Rodents are unwanted in gardens because of the damage they can cause to fruit, vegetables, seeds, bulbs, plants, and containers. They can also expose people and pets to various diseases and parasites. However, rodents love gardens as gardens provide them with both shelter and readily available food sources.
The only rat species you are likely to find in your garden is the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). There are several mouse and vole species in North America, and a small number of these can take advantage of food and lodging in gardens. However, their numbers are rarely high enough to cause much damage.
The house mouse (Mus musculus), field vole or short-tailed vole (Microtus agrestis), and deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) are most likely to be seen in gardens. In America, wild populations of the house mouse and field vole can periodically explode to plague proportions in rural areas after mild winters when they have little die-off. These rural species are normally found in specific habitats:
House mouse: wooded areas, fields, croplands, yards
Deer mouse: old fence posts, tree hallows, log piles
One of the main signs of a rodent in your garden is their nesting area which is usually under trash, timber, in drain pipes, or under/in sheds. They also have a characteristic smell when in large numbers and their gnawing can be quite noisy, so you may smell and hear them. Rodents are nocturnal feeders, but if you see them during the day, it usually means that they are short of food and getting desperate.
Holes or burrows: Burrows are two inches in diameter and can be located anywhere that is relatively undisturbed and near to food.
Runs and tracks: Runs are typically two to four inches wide near cover along walls, banks, hedges and through vegetation. Smear marks may be visible where they run along stone, wood, or metal on steps, fencing, and gate posts.
Droppings: Droppings are a half-inch long, cylindrical, flat at one end and often pointed at the other. They are moist when fresh, but dry within hours.
Damage: Rats will gnaw at food, packaging, and barriers in their way, making holes or enlarging existing ones. Their teeth are hard enough to get through many hard materials such as wood, rubber, vinyl, and low-grade concrete and cement.
Mice and voles
Tunnels: Mice construct a system of tunnels to live in, which can have several chambers and exits. Voles can make a system of shallow tunnels that give a soft and uneven surface to lawns and soils.
Gnaw marks: Small gnaw marks can be seen on fruits and small fruit, such as berries, may be left scattered on the ground under the plants.
Torn paper: Torn paper in garden sheds shows mice are gathering nesting material.
Damage caused by rodents in the garden
Rodents can cause damage in your garden which can range anywhere from feasting on fruits and vegetables to gnawing on shed doors and wires. The types of damage caused vary depending on the species of rodent.
Eat a wide range of garden vegetables including sweet corn cobs, pumpkins, and squash as well as various root vegetables such as carrot, parsnip, beetroot, and potato tubers. They will eat the crops while they are growing and in storage. They will also eat fruits in storage.
Cause structural damage to buildings by burrowing and gnawing, undermining building foundations, paving in patios and paths, causing settling, and damage earth banks.
Gnaw on electrical wires or water pipes, above or below ground.
Mice and voles in the garden
Eat recently sown vegetable seeds such as peas, beans, and sweet corn and the foliage of seedlings.
Eat bulbs and corms, especially recently sown ones.
Eat fruits such as strawberries, even before they are ripe, berries, and stored fruit such as apples.
Voles can eat the bark of woody plants, especially in winter.
Voles make a network of shallow tunnels that can give lawns an uneven surface.
The best way to keep rodents out of your garden is to call in an Ehrlich rodent technician. Our technicians will find where the rodents are hiding and provide the proper treatment method to safely remove them. There are ways you can work to prevent rodents in your garden:
Eliminate any harborage points around buildings and sheds sealing any small gaps that allow them access. Rats need only a gap height of around half of an inch to gain entry and mice a quarter of an inch.
Remove potential nesting places by keeping gardens clean and tidy.
Remove piles of wood, garden clippings etc, and cut back overgrown areas.
Cover any household food waste in compost heaps and garbage bins. Make sure lids are closed and garbage bags containing food are not left outside for long periods.
Do not scatter bird feed on the ground - use a bird table or feeder basket to feed birds.
Professional rodent control
The safe and secure option is to call a professional, who will have the right training and the best equipment to assess and deal with your infestation. Contact your local Ehrlich office today!