Problems with Rats?
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Rats Here in The Villages

We have been bothered by rats since we got here in mid-November, and today Massey removed one dead rat from our attic. For days, the smell was unbearable and even though it has been removed, we've been told it will linger for a couple more days. Massey is baiting the rats around our home and is doing the same for four more of our neighbors. Massey says it is the bird feeders (one on Tatum) that the rats love, and he has spoken to some of his customers in our area that have bird feeders, but they won't remove them because they haven't seen any rats. About a week ago, I saw a rat in a tree while walking from Wilson Way to the Lynnhaven mailboxes. It was on an overhead limb and I just happened to look up at the time. Not a good feeling!

A plea to our bird-feeding neighbors: 
Bob and I live on Due West Drive here in the Village of Lynnhaven, where there is a rat infestation. There are now at least five houses near our home that have a problem with rats. Some of our neighbors are trapping or baiting the rats on their own, others are using professional services like Massey. We have been told by Massey that the rat infestation is due to the most recent hurricane and the food supplied by bird feeders. Rats love bird food. Don’t get us wrong. We love watching the birds that visit our landscape, but we would like to enjoy our homes without the rats. 

Would our bird-feeding neighbors consider suspending their feeding of birds until the rats leave and find some other neighborhood to find food? Before bird feeders came into existence, birds found food naturally. They will again. Thank you for your consideration.

Rats in Other Areas of The Villages and Florida

I've heard and read that rats have become a problem elsewhere in The Villages, as well, and bird feeders are not necessarily causing the problem. Fruit trees also provide an easy and tasty meal for rodents, and they are common in orchards and citrus groves. Because rats eat the fruit, they are sometimes referred to a fruit rats. Here in the southern states, roof rats are predominant. They are good climbers and can get into your house with just a very, very small gap. And, because we had a lot of rain before the hurricane, then the hurricane, they might have had a nest that flooded out and may have sought shelter and a new nest in your home. We had one a few years ago, but the person who came around to inspect for possible entrances to our house told us where to seal off access. We got some spray-on foam to close the gap and looked for other possible spots where they might have been able to enter.

Rats and mice DO make homes where there is a food source nearby, so put anything that rodents might get into in an air-tight container; keep garbage and food wrappings in a tight and lidded container. If you've got a dryer vent leading to the outside, be sure you seal off between the siding/wall and the vent, and cover an open vent with metal screening. Seal around pipes leading outside, like your air conditioner and air handler plumbing. If fruit falls from your trees, promptly pick up the fruit so it doesn't attract critters.

Roof Rats

roof ratRoof Rat (black rat, ship rat)
  • Sleek, agile and adept at climbing vines, wires, and walking narrow ledges.
  • Belly color: gray, white.
  • Fur is grayish black to solid black.
  • Adult size: 7-10 in.
  • Weighs 5-9 oz.
  • Nests in trees, attics, voids along the roof line, and in ceilings; usually in attics if found inside.
  • Lives above ground, but may expand nests to underground burrows.
  • Will also construct globular leafy nests in trees and enter buildings by tree branches, utility lines.
  • Seek cover and are attracted by dense vegetation, lush landscapes, fruit trees, and dog areas.
  • Eat meat and grain, but prefer fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. Will eat snails, slugs, and insects, as well.
  • Peak activity time: dawn or dusk; they are nocturnal. If they are heard during the day, the population is large.

7 Signs That You Have Rats (or Mice)

  • Rodent droppings most likely to be found near food packages, in drawers or cupboards, under sinks, in hidden areas, and along rodent runways, with the greatest number of droppings where they are nesting or feeding.
  • Animal gnawing, often found on food packaging or the structure of the house.
  • Foul odor, most likely to occur when rodents have recently entered a structure. Ongoing stale smell coming from hidden areas, indicating an active infestation.
  • Tracks and runways, smudge marks, footprints, urine stains, or droppings. If you suspect you have rodents, try placing a very thin layer of flour or baby powder there. If active, you are likely to see their trails in the powder.
  • Rat (or mouse) nests: use materials like shredded paper, fabric, or dried plant matter.
  • In your yard: rodents are attracted to piles of trash, organic waste, etc. for both food and nesting.
  • Population: If only seen at night and never during the day, population hasn't gotten too large and can be controlled with traps and bait. If seen during the day, with numerous piles of fresh droppings or gnaw marks, population likely large, which requires professional services.

How to Prevent and Get Rid of Rodents

  • Deny them entry or shelter: seal off access to your home with caulking or block with steel wool or wire screening.
  • Cut off water and food supplies. Remove food drippings and grease from grills, remove standing water, keep garbage cans neat and tightly covered with a lid, clean up food spills and don't leave food uncovered.
  • Try natural remedies like:
    • Peppermint and other essential oils (eucalyptus, grapefruit, sage, and lavender) where they travel. Dip some cotton balls in the peppermint oil and place them in the rat-prone area.
    • Ground pepper: pungent smell makes it hard for them to breathe.
    • Bay leaf: they think it's food, but it kills them. Repeat until all are gone.
    • Sliced onion in or near their holes.
  • Set up traps.
  • Get a cat.

Hope this has proved useful and has provided ideas for keeping your home free of rats and mice.