Mice Infestation Facts - All You Need to Know About the House Mouse
The mouse is a small mammal, part of the order of rodents and one of the most prominent types of commensal rodents in the UK. The impact they leave is equally severe for businesses and households alike.
Considered to be more of a nuisance than anything else, these pests can actually pose a health risk, especially for people who already have a compromised health. Moreover, the house mouse and their infestations bear more that one threat.
- General facts about the house mouse
- Mice infestation facts you may not know
- Mice behaviour, diet and habitats
- What attracts mice and causes mice infestations?
- How many mice make an infestation?
- Are mice dangerous?
- Mice infestation health risks
The house mouse (Mus musculus) is considerably smaller than a rat and with the following characteristics:
- Body length of an adult specimen - 7.5-10 cm
- Weight - 40-45 g
- Tail - 5-10 cm, equal to, or longer than the body plus head, with circular rows of scales and very little fur
- Fur - short, from light to dark brown and dusty grey, with lighter bellies
- Eyes - large for the head
- Ears - prominent, large for the size of the animal, with little fur
- Hind legs - small in relation to the body, with little to no fur
- Breeding - 3-12 offsprings per litter (5-6 on average), 5-10 litters per year
- Nesting - burrows and makes nests under floors, in wall cavities, ceiling voids, behind skirting boards
- Eating habits - omnivores, can eat up to 20% of their body weight, do not need a water source as they can get enough water through food
- Droppings - small, up to 3-6 mm with pointed ends; up to 100 droppings per day
- Lifespan - 12 to 18 months, mice can breed as early as 5 weeks of age
- Other characteristics - territorial, nocturnal, curious, flexible, sensible to noise and vibrations
- Mice eat 15 to 20 times per day
That's why their nests are located close to food supplies and they have developed a preference to live within human habitats. They can eat up to 20% of their own weight and can live without a water source since the greater amount of food provides them with enough water.
- They are curious explorers
One of the main differences between rats and mice is that the latter are quite curious when it comes to new things. They will explore anything new as long as it's within the limits of their territory. This is one of the reasons why the pest control for mouse takes a bit less time in comparison to the rat treatments.
- Mice do not travel more than 20 feet from their nests
Although quite curious, the house mouse will stick closely to its nest while exploring the nearby areas for food. Mice are territorial, especially the male ones where a single male will usually live together with several females and their young ones. However, mice can switch up their territorial behaviour to hierarchy if the population overgrows because of an abundant food supply and small home range.
- They do not live alongside rats
Mice are afraid of rats because the bigger rodent tends to prey on them - this behaviour is known as muricide and it's the reason why it's highly unlikely for you to have both species infesting your property.
- Mice have poor vision but their other senses are highly acute
The house mouse is almost completely colour-blind and can only see in dim light. However, to compensate for this, all other senses are extremely honed. For example, mice can use their whiskers to sense surfaces and air movements, which is why they manage to escape a room as soon as they notice you approaching.
- Infestations usually happen during autumn and winter
The house mouse usually manages quite well outdoors until the temperatures drop. That's when they start to seek shelter and usually end up in domestic or commercial premises where they find shelter, warmth and abundance of food.
- Mice are flexible and can fit through the smallest of openings
When it comes to entering a property, there's almost nothing that can stand in their way. Mice's flexibility allows them to squeeze their bodies through gaps as small as 0.6 cm. They can use the openings beneath doors, utility lines, pipe openings and more to gain entry into the premises. This is why proper rodent prevention, thorough inspection of the premises and sealing openings and entry points is key if you want to avoid mice problems.
- Their teeth never stop growing
Mice teeth grow at a rate of 0.3 mm each day which is why they constantly need to gnaw on something in order to file them down and keep them under control. Gnaw marks are actually one of the tell-tale signs of a mice infestation.
- Mice are excellent jumpers, climbers and swimmers
The normal gait of a house mouse is a short run - about 4.5 cm stride while keeping close to walls and edges. However, mice can jump as high as 45 cm and can walk along thin ropes and wires. They can climb vertical surfaces up to 2 metres in height which leaves a minimum amount of areas hard to reach for them. Mice can also enter the premises through toilets.
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The reason why the house mouse lives mainly in association with humans is because they are poor competitors and cannot survive in areas where other rodents are present.
However, mice are quite adaptable and their habitat conditions range greatly - they can be found in nearly every country, climate or type of terrain.
The house mouse typically makes an underground burrow if they live in the wild, which protects them from predators. They fashion such nests inside houses too or find a hiding spot, typically in places such as:
- roof spaces
- under floorboards
- wall cavities
- stacks of firewood
- compost heaps
- untrimmed grass or shrubs
Mice rely on a couple of ways to communicate to each other. They use high-pitched squeaks in the human range of hearing as well as in the ultrasound range, depending on the distance they have between themselves. Another way of communication is through pheromones which are contained in their urine. Those pheromones may have different effects on the mice population including speeding up or slowing down the sexual maturation amongst the females in the nest.
It's an urban myth that mice love cheese. A mouse's diet usually includes a lot of plant-based food including seeds, leaves, fruit and grains. However, over the course of living around humans, mice have adapted to an omnivorous diet and now feast on all kinds of food scraps. An interesting fact about the mice eating habits is that they also consume their own faeces in order to get specific nutrients produced only by bacteria in their intestines.
So what attracts the house mouse to your home in the first place? Why would they prefer your property instead of your neighbour's? Here's a list of most common reasons for mice to enter your premises:
Aside from the warmth and shelter human homes provide, the house mouse is also attracted by all the foodstuffs we so carelessly leave behind. Mice usually also have an easy access to pet food and bird seeds left out in the open. For a hungry mouse, what we leave outside and unsealed is more than enough to get their attention.
Clutter and food particles
Similarly, the tiny morsels of food people often leave on their dining tables, cookers, and other areas around the kitchen form sufficient meals for hungry mice.
But not everything is about food - mice also like peace, quiet and a safe place to set up a nest, so piles of clutter are a huge no-no if you want to avoid mice infestations.
Unkept lawns and fruitful gardens
Another source of nutrients for mice on the prowl is the rotting vegetation of an untidied yard. Same goes for the ripe produce of a vegetable (or fruit) garden which hasn't been harvested just yet. Mice will love to nest under the piles of leaves or in the tall grass and have their food source secured, just a few feet away. In fact, other rodents will do so as well, rats don't differ too much from mice in this aspect and they would also try to find a place in the garden to make a nest, in case you have mice or rats in the garden, we suggest getting rid of them ASAP.
Domestic and commercial settlements provide alternative food sources for the skittish mice in the form of rubbish piles, garbage bags and bin areas. Mice aren't picky eaters, to say the least, and will enjoy the scraps you've discarded for one reason or another.
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The house mouse reproduces throughout the year with a single female giving birth to 5 to 10 litters per year, if conditions are favourable. The pregnancy lasts up to 21 days and brings 5 to 6 younglings to the world. This means that infestations happen and grow exponentially with the number of females in the colony. If you already spotted mice presence, be it in the form of sightings or because of mice infestation signs, there's a great chance that your house is a shelter to a mice colony (or a few).
Thinking about mice outside the scopes of our homes brings endearing thoughts to some people because of their innocent looks. But when an infestation is present, one can't help but wonder whether or not their family and pets are endangered by the pest's presence.
The house mouse is timid in nature and there's a low chance for it to bite you, however, it brings the following dangers with it:
- Property damage and risk of fires - Mice chew on anything on their way, including electrical wires, wood and other materials around your house. This increases the chance of fires in the property.
- Structural damage and property destruction - Similarly, mice will not stop gnawing when they reach the structural elements of your house or the expensive furniture. They also eat textiles such as carpeting and upholstery.
- Contamination of food supplies - The goal of house mouse is to reach your kitchen cabinets, fridge insights or other food sources. Along their way, they spread disease and contamination spread by their urine and droppings.
- Spreading other pest species - Mice and rats may not be the end of your pest problems as they often bring mites infestations with them. Fleas, ticks, lice and other mites often travel from property to property on the backs of rodents.
According to the World Health Organisation, commensal rodents such as the house mouse and variety of rats "can be affected with a large variety of parasites and zoonotic agents. Additionally, commensal rodents are also linked to medical problems associated with asthma and indoor allergic reactions".
Mice are known carriers of different diseases, viruses and bacteria which they spread when infesting a certain area. Some of the health dangers include lyme disease, salmonella, leptospirosis and others. However, only a few of the many diseases are transmitted through the house mouse. They are not usually reported and most infections are mild, often even never diagnosed. Nonetheless, we shouldn't underestimate the mice's capabilities to contaminate our environment and compromise our health, and we should aim to rid of the pest as soon as we notice its presence.
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