Fall is typically the time of year when many of us across the country start noticing mice, rats and other critters creeping into our homes. Did you know that an unwanted rat can create health problems or even start a fire in your home? Earlier this week I was joined by renowned entomologist Dr. Ron Harrison for an interview to discuss how we’re enticing pests into our homes and why they’re so dangerous, the rattiest cities in the United States, and how we can protect ourselves and our guests this holiday season from unwanted pests!
Candace Rose: What are we doing to entice these unwanted critters into our homes?
Dr. Ron Harrison: “There’s a couple things that we have to worry about, but first of all, we do things on the outside that make it attractive for animals. Even sometimes feeding birds may be the grain that those rodents are looking for, or the garbage can that we didn’t seal properly. Sometimes we have a compost pile we put our scraps in and they’re feeding off of that as well. It’s not just rats, it could actually be possums, raccoons, other things like that. Now that they’re close to our home, and the next step is to find their way in.
Therefore, we’re concerned with some of the gaps on the outside, for instance like electrical penetration, they can slip right in there; around the door, they can slip in that area as well, or windows with weatherstripping underneath. Also, gutters are a great place for pests, or trees or shrubs. Once we do things to attract them in, then we have openings and they slip right in. That’s why it’s so important to have a pest control professional come out to help you assess how bad the situation is.”
Candace Rose: From fire to health hazards, why are rats and mice so dangerous?
Dr. Ron Harrison: “Well, what happens is with rats and mice is outside they’re used to gnawing on stems and twigs because that helps them gnaw down their teeth. Well, when they get inside, electrical wires, communication devices kind of look like that to them because they have very poor eyesight, they start gnawing on that and then in turn you start a fire. Now that’s the structural damage that’s worrisome, but also they have a lot of disease and they shed their hairs which cause asthma problems. And they urinate a lot, as well as they can defecate – a rat, 50 times a day.”
Candace Rose: A new list ranks the rattiest cities in America. Who takes the unwanted top prize? And are their any regional differences when it comes to this threat?
Dr. Ron Harrison: “Well, it’s interesting, of course. Chicago, for us was the number one city. L.A., Washington, New York, Seattle – the reason that I share all of those that are in the top 10, is that it’s everywhere. So, whether I’m in Seattle or L.A., Washington D.C., or the heartland in Chicago, you’ve got rat problems. Mice are consistent everywhere.
The situation is that everyone needs to be aware of it and realize it’s not just a nuisance, it’s a serious health concern.”
Candace Rose: Are there any other pests that might be a problem this time of year that we just don’t think about?
Dr. Ron Harrison: “Well, that’s a great point because sometimes we think ‘Oh, it’s just those pests on the outside’, but we actually bring pests with us. For instance, sometimes the food that we bring in from the grocery store may be infested, and most of us just take that and stick it right into the cabinet and leave it there, forgetting that they may be infested. We recommend that you put your things in sealed containers or even a glass jar will help if you seal it very tightly. That’s going to make sure that if there’s an infestation inside of it, it’s not going to be transmitted to other things as well, and can quickly dispose of it. That deals with store product pests.
But also, sometimes German cockroaches can be the same type of situation, or another problem that’s becoming an issue are bedbugs. If you go to a hotel, you come back and then your suitcase has bedbugs in it, or your kid goes to the neighbor and spends the night, and they come back with bedbugs. So what we really want everyone to do is inspect regularly, use your pest control professional to help you do that inspection so you make sure that one or two pests that were brought in, don’t become an infestation.”
Candace Rose: Is there anything else we can do both outside and inside to protect ourselves?
Dr. Ron Harrison: “From the outside, you’ve got to look at the insect or the pest standpoint – why do I want to be there? Sometimes we have high mulches and those are great areas just to hide out and hang out if I’m a pest or a rodent. Sit back, analyze the outside and just be careful, sometimes we’re bringing things in. This time of year we go bring hay bales or straw bales and put them on the outside for halloween; rodents can be inside of that. We go and get a tree for Christmas and cut it down, there may be aphids that are associated with that or wood may have carpenter ants in it that we bring in to use in our fireplace. Our pets may come in with fleas or ticks associated with them, so the point is, the pests are out there, there’s millions of them there, we’ve got to make sure that our little haven, our little home is protected from them.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Dr. Ron Harrison: “Sure, if you go to Orkin.com, there’s just great information there about the pests, about tips that you can use, as well as how to get the Orkin man to come out and help solve your problem.”