Rodents get their name from the Latin word of the mammal order they fall in, Rodentia, which itself, comes from the word Rodere, which means "to gnaw." One look at their continuously-growing incisors and the Rodent's Latin roots make sense.
And although there are over 2,000 different species, comprising almost 40% of all mammals and include animals like porcupines & beavers, most people associate the word "Rodent" with the more common annoying pests.
What is a Rodent?
The majority of rodents could be said to be small animals with robust bodies, short limbs, and long tails. They tend to use their teeth to gnaw food, dig burrows and defend themselves, usually eating some sort of plant material.
However, a more-to-the-point description that most people would immediately associate Rodents with would be Nuisance pests.
The origins of their very name give rise to an understanding of one reason they can be annoying; that gnaw-ing ability to cause property damage.
But more than that, Rodents can contaminate food and spread various diseases - a health concern for everyone and even moreso for those with families.
Common types of Rodents
Here in the North Carolina Area, the most common Rodents that people come into conflict with are:
In general, Rats tend to be larger than their mouse cousins and are instinctively wary of new things to their environment.
Unfortunately, this includes rat control measures like traps and bait. You might find them in your attic, under porches, wall voids and other hidden areas of your home.
Rats can carry serious disease, as well as bringing disease-carrying parasites like fleas and ticks into home and hearth.
As mentioned, mice tend to have smaller bodies than their larger rat cousins and are so common that the best known species is typically called the House Mouse. Another common type of mouse creating pest pressure for property owners is the Deer Mouse.
Mice can invade your home, looking for warmth, water, food and, unfortunately, can contaminate much more food than they can even consume - up to 10 times the amount of food they eat!
Why you want Rodents gone from your home
Because of their small size, rodents can be difficult to keep out of your home.
These common pests are much more than mere annoyance. They can cause property damage, spoil food and carry potential harm to your family's health. Rodents can taint food with waste, fur, and saliva.
Rodents are also hosts for fleas, which can spread diseases like the Lymphocytic ChorioMeningitis Virus or LCMV. Their saliva, feces, urine - not to mention a bite or scratch - can carry all sorts of nasty bacteria, virus, sickness - just overall nastiness.
Common Rodent Pests
The Rattus norvegicus is known by several names, with one of the popular ones being the "Brown Rat." Others include the common rat, street rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat, Norway rat, Norwegian rat, or wharf rat.
Found everywhere but Antarctica, the Brown Rat usually has brown or dark grey fur, while the underparts are lighter grey or brown. Their highly-developed sense of smell is a major reason why they are a common nuisance: they can smell the slightest trace of garbage and food waste.
Possibly originating from the plains of East Asia, this widespread rodent may have entered Europe as early as the 1550's, beginning its global conquest.
Brown rats typically nest in underground burrows from which they enter structures (like homes) in search of food, water & warmth, but tend to remain in hiding in daylight hours.
Once inside, you might find them in your basement, crawlspaces, attic or nearby sewer.
The Rattus rattus, also known as the Black Rat, Ship Rat, Roof Rat, and House Rat, originated in tropical Asia and reached Europe by the 1st century.
An incorrect assumption is that since they are called the Black Rat, they must be Black in color. Actually, they can be either Brown or Black and are typically smaller than the Brown Rat. They have hairless, scaly tails that are longer than their heads & bodies.
These rodents make their nests inside and under structures, in piles of garbage or wood. However one of their nicknames, the Roof Rat, gives us an idea of their excellent climbing ability. Thus, you might find these critters in your attic. That being said, they also prefer to eat fruit and nuts, so depending on what is being stored where, they could very well be found in basements or cellars as well.
The Mus musculus or House Mouse, has short light brown or grey to black hair with lighter-colored bellies.
They can enter homes via extremely small openings and tend to do so to escape weather or predators and to seek warmth and food.
Clutter in attics and basements provide perfect hiding spots for these rodents and dirty dishes or unsealed pantry goods offer food sources.
Although they rarely bite, these rodents and transmit diseases, as well as food poisoning.
Very inquisitive in nature, the house mouse will spend the day roaming its territory, exploring anything new or out of the ordinary.
The Peromyscus maniculatus or North American Deermouse (AKA just Deer Mouse), is a native rodent to North America and is usually bi-colored, with a light brownish-reddish top and white underbelly.
Outside, these mice might nest in hollow logs, tree holes, or under piles of stones or logs. Shy and avoiding humans, they might be found indoors in attics, basements or crawl spaces.
Although seemingly harmless, these pests carry the Hantavirus just as many other rodents do as well. Disturbing Deer Mouse urine or feces can lead to unintentional inhalation of the virus.
Tips to prevent Rodents from invading your home
Rodent prevention methods need to be implemented early in order to maintain a rodent-free home. They reproduce quite rapidly, and small populations turn into infestations very fast.
Keep garbage in sealed properly.
Ensure kitchen sinks and counters are never left dirty for long.
Don't leave cardboard laying around outside, as rodents tend to chew and use them for nesting.
Make sure that all the windows and vents are screened.
Make a thorough inspection of your home's exterior and patch up small possible entry-ways.
Many rodents enter homes via openings in walls, eaves and roofs from the branches of trees, so trim nearby tree branches to further prevent entry.