Mice are an all too common problem, in houses, lofts and out-buildings. Mice are incontinent, and as they move around they dribble urine and leave droppings. If they come into contact with food there is a risk of food poisoning, such as Salmonella and E.coli.
In addition, mice often cause damage to household wiring and insulation. It is very difficult to prevent mice from entering a property, especially if there is easy access to a source of food, mice are able to squeeze through the smallest gaps (if you can fit a pencil in a hole, a mouse will be able to pass through it!).
Despite their small size, for many people the mouse is a terrifying creature and perhaps partly fuelled by their fast and unpredictable movements. In fact there are four species of mouse living wild in the UK:
- House Mouse
- Wood Mouse (also called Field Mouse or Long Tailed Field Mouse)
- Yellow Necked Mouse (similar to the Wood Mouse)
- Harvest Mouse.
The two species that are a house and garden pest are the House Mouse and the Wood Mouse. House Mice are almost entirely dependent on human habitation to survive, whereas Wood Mice live in the countryside (e.g. in hedgerows) as well as houses, sheds and garages etc.
Mice climb well and can squeeze through very small gaps. They have a compulsive need to gnaw, and this is in order to keep their incisor teeth worn down to a constant length.
Mice live in nests which are often built inside houses especially during the winter months. Nests are built wherever there is access to a good source of food. Spaces under floors and lofts are favoured places for nests, which are built out of cloth, wool, paper and plastics. Indeed any material that is available to them. Mouse holes are normally 20 – 30mm in diameter.
Mice are erratic, sporadic feeders, nibbling at many sources of food rather than taking repeated meals from any one item. Their main food preference is cereal (as in crops rather than out of a packet but they’ll readily eat that too) but will eat almost anything. They do not need free water to drink as they normally obtain sufficient moisture from their food.
||House MouseThe adult House Mouse is small and slender and about 3 – 5cm long (excluding the tail). It has quite large ears, a pointed nose and small eyes. The tail is as long as the head and body combined. Its fur is usually a light grey or brown.|
||Wood MouseThe Wood Mouse is slightly larger than the House Mouse, and the best way to tell them apart is by the eyes and ears which are much larger on the Wood Mouse than on its cousin.|
Distinguishing mice from rats.
Both the above species of mice are more numerous than rats and are more widespread throughout urban and suburban communities. Both species of mouse can be distinguished from a young rat quite easily, as the rat’s head and feet will be overly-large in relation to its body (this really will be very noticeable).
Signs that mice are present
As mice are largely nocturnal (though certainly not entirely) their presence may become apparent through signs other than an obvious sighting. One early sign that mice are present in a building is smell: they produce a distinctive odour in nest sites that, once experienced, will not be forgotten! Their presence can also usually be detected from their dark coloured droppings or damage to stored foods, packaging or even woodwork. The droppings will appear almost wherever the mouse travels, as mice are actually incontinent. In fact the average mouse sheds 70 droppings in 24 hours and urinates frequently to mark its territory.
The other give-away sign is of course sound: if mice are present in a house they can often be heard scurrying around at night, or chewing on pipes, cables and woodwork etc.
How mice increase in numbers so quickly
Mice become sexually mature in eight to ten weeks and a pair may produce eight litters each of 16 young, in a year. Multiply those and you arrive at a horrifying number of mice!
Damage caused by mice and other threats
Mice can seriously damage water and gas pipes, electric cables, packaging and woodwork. Instances of electrical fires and floods have been attributed to them. Mice dribble their urine all the time they are moving, the main problem this can cause is salmonella contamination (e.g. if this is in an area where foodstuffs are kept).