This is the time of year when I receive calls about controlling rodents in and around homes. Rodents prefer a cozy place to sleep in the winter just like the rest of us, but because they carry fleas, diseases, and make a mess, controlling them is important. Controlling mice, rats, squirrels, and other rodents around your home requires a multi-step approach and you must stay vigilant all year for best results.
First, you need to inspect your home for holes and cracks where rodents can enter your home. A mouse can fit through a hole the size of a dime and a rat can fit through a hole the size of a quarter. Fill these holes with sealant or cover them with hardware cloth and use door sweeps at the bottom of doors to prevent entry into your home.
Next, use good sanitation methods to prevent mice from being attracted to your home. Mice are attracted to food and water sources, so clean these up. Fix any leaking pipes, clean up crumbs and other food sources. Pet food is very attractive to rodents, so be sure to store your pet food in sealed containers and feed pets only as much as they will eat. If your pet leaves extra food in its bowl it will attract mice. Make sure your garbage can has a tight fitting lid.
If you see a rodent or rodent sign (droppings, urine, chewing marks, nests, etc.) you need to set out traps. Traps are an excellent way to catch and kill rodents. I prefer the snap and kill traps over glue traps because any rodents you catch should die quickly. Glue traps usually require someone to kill the mouse and there is the chance of getting bitten, getting glue everywhere, or the mouse suffering a slow death. However, glue traps are a good option if you have curious pets and children that could get hurt from a snap trap.
In my experience, peanut butter is the best bait for traps, but it will need to be replaced every 2-3 days because it goes rancid. Mice prefer fresh food over stale or rancid food. Glue traps will be more effective with a small dollop of peanut butter in the center.
Mice and rats tend to run along walls so you should set your trap in a place where rodents are frequenting and along a wall. Look for places with a lot of droppings and set your traps near them. Traps should be set perpendicular to a wall with the peanut butter (snapping side) against the wall. Rodents do not stray far from their nests so you may need to set out multiple traps in one area to ensure the best results.
Trap size is very important when trying to catch rodents. Small house mice need the smallest trap you can find, where rats will require bigger traps. If your peanut butter keeps getting eaten without setting off the trap, you probably have a trap that is too big for the mouse you are trying to catch.
Cats are another good option to control mice around your property but require their own care and maintenance and may not get along with established pets. Cats are more effective on the occasional mouse and are not as effective dropped into huge rat infestation. Not all cats are good hunters, and some become lazy and will not hunt.
Your last resort for rodent control is poison. Rodenticides are effective but are high risk if you have livestock, pets, and children around. Like traps, set poisons in areas with high rodent traffic for best results. Bromethalin, bromadiolone, and brodifacoum are three rodenticide active ingredients to look for. Tomcat and Victor make a couple of products and my favorite product for agricultural uses is the Just One Bite II Bar. You should be able to find rodenticides at your local co-op, hardware store, or big box store in the pest control section. It is important that you read the label on rodenticides carefully and follow the directions. Some products require a bait station that is sold separately.
With a little diligence you should be able to keep rodent pests at bay this winter. Good luck!
Brassica is a genus of plants in the mustard, or Brassicaceae, family that includes mustard greens, cabbage, broccoli, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, turnips, cauliflower, and others. Brassicas are easy to grow but are subject to some insect pests that you should be aware of. The most common pest I see on brassicas are caterpillars (worms). Worms usually chew holes in leaves. The holes may be small or large and have smooth or rough edges. Worm frass, or feces, is another telltale sign that worms are feasting on your plants.
Flea beetles and aphids are other common pests of brassicas. Flea beetles chew very small holes in the leaves while aphids suck sap from the plant. Aphids usually cause leaf yellowing, yellow spots, or shriveling. You may also find sooty mold on plants where aphids are present. Sooty mold is a mold that grows on the honeydew excretions from insects.
Scout for insects early and often. If you catch infestations early you will not need to use as many chemicals or removal methods later when the plants are closer to harvest. Be sure to look for insects on the undersides of leaves and look for other signs like leaf shriveling, yellow spots, and insect frass.
I recommend a permethrin spray to control brassica insects. Bonide Eight is easy to find at your local co-op or garden center and the label gives a 1-day pre-harvest interval for greens and other brassicas. A 1-day pre-harvest interval means you should wait 24 hours after spraying to eat from the plants. Sevin is another good insecticide for brassicas. Multiple applications may be necessary to control the insects. Follow the label directions with any insecticide.
Organic options include BT (Bacillius thurgenesis) for caterpillars, and insecticidal soaps.
The Leaflet is a newsletter for horticulturists. It is published three times per year. To subscribe to this publication please email Jessie Hoover at email@example.com.
Jessie Hoover is a County Agent with the LSU AgCenter covering horticulture in East Feliciana, West Feliciana, and St. Helena parishes. For more information on these or related topics contact Jessie at 225-683-3101 or visit the LSU AgCenter website.