8 Things Your Rodent Exterminator Wants You To Know

It's good to know what you're up against when rodents invade your home. Here's what pro exterminators say.

According to a 2013 article from the University of South Florida, rodents cause a jaw-dropping $19 BILLION in damage each year. That’s a lot of mice and rats and other furry fiends chewing through wires causing fires, not to mention structural damage from nests and incessant chewing of wood, drywall and plaster.

Rodents Carry Disease

Besides grossing you out, mice and other rodents can make you sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rodents can carry diseases such as as hantavirus, leptospirosis, listeria, rat-bite fever (you don’t need to get bitten to contract this) and the plague. And their prolific feces, urine and dander can wreak havoc on your allergies and immune system.

Rodents are Messy

Rodents may be tiny, but they aren’t subtle. They leave droppings and urine everywhere, along with bite and claw marks in food, wrapping and building materials, says Megan Cavanaugh of Done Right Pest Solutions.

To deter rodents from setting up shop, keep food in air-tight containers and clean up after meals. Store pet food in sealed plastic containers, too.

Rodents are Tiny Houdinis, so Monitor Accordingly

Depending on the rodent, they can squeeze through spaces as tiny as a dime. Yes, really. To ward off invasions, you must regularly and thoroughly check all your spaces for potential entry points.

Mike Duncan, national technical manager at Truly Nolen Pest Control, suggests checking:

  • Openings in soffits.
  • Air conditioning lines around the unit where pipes lead into the structure. Often times, rodents will use the insulation foam covering the freon lines to climb and enter at the roof/soffit areas.
  • Garage door sweeps. These become worn and often torn at the edges, which allows entry into the structure.
  • Debris around the home. “Rodents will often take refuge in these type of areas that go undisturbed,” he says.
  • Cavanaugh says that your foundation should be inspected annually, by you or a pro, for any deficiencies.
  • In-home usual suspect spots include the kitchen, laundry room, storage rooms and the basement.

Caulk is Your Friend — But Not Your Only Friend

caulk filling in the holes of a home where rodents enteredJustin Smith/Getty Images

“It is a good practice to caulk around small entry areas,” Duncan says. Some well-meaning people, he says, will try to keep rodents out by filling holes in their foundation or home with spray foam. Don’t.

“To a rodent, this is just protection from the elements and allows them to go unseen,” Duncan cautions. “It is a good practice to use some type of wire mesh or steel wool behind the foam to deter them for entry.”

You May Need an Exterminator

If traps and filling gaps on your own hasn’t worked, it’s time to call an exterminator. If you’re hiring a pro, Cavanaugh recommends these steps:

  • Get multiple bids.
  • Ensure the company has highly trained staff to take on your problem.
  • Get a warranty, if that’s important to you.
  • After the first or second visit your pest control company should be able to give you a reasonable time frame, so you can manage your expectations and remain satisfied with the service you receive.

Prepare for the Exterminator

Overall, Cavanaugh says, the visit should be low-stress. You shouldn’t need to vacate your home or do any specific prep. Your exterminator should give you thorough information and updates with each visit. (Yes, sometimes it takes multiple visits to solve the problem).

Ask About Exclusion

Duncan says if you hire an exterminator, make sure the company includes an exclusion service along with trapping. “Exclusion is the primary key to long-term eradication,” he says.

Trapping without sealing up how rodents enter the property will lead to an endless cycle of invasion and extermination. “Rodents will place rub marks, which will in turn bring others,” he says.

Pass on Bait Boxes

Duncan says people often ask if they should put bait boxes in attics or crawl spaces. He says they aren’t a good choice. “These draw more rodents to the home,” he says. “While the bait contains a toxin, if the rodent gains access to the structure, they can die inside and create an awful odor.”

The same applies to ‘throw packs,’ a pre-measured bag of bait that dehydrates and kills mice and rats. The rodent will eat the bait, Duncan says, then crawl elsewhere to die and decompose. That’s a problem. “Where they die can be something even Sherlock Holmes would have a hard time finding,” he says.

Katie Dohman
Katie Dohman is an award-winning freelance writer who has written about home, design, and lifestyle topics for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured in Artful Living, Midwest Home, Star Tribune, and Teen Vogue, among many others. She is currently living her own how-to story as she and her husband work through a complete gut remodel on their 1921 home—while parenting three tiny tots and dodging their dog and cat, who always seem to be underfoot.