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Rodents make up the most numerous group of mammals, with 2277 species, accounting for 41% of the known mammals. They are a very diverse group in both size and habitat, ranging from the South American capybara weighing up to 66kg, to the Baluchistan pygmy jerboa, the female adults of which weigh less than 4gm.
Rodents are found on every continent except Antarctica. They live in a wide range of different habitats from snow-covered tundra to hot deserts. Some species of rodent are also the common invaders of the human environment:
There are over 200 species of rodent in North America, over 70 species in Malaysia and India, but just 10 native species in the British Isles.
The distinguishing feature of rodents is a pair of continuously growing, incisor teeth in their upper and lower jaw. These teeth grow throughout the life of the rodent so it must continuously wear them down to prevent them becoming too long.
Rodents are known to be the following, depending on their species:
They use a variety of different methods of locomotion including quadrupedal walking, running, climbing, bipedal hopping, swimming and gliding. Some are nocturnal and some are diurnal.
Rodents tend to be social animals, living in small to very large colonies. They also have the ability to breed rapidly in favourable conditions, which is one of the reasons why they are such a concern when you have an infestation in your home or business.
The majority of rodents are herbivores, feeding on seeds, nuts, roots, tubers, stems, leaves, flowers and fruit. Some are omnivores, eating meat such as insects opportunistically and a small number are carnivores.
Rodents are not just pests, they have been used throughout history for food, fur, and more recently as pets and laboratory animals. Guinea pigs were a major meat source for the Incas, while dormice were a delicacy of the Romans, who kept them in special pots and enclosures. Many cultures around the world still eat wild rodents because they are readily available sources of meat.
There are a wide range of different types of rodents are kept as pets by humans, they usually tend to be small rodents, but can grow quite large depending on the level of food they are provided with.
Rodents used as pets include:
One of the main problems with a rodent infestation is the damages they cause. Rodent’s are known for being curious creatures and will often explore new areas in the search of food.
Rodents cause immense economic losses worldwide by:
Rodents can carry a wide range of organisms that cause illness in humans. These can be transmitted directly by rodents through:
Transmission can also occur in ‘cooperation’ with a range of parasites that feed on both them and humans: fleas, ticks, lice and mites. Many species of rodents can transmit disease via these ‘ectoparasites’.
In addition, many species of rodent are important reservoirs of a number of major diseases carried by mosquitoes and biting flies that transfer the diseases between the animals and humans they feed on. This mainly affects people living in remote areas as well as travellers and hunters visiting rural areas. Wild rodents that harbour human diseases include voles, mice, squirrels, marmots and prairie dogs.
There are three rodent species which are responsible for most pest problems in the human environment worldwide: house mouse, brown rat and black rat.
Originally native to restricted geographical areas, they have adapted well to the human environment and been unintentionally introduced around the world by human travel and trade over thousands of years. They have different physical characteristics, feeding habits and behaviours which are used to identify them and their presence.
The house mouse is 3-10 cm long and has a tail the same length as the body. It has a smaller head and feet relative to the body than a young rat. It usually lives on the ground and in burrows. It prefers cereals for food and can survive without water, as long as their food source has a high moisture content.
The brown rat is larger than the black rat and has a blunt nose. It also has a thicker body, small hairy ears and a shorter tail which is paler underneath. It prefers to eat cereals and needs more water to drink. It usually lives on the ground and in burrows. It is easy to control by laying bait, but needs specialist services for removal of infestations in sewers.
The black rat has a smaller, slender body. It has a pointed nose and large hairless ears, and its tail is longer than its body. It has arboreal origins so is agile and likes to climb for nesting. In temperate countries it is mainly confined to ports and ships. When found in buildings it usually nests high in the roof. It prefers fruit and moist bait, varying its routes for foraging, making it more difficult to bait.
Squirrels generally live in wooded areas and trees but are common pests in urban, suburban and rural areas in North America. They frequently invade attics and garages to take shelter and store food. In buildings they can gnaw on cables, stored goods in the exterior and interior walls. In gardens they can strip bark from trees and ornamental plants and damage flower beds.
Chipmunks are burrowing rodents found in North America that forage mainly on the ground. They have an omnivorous diet, but feed primarily on seeds, nuts, fruit and buds. They can damage gardens, fruit and vegetables and burrow under buildings, damaging porches, patios etc.
Compared to other pests, it is not difficult to identify if you have a rodent problem. Rodents leave tell-tale signs of their presence include.
There are many reasons for businesses, organisations and home owners to control rodents:
There is a range of products for the homeowner to deal with small infestations of rats and mice. These include traps, bait boxes and poisons. You can purchase these DIY rodent control products from supermarkets, garden centres, hardware and DIY stores and online.
The best way to prevent rats, mice and other rodents from invading your property is to deny them access to food, water and shelter. Here are some tips for preventing rat and mouse infestations.
The best way to overcome a rodent problem is to contact a pest control professional. Although some DIY rodent control techniques do work, they are not a guarantee fix. Rodent’s are quite determined creatures and will almost always find a way into your home and or workplace.
Rentokil has expertise in providing professional services to specific business sectors and the homeowner.
Rodents can cause all sorts of noises in your attic. Learn to identify the common pests which can be found in your attic
On top of creating damages to your property, rodents are also responsible for spreading a range of different diseases