I was dispatched to a Belmar residence in response to a homeowner calling Cowleys. She was worried about unusual wildlife noises coming from the attic. Upon arrival, I spoke with her to gain a better understanding of the problem. It is helpful to know the type of noises and when they occurred. With mice, you often hear scuttling, squeaking, or gnawing sounds, especially at night. Of course, other wildlife make similar sounds. So, while I was not yet positive that there was a mouse infestation, I was certain that there were unwanted visitors in the home that needed to be removed. I started by inspecting around the exterior of the home, looking for potential entry points. There were none of the typical openings seen with squirrels, the other common wildlife infestation we deal with at Cowleys. All indications were that something mice-sized small was lurking around upstairs. Closing all of the potential entry points for mice is a challenge. If you shaved the hair off a mouse, you would be amazed at how small these creatures are. A mouse weighs less than three-quarters of an ounce! And since mice don’t have collarbones, their only limitation for squeezing through holes and gaps is their skull. Mice can squeeze through holes that are the diameter of a pencil.
Next, with no evidence of infestation activity on or near the roof, it was time to see what was going on in the attic. Rodents like to stay out of sight, so I was not expecting to see something scurrying about. Instead, what I look for are the tell-tail signs of an infestation, evidence of what they leave behind in their wake. Rodents are messy creatures and they make no effort to cover their tracks, leaving behind fecal pellets and urine stains, gnaw marks and shavings, and runway tracks (rub marks). Because mice have poor eyesight, they like to hug the walls as they travel. They memorize routes and rarely stray, enabling them to run rapidly along a path, even in the dark. Over time, they leave a faint, dark trail of body oil and dirt.
In this particular attic, there was nothing subtle about the infestation. These mice sent a strong message that they took over the attic. To the dismay of the homeowner, there was already significant rodent damage to the walls and insulation of her attic floor. Mice populations increase rapidly and this job reinforced the importance of contacting a pest control professional at the first sign of a problem. Infestations do not self-resolve. Mice and other wildlife destroy insulation by shredding it to make nests and by depositing its urine and droppings all over, which is a health hazard. Their droppings can contain bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens. When the pellets dry, microscopic spores are released into the air. Also, mice commonly transport ticks and their blood-borne diseases as well. While mice are certainly less threatening than rats, they are still a health risk inside your home, especially once they enter kitchen areas and contaminate food and counter tops.
I set up a baiting system, and I’ll return shortly to see how many rodents have been caught and if there is still evidence of an active infestation. Unfortunately, there was extensively damaged insulation that will have to be removed after the infestation is resolved. Because this insulation will need to be replaced, I spoke with the homeowner about using Cowleys to install TAP Pest Control Insulation. This insulation is environmentally safe, ENERGY STAR designated, UL classified, fire retardant loose-fill cellulose insulation made primarily from ground-up newspaper. TAP stands for Thermal, Acoustical, and Pest Control. This insulation not only offers superior thermal and acoustical (sound-deadening) properties, but in addition, unlike traditional insulation, offers the added benefit of pest control. The paper fibers are treated with a borate solution. While harmless to people and other mammals, borates are lethal to certain insects including ants, beetles, and termites. Because TAP insulation is safe to use around children and pets, it does not affect mammals such as mice, rodents, or other wildlife pests. For these pests, you still require traditional pest-control methods such as blocking potential entry points into your home.