A rodent infestation is incredibly unsettling. Rodent problems can quite literally keep you up at night as nocturnal rats scurry their way in and out to scavenge for food. Determined to find shelter, rats will gnaw their way through a variety of materials to nest in the cracks and crevices of your home. Prolific and highly intelligent, rats are some of the toughest pests to handle and require a well-informed approach. If you’re looking to help prevent and avoid rodents in your home, here are the essentials.
Common Types of Rodents in Hawaii
Several rodents call Hawaii home, but the three most common types of rats are Polynesian rats, Norway rats, and Roof rats.
The Polynesian rat, or Rattus exulans, is unique to the Pacific region of the world. It is the smallest rat species in Hawaii, weighing in at 2-3 ounces and often less than 5 inches long. R. exucalns has a long-standing reputation as a field pest rather than a home invader, so you are more likely to notice their activity outside of your home or in spaces like rock piles and embankments.
Norway rats, or Rattus norvegicus, are the largest of Hawaii’s most common rats. They measure 7-9.5” long, plus a 6-8.5” tail. Known more commonly as brown rats or sewer rats, they have an appetite to go with their large size. Norway rats will even feast on garbage, and can survive in many conditions thanks to the fact they are not selective about their diet. They are common in urban and suburban areas and prefer the lower levels of buildings, such as basements and cellars.
The Roof rat, or Rattus rattus is commonly called a black rat. Though smaller than Norway rats, Roof rats’ 6-8” tails measure as long as their bodies. They prefer to sneak into homes through roofs and attics, giving them the best climbing skills of the common rats. Roof rats do have a narrower diet with a preference for fruits, making them less likely to chew wires but still likely to rummage through garbage or destroy goods.
When Rodents Get Access
Rats primarily seek shelter during cooler months, but can make themselves at home on your property year-round. Their sharp, strong teeth allow them to make tiny holes big enough to crawl through. However, they don’t need much room in the first place. Rats can fit through an opening as small as a quarter.
Rats not only burrow their own homes, but networks of tunnels to feed their large families and insatiable appetites. Outdoors, rats may burrow in the soil around your home and under its foundation. At that point, they may easily access your basement as well. Once living indoors, rodents can make their tunnels inside of walls, and that’s when serious property damage can take place.
Potential Property Damage
Rats can chew through wood, wires, plastic, insulation, and more. Their teeth grow indefinitely, and they keep them pared down by chewing on whatever gets in their way. In more severe infestations, the combination of chewing through drywall and electric wiring poses a major fire hazard.
The other sources of rodents’ destruction are what they leave in their path: urine and feces. Rats will urinate as they travel, whether that is in walls, on surfaces, paper, or clothes. They’ll leave their capsular droppings that are often your first indication that you’re dealing with a rodent infestation. As with any other animal waste, rat-leavings pose health risks and create unpleasant odors.
Rodents are also known for bringing unwanted passengers: ticks and fleas. A rodent problem can escalate into a flea problem if the insects fall off of rats and into your carpet. Between their pesky passengers and unsavory diets, rats are also known for spreading pathogens that can cause disease. An unresolved rodent problem increases the possibility of property damage and potential illness.
Preventing & Avoiding Rodents
Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself and your home from the damage of rodent infestations. The best way to avoid rodents is a proactive approach or “building them out.”
Sealing up openings
Since rats will take advantage of any tiny opening, it’s important to make sure all of the cracks, crevices, and potential entry points on the outside of your home are sealed. Seal any openings that are larger than ¼ of an inch. This includes any spaces where utility conduits enter the building so that you can protect those wires. Leaky pipes are also a risk as rodents seek to nest near a water source. Sealing up all of these openings ensures rats will be less likely to enter in the first place.
This precaution seems like common sense, but while most of us remember to throw our garbage out, the key to not attracting rodents is to keep the lids on tight. Securing trash can lids, in addition to keeping your home free of trash and scraps, limits food sources for rodents. Limiting their food sources will naturally result in fewer rodents congregating near your home.
Get Help When You Need It
While prevention is the best way to avoid a rodent problem, an existing rodent problem requires calling a professional. Rats breed at an alarming rate, so that short-term solutions like traps and poison will only prompt them to rapidly replenish the population. If you’re already finding evidence of rats, it’s already time to call an exterminator.