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Mouse in the house. Or Rats, Bears, Ants, Termites, Cockroaches, etc.
By William May
Published: 03/01/15 Topics: Property Management, Vacation Rentals, Wildlife Comments: -
Whether a home is a vacation rental or just a treasured second home where families get away periodically, pests are often more of a problem than in the owner's primary residence. The question is . . . why?
Location --- While vacation rentals have become popular in urban and suburban areas, most vacation homes are in desirable locations such as by lakes, in the mountains and at the ocean. These areas are generally more remote and - shall we say - a little closer to nature.
LIONS & TIGERS & BEARS
And with nature comes wild animals. We can't say "Lions & Tigers & Bears" but we can say Bears, Mice, Rats, Bats, Raccons, Snakes and Insects. And - no one wants to say this aloud - bed bugs are also possible.
These critters are not dumb. They know where food is, they are adeptt at finding it. They seem to have a knack for attacking when no one is home - as is often the case with second homes.
Motels, hotels, inns and resorts in rural or remote locations are just as suspectable to the same problems, even though in those cases there is often staff far closer at hand.
Killing the Messenger
Owners who use professional vacation rental managers find it convenient to blame the manager (messenger) for bringing them bad news that one or more pests have decided to call their place home. But owners need to understand why such things happen and the limits to which planning, attention and diligence can help prevent such things.
Unfortunately, no one can protect a home full-time unless of course they want to pay for costly daily inspections. Even then, there are clear reasons why pests are a bit more common in second homes.
Cats - In a primary home, many owners have a cat or dog for friendship. But even the most docile cat is greatly feared by mice, rats and even insects. Mice hate the smell of cats. Just let loose your friendly feline to see that rage that lights up their eyes when they decide to torture a mouse. Creepy as it sounds, if your cat is not interested in patrolling you are feeding them just a bit too much.
Of course, it is not possible to leave a cat in a second home which is a great incentive to pests to show up.
Lights, Noise & Heat - Some vermin also are adverse to lights and noise and will avoid it if other equally desirable habitats is available. There are some pests like mice that actually prefer a warm abode.
Of course, it would be expensive to keep a home heated, lit and noisy at all times so that solution is of little help.
Lighting Fast - Arriving at a home with bugs or mice does not mean that housekeeping is lax. Think back to being a child, and discovering a line of ants waltzing in and out of a home following the chemical trail they have laid down.
That is, after all, how it works for insects and even small mammals. Find a spot, explore until you get in and then send back messages for the entire troupe to charge in. You may think it takes days or weeks for an infestation to happen but that would be wrong.
The gestation period of mice is only 20 days followed by an average of 10 off spring. They are ready to give birth in 3 to 4 weeks which means one mouse can turn into 300 in a year.
Research shows that ants can take over a house in as little as a hour. Mice and rats gleefully take over even faster and once they have moved in, they are not as easily convinced to move out..
Proliferate they do. There is a reason that ants, other bugs, mice and rats become visible almost instantly. A small infestation can go unnoticed even by the most diligent observer. But all these pests...
Hiding - And pests are great at not being seen. They have not survived for millions of years by offering to be prey to other animals. It takes some looking to find pests until they have expanded their colonies and left tell-tale signs.
There are some things that will slow - but not entirely avoid - discovering unwanted pests have one day invaded your second home.
Live there - Ok this is simply not a solution because owners must live most of the time in their full-time residence.
Get a cat - This idea too is unworkable for second homes, but has to be mentioned because it works so well. Outdoor cats? Nah, someone has to feed them and many prefer outdoors making them no threat to your indoor. Plus they are easy prey for coyotes and even racoons.
Sealing Tight - Seal every entrance to the home and lock it tight when departing. If you think your place is tight as a drum, getting down in the under floor crawl crawl, or shimmying through the attic may convince you otherwise. Check around plumbing and heating fixtures.
If necessary, mice and rates will eat the plastic off wires to make more space. In summer when doors and windows may be left open they seize the change to move right in. In autumn, when food falls short they are more determined to get inside. In spring, after some dormancy, they are even hungrier. Your house looks like a McDonalds with ready made meals.
Doors - The most frequent access to many homes is actually right in through the door. Did you know that many small mammals have the uncanny ability to flatten their rib cages which allows them to squeeze into the smallest of spaces. Make door seals air tight if possible. Older homes have more ":leads' than new homes.
You can almost hear the mice giggling when they find what - to them - looks like a espressway into your house.
Lock Tight - Never leave food out where the smallest ant could find it. Flour, pancake mix and other dry ingredients may seem safe at home but in vacation homes they are a feast for animals. Even oils and other baking goods should all be kept in sealed metal containers. Plastics is not as good because some critters will chew right threw it.
Inspections - Frequently take the time to look at every nook and cranny of your house, not just after you have discovered a mouse. Remember, rats in particular are excellent climbers. They feed in trees and your house is just another bridge to food.
Traps & Bait - Treating for pests yourself sounds like a good idea, but seldom is a full solution. But putting these devices in locations - safe from children - can be a barrier to entry. Baits can be dangerous so read the label and follow it explicitly. Re-bait and check traps often.
Vacation Rentals - Having guests arrive frequently helps in two ways. First, activity in the house alerts pests that humans are present and humans are dangerous to them. Guests arrive on unpredictable schedules another detractant to unwanted animals.
Frequent housekeeping - With guests comes regular cleaning of the home. Removal of crumbs from the floors makes less food available.
Pests usually show up suddenly and housekeepers can keep an eye out of invasions. They wont notice them all but this is a first-line of defense.
Periodic Deep Cleans - In addition to regular guest cleans, homes should be deep-cleaned periodically often once, twice or more per year. The goal is to clean unusual spaces such as inside cupboards, seldom used closets, dusting high spaces and other areas remove possible food and provides a visible inspection. Air vents must be opened and inspected.
Food in Refrigerator - When in residence, it is wise to keep all food in the refrigerator. This includes dry goods and bread and is a common recommendation in tropical climates where cockroaches are expert at finding any morsel outside the fridge.
Lastly, every home (not just second homes), should have regular pest inspections by a skilled pest control company. Hiring them once an infestation has started will require a higher cost and longer period of treatment. Do not be surprised when the pros recommend sealing the house further, and many of the steps recommended here.
When you home finally succumb to a pest invasion you will have a professional already familiar with your house who can jump right in and increases methods to rid your home of the problem.
And no matter how diligent the inspector, you can hope you will never experience an outbreak. When an outbreak comes, don't blame the pest inspector or you manager. Just realize that your second home is in a battle with some very small but very determined enemies that no one can completely avoid.
William May – Volunteer
Vacation Rental Assocxiation
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