Mouse Prevention

A Mouse in the House     hagatha-the-great-mouser

 

Mice! I hate to find that mice have made their way into our house. It hasn’t happened for years, in part to my diligence and an awesome cat. The last time was about 8 years ago after our old cat died. The awesome kitty we have now was 4 years old 8 years ago when she came to live with us. No wonder she’s helping me slack, poor girl is 12 years old now.

 

As it happens the washing machine stopped working. After a quick youtube search and diagnosis, we took  the control panel apart. What did we find? Dog food. Yep shady little fur balls had dog food stashed in our clothes washer. Urgh, well it wasn’t because of the mice that it stopped working, it was a faulty lid switch. Not too shabby since we’ve had the washer longer than the cat.

 

Now we are maybe geniuses and slightly mean. I wiped the inside of the washer control panel and the rest of the machine down with bleach water, and replaced the dog food with mouse bait. Lunch is served.

 

Mouse Damage  mouse eating bread

 

Mice can cause major damage to infrastructure and appliances when they make themselves at home in our houses. They love to chew, which is not great since most homes are made of wood. It can also be very dangerous if  they get into electrical wires.

 

Mice are NOT Sanitary

 

Mice are also not sanitary. They carry a host of parasites and diseases that I don’t even want to get into, just think about The Black Plague. From 1346 to 1353 The Black Plague killed millions of people mostly because of a certain kind of flea that was being transported by mice.

 

Parasites aside, mice just kind of do their business every where. One way to tell if you have a mouse problem is by noticing their trail of feces or stains from their urine in corners or along your baseboards. As the problem begins to escalate a smell may become noticeable.

 

Mice are primarily nocturnal and have bad eyesight. So chances are you won’t see them out scavenging your home during the day. Their eyesight also makes them stick close to walls and baseboards. For the most part they will follow the same trail on a nightly basis, their keen sense of smell helps them follow this trail. The same trail we talked about earlier, pretty gross really.

 

How are the Mice Getting in?

 

The sneaky little beast don’t need much room to find an entrance. It’s important to routinely check your home for any small gaps, and repair them hopefully a tube of silicone will be enough.

 

  • Dryer vent ducts
  • Poorly fitting door
  • Drains and/or other places plumbing may come into the structure
  • Pet doors

 

Be Less Mouse Friendly    mice eating vegetables

 

  • Be tidy
  • Put all food away at night
  • Wash down all counter surfaces nightly
  • Keep all food stored in airtight containers
  • Keep excess pet food picked up
  • Store bags of pet food in airtight containers
  • Move furniture away from walls to clean regularly

 

How to get Rid of Mice

 

Today’s market offers a million ways to get rid of mice. Form classic snap traps to devices that can be plugged into a wall and emit a sound wave only mice can hear. Peanut butter may be the best bait for mouse traps if you ever have to use them. Please also remember to keep and bait or other poisons away from children and pets. All of that being said  I think it is easier to take measures to keep the mice away before they come in (too bad I don’t always succeed).  So here are some ways to get take care of the mouse problem when they do get in or as a backup plan.   mouse trap

 

  • Classic mouse traps  
  • Sticky traps
  • Edible mouse bait

 

Natural Prevention    king snake non-poisonous

 

  • Keep a cat -hopefully one that doesn’t like mice
  • Snakes – I hate snakes but a grass snake outside may not be bad
  • Birds of prey -if you live in the country an owl box may help
  • Mint – mice have a strong sense of smell, growing mint as a border plant around your house may deter mice
  • Dried Mint -sprinkle it by door ways and other places mice may enter
  • Cloves -can also be placed by doors or other places mice maybe
  • Peppermint oil – use some on a cotton ball
  • Clove oil

 

Make Your Own Concoction      mint

 

If you’re feeling creative or just need to off load some things from the garden or fridge you can always make your own mouse spray. Mice have a great sense of smell and so don’t really care for spicy or minty things. This gives us a couple of options, make a minty spray from herbs like mint and clove, or essential oils if you have them. Or a spicy spray from things like hot peppers Habaneros, or jalapenos. You get it.

 

Fresh or dried herbs or peppers if you like can either be boiled down and strained then added to a spray bottle with some water. Option two for your creative DIY-ers is to put the ingredients in a glass jar with either water, oil or even vodka and let it sit in a cool dark place for about a week and then strain it into a spray bottle. Sprays are quick to use and cheap once the time has been invested in making them.

 

Wow that’s a lot on mice. Hope someone found it helpful. Due Diligence and remembering to keep up with pest control routines may be the secret to keeping the the mice out.

 

Termites and Prevention

 

Why Plant Native

Some of our past blog articles have talked about native plants like Butterfly Milkweed. A couple of them have talked about invasive species that are found all over our area and have been here for a very long time like Queen Anne’s Lace. But we haven’t talked about why native plants are important. So why plant native?

Why Natives

Natives as a general rule of thumb are adapted to their environment.  This makes them more hardy to their particular climate conditions. honey bee on butterfly milkweed

PROS:

  • Less water
  • More tolerant to drought (if the area frequently has them)
  • Provide homes and food for native insects and animals
  • Don’t require as much fertilizer
  • Don’t require as many pesticides
  • Root systems are designed for the area’s geography, stabilizing rocky terrain or river banks for example.
  • Native plants have also developed to withstand their regions climate like wind and sun.

 

How Invasive Species Affect the Environment

 

Invasive plants have not had the time to adapt to their new conditions in some cases. In other situations non-native plants compete with the native plants and even effect the animals and insects. Queen Annes Flower

CONS:

  • Need more water
  • Need more fertilizer
  • Need pesticides
  • Take over native species, in essence choking them out
  • Take away nutrients from natives
  • Take sunlight from natives
  • Don’t provide sufficient food or shelter for native insects and animals
  • Do not have natural controls in place to control their expansion
  • Run rampant on uninhabited property

 

Yard Scenario 1

 

In a yard that just consists of a grass lawn and all non-native plants on average there maybe about a dozen native insects present.

 

Yard Scenario 2

In a yard with a grass lawn and all native tree, shrubs and flowers there should be hundreds of mostly all native insects.

 

Why Insects are Important

 

It is estimated that 97% of native insects are beneficial. They provide food for birds , bats , fish and other native animals. Spiders and other predatory insects keep fly and mosquito populations under control, along with a horde of other nuisance pests.

 

Native Plants and Animals Create a Sustainable Ecosystem

 

Incorporating just 20% – 30% of natives into your homes landscaping will encourage more native insects and birds to take up residency.     chickadee

 

A single pair of chickadees need up to 9,000 caterpillars to produce a clutch of eggs.

One native oak tree supports the caterpillars of 500 native moth and butterfly species. caterpillar-monarch

 

If we stop planting and encouraging native trees to grow on our property the caterpillars won’t be present for the chickadees to feed on in the quantity they need to breed.

 

We have turned 54% of the continental U.S. into a mixture of suburban and urban development, another 41% is being used for some sort of agricultural pursuit.  This leaves only about 5% undeveloped and still wild. With numbers like that our individual yards and landscaping choices can make a big difference to the environment and ecosystem as a whole.

 

To be honest I grew up in a family that loved to garden but in reality this doesn’t mean that I know a whole lot about native plants. My family loves plants like  elephant ears and banana trees, these are both far from native and are no use to our visiting wild rabbits.

We try now to incorporate as many natives into our personal yard as we can along with companion gardening. But…. the elephant ears and banana tree are both fond childhood memories that I still continue to plant every year. Native or not I feel close to my grandpa ever year when we plant them.         wild rabbit

 

Planting native is a choice that is beginning to give a whole new meaning to the term “Victory Garden”.   

 

Daucus carota or Queen Anne’s Lace

Daucus carota or Queen Anne’s Lace is a native from Europe and southwest Asia that has been naturalized to North America and Australia. Here in NWA we can find it freely growing in fields and along roadsides from May to October.

 

Common Names    daucus-carota-848680_640

This plant has many common names wild carrot, bird’s nest and Bishop’s Lace  just to name a few. The most common Queen Anne’s Lace comes from a story involving Queen Anne of  England pricking her finger and a drop of her blood falling onto the piece of lace she was sewing.

 

Physical Appearance    Queen Annes Flower

Queen Anne’s Lace grows up to 4 feet tall. It has long fern type leaves that can be as long as 8 inches. The stem  is topped with a large white flat head created from many tiny blooms that may each have a purple center giving the head an appearance that resembles lace. Once the fruit begins to form the flowers fold inward giving the flower the appearance of a bird’s nest.

 

Similar Commonly Mistaken For Plants

 

This plant closely resembles several poisonous plants. If you ever decide to try harvesting Daucus carota for any reason edible or display please have an expert help. Simply coming in contact with some of the plants that resemble it may cause serious physical harm. Some commonly mistaken imitators are:

Poison Hemlock

Water Hemlock

Fool’s Parsley

 

Ancestor to the Carrot

 

This biennial ancestor to the domestic carrot  lives for 2 years. The first year of it’s life it spends getting bigger and growing a long edible taproot. The root is pale and thin with a woody appearance about as big around as a finger. The root  may be used in a tea or soups and stews along with the seeds. The leaves are also edible in the first year and can be used in salad. In the second year the plant has a taste that is to woody tasting for consumption.

 

The Romans once ate the root as vegetable. The Irish, Hindus and Jews used it as a sweetener. It has the second highest sugar content for a root vegetable, the first being beets.

 

As A Medicine queen-annes-lace-324582_640

 

It was used as a medicine before it was considered a food. Ancient people used the seeds medicinally and the leaves as an herb. Today Queen Ann’s Lace is know to be an antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, anti-psychotic, and an anti-oxidant. Researchers are working on using it to help with Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, Cancer and diabetes.

 

Invasive Weed

 

Queen Anne’s Lace provides a great habitat and food source for many insects and animals. As well as being great to use in companion gardening for boosting tomato production and keeping lettuce cooler. All of that being said the USDA has declared it a noxious weed that competes too much with true native plants.

 

For now we will continue to see Queen Anne’s Lace in Northwest Arkansas. It will continue to provide a food source for insects and a habitat for birds. Even as farmers battle to keep it out of their fields.

 

Companion Gardening

help prevent garden pests without chemicals

help prevent garden pests without chemicals

We started learning about, and using companion gardening about seven years ago. It is a very easy, time saving and cost effective method to keep your garden happy and cut out a lot of chemicals. There are a lot of great books and the internet is full of resources about the practice. I wish we had started doing it sooner.

To break it down companion gardening is simply growing plants that are beneficial to each other in the same location. In some cases one plant may repel pest that commonly affect another plant, or a certain plant may grow deeper roots and deposit nutrients and minerals that another plant needs. Some vegetables or herbs may even make others taste better or increase yield. This is the way our grandparents did it, and now it is nearly a lost art. Lucky for us thanks to the trendy new green movement this practice is making a come.

Planting tomatoes and basil near each other is a good example of companion gardening. The basil’s strong smell repels unwanted insects from the tomatoes, and in return the tomatoes provide shade for the basil as they mature. Some people also believe that basil makes their tomatoes taste better (kind of makes since I add basil to almost everything I cook with tomatoes).

On the other hand it is important to realize that not all plants should be grown near each other. We learned this the hard way in our home vegetable  garden. One year we ended up with spicy banana peppers because we planted them to close to jalapenos. The nearby bell peppers suffered the same fate and the jalapenos came out sweet. Cross pollination in the works, but lesson learned and we won’t be doing that again.

Marigolds and other flowers provide benefits as much as veggies and other herbs do. Incorporating flower  borders around your vegetable garden is a great idea. This concept adds a lot of of appeal and turns an otherwise visually boring vegetable garden into a landscaping masterpiece. Most visitors will never know how hard those gorgeous marigolds or nasturtiums are working to protect your crop from aphids and other pests.

I love companion gardening it costs less and helps make my garden be more self sustaining, which saves us time and worry. We have less little critters eating our valuable produce before we can get to. I don’t have to worry about my chickens getting into all of those chemicals that would otherwise inevitably wash out into my whole yard.  Top that off with giving my whole yard a cozy cottage appeal, and giving the birds and butterflies more reason to stay.

Here are some of the combinations we use in our garden. There are many more and to be honest I can’t remember a lot of them or the exact reason why we plant things where we do any more it just works and we haven’t had hornworms in our tomatoes for years.

 

Tomatoes by Basil and marigolds

Beans go with just about anything

Mint deters mice and aphids we plant it all over (be careful it spreads fast)

Broccoli by Oregano

Bell Peppers by Tomatoes

Sage goes well with Broccoli and Cauliflower plus the bees love when it blooms

Strawberries and Thyme go well together if you have a worm problem

Hot Peppers no where near the Sweet Peppers

Catnip and eggplant to deter flea beetles

Cucumbers and radishes

Cilantro and spinach

Garlic and roses help keep japanese beetles away

 

Positive little critters that will prey on the more destructive ones

Yarrow brings in bees

Camille bring in wasps

Angelica attracts lady beetles and lacewings