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Chew marks and droppings and rub marks, oh my! These are three telltale signs that there are rodents somewhere in or around a home. Has a customer called about an unwelcome houseguest scurrying around? Now is the time to pull out the first, and quite possibly the most important, tool in your IPM utility belt: the inspection process. Where do you inspect, though, and where may these pesky rodents be hiding? Rodents are small creatures, and thanks to their flexible backbone, they can squeeze in and under small spaces with ease. Let’s take a house tour from a rodent’s perspective. 

When starting to inspect the home, ask the following questions: where are these rodents coming from, where did they make entry and where could their nest be located? When we look around the perimeter of the house, we need to identify places where rodents would be able to enter. Mice and rats can fit into holes as small as one-quarter and one-half inch, respectively. Ideally, if we can identify where they are gaining entry, that information can help narrow down where in the home these rodents could be hiding. 

We then need to begin thinking like a rodent. If we are unable to locate where rodents are coming into the home, then we need to begin finding all the possible hiding places they could be. The three things that all pests seek are food, water and shelter. Where could they be finding one or more of these three necessities in the home? Let’s take a walk through the house.

Rodents often seek food and water sources in the kitchen.
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1. The kitchen

As you can imagine, the kitchen is a great place to look for pesky rodents. There is usually food lying around and water to be found, along with plenty of hiding spaces. They can be found in and behind kitchen cabinets, behind refrigerators and even in the pantry. When we think of these areas, we think of dark, warm spaces that food will fall under or behind (the pantry being the five-star buffet). These areas usually provide a drinking source of some kind, making all of them ideal places for rodents to hide in. Let’s keep moving through the house. 

2. The bathrooms

Thinking back to why rodents are in the house to begin with (food, water and shelter), bathrooms typically offer some of the essentials for survival that rodents seek. Aside from the easy access to moisture that a bathroom offers, it also tends to have numerous void spaces. When a bathroom is built, it can have voids under bathtubs, counters and even toilets. Rodents will look for any space that is warm and cozy in which to build their nest. 

As agile climbers, rodents may enter a home through the attic.
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3. The attic

Have you ever tried to get comfortable and settle down for the evening only to hear a sudden crash, thud or maybe some scurrying sounds? More than likely, there are unwanted guests hiding in the attic. Rodents often find their way into homes through attic spaces. Rodents, especially roof rats, love to be up high. Agile climbers, they commonly gain access to attics from openings in soffits or vents. Once inside a structure, they will likely begin searching for food and water to get settled into their new “home.” Sometimes, they don’t have to look too far for water: central A/C units often have condensation and make not only great water sources but also great hiding places. Before inspecting an attic, ensure that it is floored. Customers want rodents gone, but being able to safely conduct an inspection should be a priority.

4. Exterior areas

If I am a rodent, I probably came from somewhere outside of the home. I found my way inside using a hole or open door, or perhaps I chewed to make an opening. Looking around the perimeter for potential points of entry and places that I could be nesting or hiding should definitely be part of your IPM rodent inspection. Look for ground nests that could be under porches, sheds, A/C units or anywhere warm that might be ideal for a rodent dwelling.

5. Garage

While we are looking outside the home, let’s talk about garages. Generally, these fall into one of two levels of organization: highly organized and space-optimized or who-cares-it’s-a-garage. The state of a garage matters from a rodent perspective. If a garage is cluttered, has lots of great hiding places and maybe even some garage pantry items, beware! This is another perfect environment for rodents.

6. Crawlspace

The final hidden space rodents use is the oft-forgotten tool that we use to eliminate them: rodent boxes. Did your customer ever have a previous rodent problem? Did you or another company put a rodent (bait) box in the crawlspace? These tend to be neglected over time, and when left unattended, they can create a cozy nesting space for rodents. Be sure to fully inspect a crawlspace and any other areas that may have old rodent stations. 

These are just some of the common areas in which we often find rodents around the home. Although it may seem a bit childish or silly at first to assume a rodent’s perspective when thinking about conducting a rodent inspection, doing so is anything but child’s play. Rodents are extremely intelligent animals, and if we fail to consider all aspects of what motivates them to seek shelter in and around homes, we won’t be able to accurately determine where they are hiding. So the next time you have a customer call about a rodent problem, put your best rodent hat on and think like a rodent so that you can find and control them at the source.

Kristen Stevens, B.C.E., is director of training at Cook’s Pest Control, Decatur, Ala.