07.10.10

Wild Mice

Posted in Wild Mice at 5:39 pm by Administrator

Removing Wild Mice From Your Home

Deer Mouse

1. Identifying the rodent species in your home.

  • Unfortunately you need to know the specific rodent that is calling your home their house.   The rodent control experts have specifically engineered traps, poisons and baits for almost every species of rodent.    For the purpose of this article we are going to focus on wild mice and not the common house mouse.
  • There are basically four types of wild mice in the United States that commonly enter homes for various reasons.

Deer Mice

Deer Mice

Meadow Mouse

Meadow Mouse

Harvest Mouse

Harvest Mouse

Field Mouse

Field Mouse

House Mouse

House Mouse

The House Mouse is listed for comparison purposes only.

  • One clue as to the identity of your mice problem is the food that is being consumed.  Wild mice will typically eat grains, seeds and other unprocessed foods.  A favorite food of wild mice is bird seed and you may find evidence of chewing or worse yet a hole in the bag or container you are using to store treats for your feathered friends.  The typical house mouse will eat almost anything from scraps that fall off the table to cracker crumbs on the living room carpet.
  • If you are lucky enough to get a good view of the critter there are a few things you can look for that will identify, which culprit is invading the sanctity of your home.
    • If the body of the mouse is dark brownish on the back and a silvery color on the stomach, then look at the head.  If the head has large bulging eyes and really big ears, you are probably looking at a Field Mouse.
    • If the stomach is definitely white and you can see the tail is not all one color, you are probably looking at a Deer Mouse.
    • If the mouse appears to have half oval ears that sit fairly close to the head and a short hairy tail, you are probably looking at a Meadow Mouse.
    • If the body of the mouse is reddish brown and the under-side is whitish, then look at the head.  If the eyes do not appear to protrude and the ears are relative to the head size, then you are probably looking at a Harvest Mouse.
    • If the mouse appears to be all the same color and the length of its tail is about the same as the length of its body, then take a look at the head and feet.  If the head and feet appear to be proportional to the rest of the body, then you are probably looking at a House Mouse.

2. Determining the extent of your rodent problem.

  • Listen closely in your home you may hear rustling or other noises coming from the walls or attic.  If you always hear the noises in the same place or there appears to be lots of activity in a specific location, you might have found where the mice are entering and exiting your home or possibly the location of a nest.
  • Look around your home for perfectly round circles chewed in bags, containers, walls or floorboards.  Your typical wild mouse can enter through a hole slightly smaller than a dime.
  • Look around your baseboards, behind a stove, refrigerator or under a cabinet.  If your see small ¼ inch or less in length cylindrical shaped black specks that appear to be tapered on both ends, you are probably seeing mouse droppings.   When looking at the baseboards, look for discoloration or signs of urination where the baseboard meets the floor.  Mice tend to run along the edge of items more frequently than crossing an open area.
  • If you are still not sure if you have a mouse problem, then you might have to get a little creative to learn the truth.  Today we have the advantage of video and web cameras that can easily be turned on to record a brief period of time.  Place some grain or seed in a small lid top and smear a little peanut butter on one edge.  Set the bait in an area you believe the mice are traveling and turn on your nanny cam or other recording device.  You may have to try it a couple of nights in a row to ensure accuracy.  If your recording don’t show any mice or you don’t have a recording device, relax there is another method you can employ.  If you have talcum powder you’re in good shape, if not don’t fret, just run some flour through your cake sifter onto some wax paper.  Go to any room or area with a non-carpeted floor and sprinkle your powder along the baseboard, the sprinkled area should be about six inches in length and three inches in width and on either side of all entrances to that room.  If you have mice, you should see little foot prints in the powder.  Another high tech solution would be to use an ultra violet light to fluoresce the rodent urine.  You can purchase a flashlight style ultra violet light at  http://store.doyourownpestcontrol.com/default.aspx – UV Pro Tracker for under $50.00
Mouse Tracks
Mouse Tracks

3. Potential problems with mouse infestations.

  • Mice can be carriers of a few diseases that are transmittable to humans.
    • Hantavirus
    • Lyme Disease
    • Salmonellosis

Almost every predator loves to snack on these little critters and you could be giving them an open invitation to visit you and your home.

  • Here is a brief list of some of the other creatures, which might call on your home for a quick snack.
    • Snakes.
    • Birds of Prey.
    • Stray Cats
    • Foxes
    • Weasels

Bull Snake

Bull Snakes Love Mice

  • Mice love to chew.
    • A mouse does not just chew a hole in a bag for food, they will also chew holes
      • Walls
      • Floors
      • Roofing
      • Electrical wiring.

4. Mouse eradication process.

  • Disruption.
    • Disrupt their food supply.
      • Place bird seed in a metal container.
      • Do a walkthrough of your entire home and note any food sources that might attract rodents.  Your list should contain any food that is purposefully placed on the ground, such as pet food or spills from finicky birds or other caged animals that toss uneaten particles out of their cage.  Look inside pantries and under cabinets for bagged food, which could be providing the rodents nutrients.  It is important that you dispose of any food items that you believe the mice have already gained access into, even if it looks like they just nibbled a little out of the corner of a bag.  Now the important part, take your list and fix everything you noted.  Elevate the dog or cat dishes a few inches off the floor.  Place any bagged food items in either tins or other mouse proof containers.
  • Exclusion
    • Exclusion is preventing the rodents from entering your home from the outside.  The rodent population you currently have inside will be dealt with later on in this guide.
      • Walk around your foundation and fill any cracks or holes with either course steel wool or Stuffit© and then seal the opening with caulk or your favorite type sealer.
      • Check the front back and side of your home for any openings.  These could be where a knot in a plank of wood fell out, a place where a woodpecker drilled a hole or where a mouse chewed through.  Fill the hole and seal it.
      • Now you want to ensure that all your screens fit nice and tight, your screen doors or screened patios don’t have holes.  Check your doors to make sure the weather stripping has no holes or gaps and that your dryer vent is a modern vent that automatically opens when the dryer is on and closes when it is finished.  Check the rubber on the bottom of your garage doors and ensure you have a good fit when the doors are closed.
      • Mice are really good climbers and can scale surfaces you might not think about, so we have to prevent their entry up high as well.  Look at your soffiting and make sure it is good repair, especially where it comes in contact or close proximity to the roof or a tree branch.  Make sure attic vents are properly screened and free of holes.  Ensure you have wire caps on your chimneys and any open pipes that do not have covers.
  • Deterrents
    • Now we need to take a look at the areas surrounding the home.  Wild mice have lots of predators, so they really don’t like to be out in the open or without a hiding spot.
      • Start by mowing the yard and weed eating around gardens and bushes.  Long grass or weeds give mice great cover from all natural predators.
      • Make sure wood piles are a significant distance from your home and not just stacked up alongside the house or garage.
      • Trim the underside of any bushes that are next to the house, ideally you want just a couple of inches of clear space between the ground and the start of the bush.
      • Ideally you should have a 6 to 10 inch clearing starting from the foundation and extending away from the home that is free of mulch and other debris.  Small rocks or pebbles work well as a substrate for this clearing.  This area is like a magic line as the mouse is completely exposed to any and all predators while in this area and that just is not a comfortable position for any critter on the main menu.
      • Lastly pick up any debris piles in your yard that a mouse might use as cover when running from one location to another.
  • Understanding Your Rodents
    • For the most part rodents are nocturnal, so you are more likely to see them in the early morning or evening.
    • Rodents are a primary food source for many predators, so they typically like to move in stealth mode, where they are less likely to be spotted.  In most cases when we see a mouse, it is because they are scurrying between protective cover locations and the sudden movement catches our eyes.  In most cases they will travel along a wall, behind furniture, in cabinets, under appliances or in our walls and attics.
    • A little mouse might look cute, but a female mouse is able to breed at about 6 weeks of age and in general will have around 7 to 10 litters of 5 to 7 pups a year.  As you can see an infestation of mice can happen very quickly and within a few months, you can literally be overran with mice.
    • Most mice will only venture a short distance from their nests, usually no more than 10 meters or 30 feet.
  • Capturing or termination of existing populations.
    • Preparing the inside of your home for the removal of rodents.
      • In this step of our guide we literally need to clean house.  You can either do it yourself or pay a maid service to come in and either do it for you or lend you a helping hand.  Basically you have to remove the clutter from your home and your garage, this means organizing your closets, pantries and cabinets.  You want to remove anything that can be used as shelter by a mouse and facilitate the placements of baits, poisons or traps.
    • Live Trapping
      • There are several traps available for removing mice without injury and these traps can be purchased online or any hardware store.
      • Follow the directions for setting and baiting the traps you purchased and practice a couple of times in a well lit area, so you are familiar with the operation of the trap.  I personally would bait the trap with some bird seed and a little dab of peanut butter placed on a piece of bread.  This method of baiting is attractive to both wild mice and house mice and it really does not matter, which one you catch as you want all of them evicted from your home.
      • Place the live traps under cabinets, behind furniture, in bedroom closets or utility closets where children and pets are less likely to disturb them.  If you do not have pets or young children, you would want to place the traps along well traveled walls.
      • Two nice inexpensive traps are the Tip Trap and the Victor live trap.  These are both relatively small traps and make for easy placement.

    Tip Trap

    Tip Trap

    Victor Live Trap

    Victor Live Mouse Trap

    • Death Traps
      • These traps generally kill the immediately, however there are some like the glue boards where death is not as quickly administered.
      • Follow the directions for baiting and setting the traps and again practice a few times in a well lit area, until you’re comfortable setting them.  I like to bait these types of traps with a peanut butter ball that I have mixed with some flour and seeds, until it forms a firm ball.  You can use a manufactured mouse attractant like Bell Provoke if you prefer and can easily purchase it online.
      • Just like live trapping, you want to place the traps where they will not be disturbed by children or pets.
      • You can purchase death traps at most stores, from the tried and true spring trap made by victor or any of the other brands you desire.

Victor Mouse Trap

Victor Mouse Trap

  • DIY Traps
    • Mice have a way of bringing out the evil in people and the do it yourself traps range from safe and effective to bizarre and extremely dangerous.
    • Perhaps one of the most effective and safest traps I have seen is the bucket trap, which can be made to either live catch the rodent or kill it.  You can get directions for making it readily online and the assembly requires basically a drill, a coat hanger, a bucket and a soda can.
    • I have seen DIY traps that fling the rodent into an object with such force as to kill it.  Ones that use a thin wire, which snare the animal and I even saw a guillotine mouse trap once and it appeared to be fully functional with the owner swearing that it was effective.
    • Placement and baiting of these traps would be similar to any other type trap.

Bucket Trap

Bucket Trap

  • Poisons
    • Think twice about using poison as the repercussion can be long reaching.  Poisons work slow, allowing the animals to die in your walls or other places where you don’t have access.  These rodents then rot and can stink.  If the rodent happens to make it outside, it is usually in a weakened state and easy prey for any number of predators, who ingest the poison and potentially die along with the rodent.  In addition it is possible your pet or child may find the poison and we just really don’t want to go there.
    • If you are set on using poison, there are several kinds on the market from bait traps to boxes you tear open.  Make sure you place them in a safe area where there is no possibility of an accident.

Aegis Bait Stations

Mouse Bait

Mouse Bait

  • Professional Removal
  • This is the best method of pest eradication.  A licensed professional is trained and has the knowledge of exactly what to use and how to use it.
  • Disposal
    • Live rodents
      • You know that neighbor you love to hate!  Just kidding.  You can release the rodent at the edge of your property.  If you would like the little critter further away, check you State and local laws and release it in the forest preserve.
    • Deceased Rodents
      • Prior to handling any dead rodents or contaminated traps, you should put on a pair of rubber gloves.  Drop the mouse into a Ziploc bag and dispose of it and the gloves in the garbage.
  • Sanitation
    • Traps
      • Any traps you desire to keep should be washed in a mixture of bleach and water.  Shake excess water off outside and allow trap to dry.
    • Hands.
      • Wash your hands with soap and water; you can use antibacterial soap if you like.
  • Interior Exclusion
    • With your mice problem gone, you will need to do a little interior exclusion, just like you did with the outside of your home.
      • Walk through every room in your home and look for cracks and holes where the rodents might be entering or exiting the interior of your home.  Pack each crack or hole with a course steel wool or a copper rodent protective mesh like Stuffit©.  Seal the crack with caulk or any other sealant you desire.

Protected Mouse

Mice are resilient - Never Surrender

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07.08.10

Bathroom Mirrors

Posted in Bathroom Mirror Cleaning at 10:40 am by Administrator

The Bathroom mirror is the hardest mirror in the home to keep clean.  We decided to take three products and put them to the test.

  • Products
    • 50% White Vinegar and 50% Distilled Water
    • Windex – Blue bottle
    • Barbasol Shaving Cream

We started our test with a triple mirror vanity and cleaned the first panel with the vinegar and water solution.  The second mirror was cleaned with the Barbasol shaving cream and the third mirror with Windex.  We used a clean dry microfiber cloth for the mirrors cleaned with vinegar and water and Windex.  We used a common lint free rag to wipe away the majority of the shaving cream and then polished it with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

Our first test was general cleanliness of the mirrors and we started by evaluating the mirrors ourselves.  We determined that the vinegar and water solution cleaned the mirror, but left a slight haze that could be seen by viewing the mirror at different angels.  Both the Shaving cream mirror and the Windex mirror appeared clean and haze free, although the shaving cream mirror appeared to have a deeper reflection than the Windex cleaned mirror.  Next we invited three individuals to rate the mirrors as to their general cleanliness, but only told them they had been cleaned with three different products.  All three of our volunteers rated the vinegar and water mirror as the worst and followed up their rating with the Windex mirror coming in second and the shaving cream mirror coming in first.

Our next test was the fogging factor and we promptly shut the door and turned the shower on hot with the exhaust fan off.  The first mirror to start fogging was the vinegar and water mirror, which started fogging within 30 seconds of turning on the shower.  One minute into the shower and the vinegar and water mirror was completely fogged over and had severe condensation build up to the point of water droplets streaming down the mirror.  The Windex mirror was just starting to show signs of hazing and the shaving cream mirror was still crystal clear.  Two minutes into our test and the Windex mirror was completely fogged over and by three minutes it appeared no different than the vinegar and water cleaned mirror.  We left the shower on another three minutes, before shutting it off and turning on the exhaust fan.  The mirror cleaned with shaving cream was still crystal clear with no signs of fogging.

The next test was to see how long it would take for the mirrors to clear up, before moving on to our final test.  The Windex mirror cleared within a few minutes, but showed signs of where the condensation streaked the mirror.  Finally about fifteen later the vinegar and water mirror cleared and was streaked much heavier than the Windex Mirror.

For our final test we told our volunteers we were having the mirrors cleaned by four different people and we wanted them to judge, who was the best mirror cleaner.  The problem is we lied, we just wanted to see how they rated the three methods we used individually.  For round one, we cleaned all mirrors with the vinegar and water solution and sent in our volunteers.  All three were not impressed with the cleanliness of the mirrors and said if it were their home, they would have issues with the maid’s performance.  The Windex mirror received much better reviews and seemed to satisfy our volunteers need for cleanliness.  We repeated the process with the shaving cream and received similar results to the Windex cleaning.  Just to insure our volunteers were not being biased, we told them for the fourth test we were going to send in one of our maids who they already rated and see if they could tell us, which maid cleaned the mirrors.  We promptly cleaned the mirrors with vinegar and water again and sent the volunteers back in to inspect.  You guessed it they all quickly identified the maid that cleaned the mirrors with vinegar and water the first time.  When we told them that the same person cleaned the mirrors all four times, just using three different products they stood there for a moment appearing dumbfounded and then started laughing.  The best product may not always be the most obvious, or the most expensive.  The verdict is Barbasol Shaving Cream wins hands down across the board when it comes to cleaning mirrors in this test.  We will now test it against other mirror cleaners and see if we can dethrone the King.

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06.14.10

Raccoons

Posted in Raccoons at 11:03 am by Administrator

Baby raccoons in a tree

Don't let the cute babies fool you

Almost everyone in the United States has seen or encountered the masked bandit. The raccoon has adapted to urban living almost as well as their human neighbors and probably coined the term dumpster diving. As an omnivorous creature they will eat almost anything from the leftover lasagna you threw away, to the apple pie you left on the windowsill. Although raccoons look adorable especially when the mother has a full line of the little mischievous youngster trailing her, one must remember it is all an illusion. Raccoons have large teeth versatile paws and the unique ability to get into anything, anywhere at any time. You should never corner, taunt or tease a wild animal as the end result is usually detrimental to you or the animal. With that said, let’s examine a few ways to deal with this critter that is currently making your life a living nightmare.
Important Raccoon Facts:

  • Raccoons breed between January and March and have a 63 day gestation period. Typically that means 2 to 6 babies will be born between March and June.
  • Raccoons are omnivorous, they will eat almost anything.
  • An adult raccoon can weigh between 12 and 35 pounds and measure from 24 to 46 inches in length.
  • Raccoons can be identified by their bushy ringed tails and their black masks.
  • They are generally nocturnal and seldom seen in the day. If you see a raccoon during daylight, beware as it is probably sick or injured and contact with the animal potentially put you in a very hazardous situation.
  • Raccoons can carry several diseases; some might be transmittable to humans. In addition to diseases many raccoons are hosts to ticks, lice and fleas.

Prevention: It is always best to be proactive and prevent a possible problem, before it rears its ugly head and bites you in the bottom. With that in mind, let’s examine some simple things that we can do to make our homes and property less inviting to that problematic creature.

  • Ensure your trashcan has an animal proof lid and never overfill it so the lid will not close properly or leave plastic bags stacked beside it.
  • Cut back any tree limbs that overhang your roof.
  • Place an animal proof screen around your chimney.
  • Ensure any loose soffits are secured and any holes leading into your home are fixed.
  • If you’re feeding the birds, you’re probably feeding the raccoons as well and should ensure that the feeder is placed at an adequate height and has a barrier to prevent animals from climbing up the shaft.
  • Secure your doggie-door and if you’re feeding animals outside, stop! If you continue to feed the stray cat, then you are inviting every wild animal in the neighborhood over for the buffet.
  • If you have a trellis against your home, remember it is like a latter to a raccoon and if it is high enough they will be able to gain access to your roof.
  • If you have vines growing up the sides of your home, then you probably have a raccoon autobahn to your roof.
  • Consider an electric fence, situated about 2 ½ inches off the ground with the wires spaced about 3 ½ inches apart to protect your garden.

Removal: The Removal of an unwanted raccoon can be a daunting task.

  • Raccoon in the attic, crawl space or cellar:
    • The critter successfully found a way into your home and now you need to determine approximately how many might have infiltrated your defenses. First we need to know if it is March, April, May or June as this is typically when the babies are born. If it is one of those months, then you probably have a Momma and 2 to 6 babies in the nursery she built. You really only have a few options that can be exercised at this point.
  • You should always use a professional to remove wildlife. The potential cost to you, should anyone get injured far surpasses the cost of having a wildlife removal expert handle the problem.
  • Attempt to convince Momma to voluntarily move her young to a better location.
    • The use of chemical deterrents is typically ineffective and succeeds only in smelling up your home. These include things like mothballs, ammonia soaked rags and predator urine.
    • Devices, which use an ultrasonic sound typically, do not work either.
    • Taking advantage of the raccoon’s habits and tendencies can be effective and pose less risk to the homeowner than confronting the animal. Momma selected the location of her nursery, because it provided the protection necessary to birth and raises her young. Basically, what you are going to do is take away all the traits that Momma liked about her new nursery. Start by adding a garage style light and let the sun shine in. Next add an Am-Fm radio and turn the music up all day. If that does not convince Momma to move out that night, then it’s party time. Send up a nice warming gift of about ½ dozen balloons and slip one end of a garden hose as close to Momma as you can get, leaving the other end of the hose where you can use it like a direct line to Momma. About every 2 hours, slide a broom handle with a pin attached to the end in and pop a balloon. Each time a member of your family walks past the hose, have them scream and yell into it. Momma more than likely will find her new nursery unsuitable and start moving her babies. Make sure all the babies are gone, before fixing the entrance holes.
    • Trap Momma and locate the young. This is much easier said than done as the babies can be hidden anywhere and if Momma told them to shut-up, you won’t hear a peep. The last thing you want to do is trap Momma and not find the young as they will most likely starve to death and stink up the area. You must also check your State laws as trapping, even with a live trap may be illegal or require a special license or permit. Provided it is legal to trap a raccoon in your city, you will need to get a live trap sturdy enough to do the job. I recommend the Havahart Raccoon trap number: 1079. This trap is constructed of 14 gauge wire and has a spring loaded door. The trap itself measures 10”x12”x32” and is definitely durable enough to hold the most rambunctious of raccoons. Next you want to place the trap where you are most apt to catch Momma Raccoon and not the local Skunk or the neighbor’s cat. Raccoons will eat almost anything making your job of baiting the trap a piece of cake. Just pull out some leftovers from your refrigerator and place it as directed in the trap instructions. Once you have captured Momma, take her and the babies several miles away to your local forest preserve and release them. Ensure you seal up all entrance ways to prevent additional occurrences. I would recommend having a professional come in and decontaminate your attic.
    • If there are no babies involved and you are positive that the critter(s) are adults, then the removal process is simpler. Wait, until dusk or early evening and check to make sure they have left to forage for food. Seal all entrance ways and disable the method they were using to gain access.
  • Raccoon under your shed or porch:
    • First try and determine exactly what is living under the shed. Check your weather forecast and make sure you are going to have a few days of clear weather. Sprinkle a layer of talcum powder in the opening and wait. Visually check the hole each morning and look for foot prints or scat, once you find either, you can easily go online and find the culprit. If there is a possibility of babies, wait, until Momma starts bringing them out on her nightly trips and then lock the door to her den. I recommend putting some grass clippings in the hole and then using either rebar or wire mesh to seal off the hole. Visually check the hole and see if the grass has been spread down into the hole, this typically indicates something trying to get out versus trying to get in. If the grass has not been tampered with for a few days or is spread toward the outside of the hole, you have successfully evicted your guest. Now you can fill in the hole or make a permanent fix.
  • Raccoon physically in your home:
    • You should seriously consider hiring a wildlife removal expert. A cornered animal is not a friendly animal and you could find yourself going head to head with one unhappy critter. Not only that, but in your attempts to convince your guest to leave, you could end up with a lot of broken heirlooms.
    • Open up one side of your home, preferably the side with the most openings. Try and close off any doors leading to bedrooms, bathrooms, utility rooms or closets. It is very important to not block the exit route! Once you have sealed off all other avenues, you will want to enter the home from the non opened side and gently coax the raccoon to leave on its own accord. A large garage broom works great and is easy enough to control as you guide the interloper out of your home. If the animal becomes aggressive, back off and slow down your approach.

A cute little baby all grown up, notice the teeth?

Raccoon with very large teeth

Notice the large canine teeth?

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Welcome to All-Star Maid Service

Posted in Welcome to All-Star Maid Service at 10:12 am by Administrator

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Our blog is designed to provide you with tips and tricks for all your cleaning needs.  We will discuss and provide information from pesky critter removal to making that old stove look new again.

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