The US is home to three non-native rodent species that each maintain an invasive habitat in urban and suburban areas where their survival is largely, if not entirely, dependent on resources that only humans provide. These resources include discarded food in garbage receptacles, food scraps beneath appliances and furniture, and stored foods within pantries and kitchen cupboards. In addition to easily accessible food sources, human dwellings are also full of small concealed spaces where rodent pests can establish ideal nesting sites. Wall voids and ceiling voids are favored nesting sites because they provide rodent pests with a safe refuge from hazardous climatic conditions, as well as protection from predators including humans.
The three primary commensal rodent pests in the country can each be found inhabiting structures throughout much of Texas, and they are commonly known as Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus), roof rats (R. rattus), and house mice (Mus musculus). Of these three rodent pests, the house mouse is the most commonly managed species in all areas of the US. This is because, unlike rat pests, house mice have become too dependent on human habitats to make it in the wild. Norway rats are encountered within and around buildings in Texas more frequently than roof rats because the former outcompetes the latter for resources in urban areas of the state. While the Norway rat has become established throughout Texas, the roof rat’s habitat is restricted to the subtropical southern, eastern, and central portions of the state.
Many online media outlets are claiming that hoards of starving rodents throughout the country have been abandoning their usual urban dwelling grounds in order to migrate into suburban neighborhoods. Apparently, these mass rodent invasions started a few months ago in response to the depletion of their usual urban food sources. Now the pests are migrating into suburban homes in an effort to exploit a new food source. While urban dumpsters located behind restaurants, bars, and gas stations typically provide city-dwelling rodent pests with more food than they need, the nationwide quarantine has put an end to human-generated food waste in urban centers. According to Janet Hurley, an IPM expert with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service, the sudden cessation of human activity in urban centers is only one of multiple factors behind the summer spike in suburban rodent invasions. Hurley states that rats become more active around suburban homes in July because they are seeking shelter for the coming arrival of cooler fall and winter weather conditions.
Have you noticed an uptick in rodent pests around your home?