03 October 2010

Here Mickey, Mickey, Mickey...

Somewhere along our evolutionary journey the fates of humans and mice became intertwined just like it came to pass with dogs and cats. The common house mouse (Mus musculus) needs humans to survive even though humans could do very nicely without the destructive little buggers, notwithstanding their"cuteness". I have a particular interest in mice because my wife Gina is deathly afraid of them and has been since she was a little child. In fact, when she even thinks there is a mouse around she shrieks and jumps up onto a chair and then it costs me a lot of effort to coax her back down. In fact, when there actually are signs of a mouse in the house there is truly hell to pay.

October is the month when one must really be on the lookout for mice. In the summertime, "when the living is easy", the mice generally prefer to be outdoors. However, when the nights start getting colder in October they start looking for winter quarters. Because their metabolism rate is high and their fur is short they need the warmth of a shelter and and the provisions of a well stocked larder in order to bear their young. They have learned over the millennia that where there are humans there is warmth and food. They also sense that a close proximity to humans is dangerous but their need to procreate mitigates their fear. Mice in the wild only live for about a year so if they are to survive as a species they must continually reproduce.

Mice need only a very small opening in order to squeeze into your house but most of the time they just come in through an open door when you aren't looking. All it takes is for an outside door to be left open and unattended even for a few seconds at dusk or early dawn on a cool day and you have a mouse in the house. Once they get in they can be hard to deal with. They like to chew little holes in a pantry or closet wall where you can't get at them and their nests will be protected. When this happens the best way to deal with it is to seal them in. I learned this from my "suegros" (in-laws). The first time we had a mouse and discovered a hole in the pantry wall Gina called her parents who, of necessity and through close association with Gina, became excellent "mousers". They arrived shortly after her cry for help with all their gear and they went right at it. First they rammed some newspaper in the hole with a broomstick to distract the mouse. On top of they they rammed in some broken bits of "barro" (clay pottery). After that they mixed together some "cemento" (Portland cement) and some "yeso" (plaster of Paris) in a 50:50 ratio and stirred in some water. With this mixture they finished filling the hole. The mixture of the two materials with water is a quick setting filler and it is still hard enough to keep the mice from easily gnawing their way back out.

Yes you can trap them too if you want and there are all kinds of traps and yada, yada, yada. In my experience though, traps are retroactive and it is always better to be proactive. A mouse can't run into your house if there are no mice around the outside your house. That is why it is important to keep the lawn short and remove any dead leaves or twigs or trash of any kind that might provide a shelter within fifty feet of your home. I have had much success using a "cebo" (SAY-boh). The word "cebo" means bait and for mice and rats it means a poison bait. These baits are only mildly harmful to humans but they cause rodents to bleed to death internally. Nevertheless one must be very careful to safeguard children and pets. I only place the baits where they can't be seen or accessed by life forms other than the intended target such as under the water pump cover or in a corner behind some big and heavy "macetas" (mah-SAY-tahs) or "flower pots". Another method that I like you can see in the pictures below.

I found that I can buy four inch diameter black plastic sewer pipe fittings in the form of a "Y" with one leg of the "Y" reduced to two inches. I can also buy black plastic caps that "snap" into the four inch openings of the "Y" leaving me with a closed chamber that has a two inch diameter entrance. Into this chamber I place my "cebo" and then bury the chamber part way into the ground or place it along an exterior wall near a door opening. The "Y" costs 30 pesos and the end caps 12 pesos each. The "cebo" comes in a jar in cubes that are about 3/4 inch by 1 inch. It cost about 125 pesos for a year's supply. It is hard and dry and odor free. The mice love it because it contains barley, one of their favorite foods. I add a fresh piece about every two weeks and about every three months I clean out the chamber and start over. No fuss, no muss, and no "Mus musculus".

Now, some people might feel that poisoning these poor creatures is inhumane. I don' because it's either me or them. That reminds me of a little mouse story that I heard years ago:

One day a Dominican nun saw little Johnny cupping something in his hands during recess at school. She said, "What do you have there Johnny?" and Johnny said, "I have a little mouse Sister". The nun said, "Well Johnny, what are you going to do with that little mouse?". Johnny said, "I haven't decided yet. Maybe I will whack him with a stick or maybe I will throw him in that mud puddle over there". The nun's eyes opened very wide and and her face got red and she said "JOHNNY!, Whatever you do to that poor little mouse I am going to do the same thing to you. Now what do you have to say?". Johnny furrowed his brow and thought for a second and then he smiled. He held his cupped hands up close to his lips and he purred:

"Little mouse, little mouse, this is your lucky day, because today I'm gonna kiss your butt".

1 comment:

Don Cuevas said...

We had a noisy as well as messy mouse in our house last winter. Snap traps wouldn't get him (?).
Finally, we had to resort to a gruesome glue trap. It was effective but horrible.

Shudder. Never again. Thanks for the cebo trap concept.

Don Cuevas

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.