As fall quickly turns into winter, many pests attempt to sneak their way into warm homes in search of food and shelter. Roof rats are named after their tendency to infest attics and the upper portions of structures, but they can be found in lower levels of buildings as well. Their tendency to chew up materials and ravage stored food can be extremely troublesome and dangerous for many households. In addition to damaging wiring and insulation, roof rats can spread infectious diseases such as salmonella and rat-bite fever to residents and pets via saliva, urine and droppings. Throughout history, roof rats have also been notorious for spreading plague.
Protecting the home
There are several steps homeowners can take to avoid inviting roof rats into their houses this season. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recommends sealing up any holes or cracks larger than a quarter that appear in outdoor walls, piping and foundation.
Like most pests, roof rats look for sources of moisture. It's therefore a good idea to repair leaky faucets, pipes and water heaters. After heavy rain, homeowners may want to inspect attics and basements for water damage. Residents can also purchase a dehumidifier to eliminate moisture buildup.
The NPMA also suggests keeping trees and shrubs trimmed and away from buildings and cleaning up trash outdoors and around areas in which garbage is stored to avoid attracting roof rats. Homeowners should also always seal trash in bags and place it in tightly covered bins.
Spotting roof rats
There are several noticeable characteristics that can help homeowners identify roof rats. They grow between six and eight inches long, not including their tails, and are usually black or dark brown. The University of Arizona's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences explains roof rats often treck through oil and dirt and leave their traces around rafters and other high places.
Scurrying sounds coming from the attic at night are also a sign of roof rat presence, as these pests search for food after sunset.
Roof rats are attracted to fruit hanging on trees and on the ground nearby. They make small holes in fruit peels to suck out the pulp and leave behind empty rinds, which are sign for property owners with orange trees to look out for. It's a good idea to harvest fruit consistently and to clean up fallen produce to keep the pests from having a food source close to a home.
Upon noticing these signs or spotting roof rats, homeowners should call an exterminator to eliminate the infestation quickly and efficiently.