grains, meats, fish, livestock feed, and fresh fruit are all readily taken.  Rats living outdoors will either feed outside, or they will enter buildings at night on a daily basis for food and return to their outdoor burrows after feed.  Among wild populations, rats kill and eat various small mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects.  In sewers, rats capture and eat American cockroaches.

Unlike mice, the rat cannot survive for very long without free water, requiring ½-1 ounce of water daily when feeding on dry food, but they need less when their food source is moist.  In an around buildings, rats obtain their water directly from sinks and toilets, rain puddles, the dew off plants, or by licking water off condensing utility pipes.

Rats constantly explore and re-explore their surroundings, and are wary of new foods, new objects, or changes in their environment.  This behavior is termed “neophobia,” meaning “fear of new.”  Even a change in position of a familiar object causes suspicion.  This is why traps and bait boxes are sometimes avoided for a day or two.  Rats that have become conditioned to eating particular food, approach new food with much suspicion and taste it cautiously.  If it tastes bad or makes them sick, they won’t eat it again.  This behavior is called “bait (or toxicant) shyness.”

Bennett, Gary W., Owens, John M., Corrigan, Robert M. Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Management Operations, Sixth ed. Cleveland:  Advanstar Communications, Inc. 2005.  Print.

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