Unknowingly Moved into a Mouse Infestation HELP!

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Old 10-06-12, 10:55 PM
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Unknowingly Moved into a Mouse Infestation HELP!

We moved two weeks ago and I've noticed a significant mouse problem. I didn't see it at first; but now that I'm on high-alert, I'm seeing droppings in several locations.

The story: I first noticed that a bag of bread which was left on the counter had a hole in it on Tuesday. Then I started examining the kitchen carefully. There were droppings in the cabinets along the outer wall of the house. I freaked when I saw droppings in the fridge. But I've since discovered that there were numerous droppings on top of the fridge, including where the door seals. I think that the droppings inside fell in when the door was opened.

On Wednesday, I explored the attic and found several tunnels and nesting areas. Or what I think are nesting areas. These are areas where there is a pile of feces and some urine.

The house was never really vacant. The sellers were clearing out for a couple weeks; I was told they had Goodwill pick up the furniture the day before settlement. The neighbor recently told me that they had mice and traps out for years. However, we had never seen any traps set during our visits to the property. So I do not know if they were actively working on the mice issues.

Thursday night, I killed three mice; both attic traps were sprung and one under the sink. The trap above the fridge, in another cabinet along the outer wall, and the trap along the floor/under the cabinet were not "sprung" -- the traps in the open are actually electronic traps because I have two young children.

Friday night, we had three traps in the attic, only one killed a mouse. Two traps were placed in the basement, with one killing a mouse. None of the kitchen traps were visited by mice. So five dead in two nights.

I'm only seeing mouse feces. We don't hear them. The neighbor told us that that he uses poison and sonic deterrents in his shed. I should add that in the short time that we've been here, we found two dead mice in the back yard, which I now presume were from the neighbor's poison. I'm really freaked out though because I saw feces around my toddler's toys.

So this house has a long-standing problem with mice. We will be removing that attic insulation. We will be un-finishing the partially-finished basement. We will be sealing holes in the attic -- I see a large one where the A/C line enters but will inspect more carefully when the insulation is removed. -- We will continue to have traps set. We will try to remove vegetation near the house; but it will be hard because the previous owners spent a lot of time gardening around the house. We'll do our best to seal the attached garage too. We've packed all our food into giant plastic storage bins; though, there is no evidence of mice in the pantry. What else should I be doing? And when should I be doing what? (Besides as much as quickly as possible?)

I know this is a do it yourself forum, but I have to ask, is there any professional that I could go to for help? I find the concept of removing mouse infested attic insulation very unpleasant. But the pest control people I've spoken to so far only put out poison and traps; they'll also seal up the attic but won't remove the insulation... and none has bothered to treat our problem as anything unique or distinct. They provide rates and quotes as if I'm buying an item from a catalog.

Finally, how dangerous would removing the attic insulation be to people living in the house? I know that there are disease concerns when the nests are disturbed and dust becomes airborne. I have a 5m old and a 2yr old whose safety are highest priority. Would they have to spend one or two nights elsewhere?
 
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Old 10-07-12, 08:48 AM
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To remove insul by the book, the attic access should be sealed while workers are bagging it up. Exhaust fan in attic vent to discharge air to exterior. Hopefully the bags can be dropped out of an attic window/vent rather than carried through the house. Vacuuming the attic floor should be accomplished with equipment utilizing a hepa filter and again hopefully vented to exterior; sometimes the area is lightly dampened prior to vacuuming. Obviously the procedure will be considerably more expensive than a simple removal. It’s your call; I don’t see anyone in my travels going to these lengths. This level of removal and clean-up would require someone who is trained and specializes in this.

If you want to eliminate a chronic mouse infestation with traps than you need a lot of traps-2 to 3 dozen snap traps if that’s the kind of trap you like. Check out the “tin-cat” multiple mouse traps that catches them alive. Good to use in places where you can’t check snap traps conveniently. I like the kind that you DO NOT have to wind up. This kind utilizes a counter-balance ramp idea.

When sealing the house cracks and crevices, you should especially focus on the foundation and ground level. There could be openings underground where water pipes, sewage pipes, conduit, etc enter/exit.

The neighbors sonic devices are useless-use your money in a more productive direction. Rodenticide in outbuildings is a good idea. You can also buy exterior bait stations and rodenticide to use along exterior perimeter of house in various locations. I would do that as I don’t doubt there are a lot of mice outside, too.

I rarely set traps for mice since coming back to check them regularly would be time and cost prohibitive. I do advise the homeowner on trapping though. If I’m hired I use rodenticide and yes sometimes the rodents die inside and cause an odor. I use rodenticide in my house and buildings and sometimes it happens. I’d rather have dead mice than live mice. If you can catch a bunch in traps, then later on you could place rodenticide in safe places to kill the occasional invader. Using rodenticide now may kill a lot of mice at once which would increase the likelihood of odor issues. The rodent situation you are experiencing is common, especially after real estate transactions. I also would quote price and service over the phone-as distasteful as the situation is, it doesn’t merit a sales call if one is a small business or especially one man operation. The big companies will send a salesman first; then a service tech.

Catch/kill as many mice as possible before disturbing the attic as they will flee that area. As far as vacating the house during removal-if disease/organisms infiltrate the living space they will still be present when you return.

Keep us posted.
 
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Old 10-09-12, 12:09 PM
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I climbed through the unfloored region of the attic today. The nesting is significant. I'm no expert; but it looks really bad to me. Our easy to access traps near the attic access (d-con covered snap traps) have stopped catching the mice. Having examined up there more carefully today, I can see why. The mice are using the A/C lines and nesting right along the wall, which is not easy access. It's also a difficult place for us to be setting traps. If one climbs into the attic, one is guaranteed to be coming in contact with mouse feces, which means removing clothing (possibly showering) upon coming down. It might sound a bit extreme, but with a 5month old who chews everything and burrows her head on clothing, we need to follow the more extreme recommendations.

Our working theory is that there are two mice colonies. The attic mice are most likely nesting in the attic and searching for food outside (I think). Another group of mice are coming into the basement, either through the garage and into the house, directly in through other holes or through the uncovered sump pump. The basement mice are the ones who are exploring our kitchen. But even there, they do not seem too interested.

We're at the point where we'll pay for someone to clean the attic. -- We'll pay whatever the cost. It's truly disgusting and far beyond our abilities with so many other projects, young children and jobs. -- We're going to completely un-finish the partially finished basement and try to keep those mice under control ourselves.

I'll look at those tin-cat traps for the attic nest area. I don't really care if the mice are killed. I want as many gone as quickly and easily as possible. I'd like to reduce the climb through the attic as much as possible. Any other trap suggestions?
 
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Old 10-09-12, 05:17 PM
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Sounds like you have good strategies. I agree with cleaning out the attic and basement. It will be healthier and you will have peace of mind. I feel bad that you’re going through this when you didn’t cause it. Not to mention the other priorities that life has for you.

As far as traps, I can’t think of any others right now, but I will think more over the next days. Another product that is helpful in sealing, plugging, etc is “Stuff-it”. It is a pliable copper mesh that rodents won’t chew through and won’t rust. When you search for it on internet, look for copper stuff-it, as there is a computer program called stuff-it that shows up first.

Use multiple baits for the snap traps and inside the tin cats. Bacon is good. Peanut butter, but first tie a small piece of cotton onto trap with dental floss, then smear pnut butter on the cotton. When they lick it, they get frustrated so they bite/tug it.

Chocolate, lemon drops/flavor are popular as baits.

Keep us posted;
 
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Old 10-09-12, 11:50 PM
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Once again, thank you for the great advice!

It took me awhile to find a pest control company that would take care of removing the attic insulation. They generally don't treat for mice at this time of year -- I don't know why -- but they'll remove the insulation at any time of year. They do suggest getting rid of as many mice as possible first.

It also took me several calls to pest control companies to find someone who appreciated the situation as well as PAbugman. I think the low point was when one company went through their methods for dealing with mice, quoted me a price, then added "Oh, but we won't go into the attic because it's not floored," after I had explained my observations of mouse activity up there.

We removed some of the walls on the finished side of the basement. And so far no evidence of mice (moisture, but no mice). However, I did see some droppings around the edges of a ceiling light. I'm wondering and worrying about the rest of the house now too. I peeked down a hole in the upstairs closet floor where they failed to seal around the A/C conduit. There were a couple mouse droppings. This location is not below the nests in the attic, nor is it above the ones in the basement. In fact, it's probably as far away as one can get in the house. Should I worry about what's behind the walls? I was under the impression that if disturbed, the rodent filth is a health risk; so it should be ok as is. We will need to take precautions during renovations if we encounter droppings. But I don't need to start opening up walls now, right?

Finally, I should add that I did find a small nest in the kitchen area tonight. I'm pretty sure that we killed that resident the first night of traps. The nest was along the bottom, back edge of cabinet which is full of drawers. I never looked behind the drawers when I cleaned prior to move-in. It consisted of shredded napkins, which I assume fell out of the drawers, a cracker and a powdered drink packet. All items were from the previous owners of the home. I can't help wondering where else there might be nests, which gets back to my concerns about the walls.
 
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Old 10-23-12, 10:14 PM
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I know this thread is a few weeks old, but I wanted to add that depending on the age of the house you may need to have the insulation tested for asbestos. Basically if it's over 25 years old that could be a problem. If it's hot, it WILL be more expensive and much more time consuming to have removed.

If you bought the house then you might have some grounds to claim against the previous owners. This is very serious.
 
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Old 10-28-12, 03:02 PM
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Update

Update: After realizing that there were more mice and a long-standing problem that I wasn't qualified to tackle, I contacted a local pest control company who has been setting traps and poison. He's been out to my house twice and a third visit is scheduled. I was impressed that he used the poison bait to determine where the mice are currently active. I hadn't thought of that.

As part of a project to correct an issue with basement moisture, we pulled off the wood paneling that the former owners installed, finding feces and tunnels through some insulation at the top of the walls. The holes are being patched with copper stuff it and we are removing the gardens that were planted along the house.

I had another company that does the clean-up visit for a quote and am still waiting to hear back the cost. He said that the attic was bad, but he is used to seeing worse. -- That being said, our disorganization from the move and associated mess has been compared to hoarders, specifically, no where near as bad. However, I think my level of cleanliness and comfort are a little different from what they usually see. -- The insulation in 1/3-1/2 of the main attic needs to be replaced. There was some evidence of activity on the other side of the attic, but did not appear to be significant. However, considering the attic is not floored and the man did not attempt to carefully examine the whole area, I'm not comfortable with leaving the other half of the attic insulation in place.

The second attic, which is only above the garage and den area showed minimal signs of activity, which we already knew. It happens to be the only location in the house that we saw a live mouse as well. And while I have not seen any nests up there myself, I did see items left behind by the sellers that looked to have been eaten by mice. I'll be receiving a quote for them to disinfect the attic insulation with some form of spray, leaving it for us to remove ourselves, as well as a quote for them to remove the insulation.

With regards to the feces in the basement, he said we could just spray with a bleach solution before pulling down the ceiling, which we were contemplating doing in a few locations for other reasons. There are only a few areas with a concentration of feces. And of course, to use masks that are appropriately rated.

Thanks for the heads up regarding the asbestos insulation. The house is 44yrs old. I had heard concerns about asbestos insulation in attics from older houses. -- We actually have asbestos siding. -- There was a type of insulation that was contaminated by asbestos, right? However, I failed to follow through with my research assuming that the company whose hired to remove the insulation would test or handle it if necessary. Any advice on the matter would be appreciated, especially since I am contemplating replacing the insulation in the second attic ourselves.

Once we have the final cost of clean-up, I will be politely contacting the sellers first. Then, I think I am prepared for a law-suit. My grounds are based upon the fact that they lied on the sellers disclosure regarding the presence of pests and of damage from pests. Plus, financial issues aside, they put us and especially my two young children (25months and 5months) in a dangerous situation; I am disinfecting somewhere in the kitchen or around their toys nightly. (Or I was, we haven't seen new feces in the kitchen for a few days; I'm even daring to put things back in the cabinets.)
 
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Old 10-28-12, 04:46 PM
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Glad you’re making progress. Are you also baiting the exterior perimeter? Take pictures and save evidence. The things left in the attic by previous owners that was eaten-can you save that? It could lend support to the fact that the problem was an existing condition. The disclosure forms are for disclosing what they knew about the house; if they can demonstrate that they didn’t know about it, then they may win. If you can demonstrate that a reasonable and prudent person would have known, then you have a case. Don’t take this as anything like the final word, just a reflection on the “second hand” dialogues that I’ve heard and experienced being in the pest control industry.
 
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Old 02-18-13, 11:55 PM
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Another Unpleasant Find Behind Fridge

We've been working on several aspects of the clean-up and prevention. The house has been sealed with the exception of a hole at a juncture of the roof which will be taken care of by the company cleaning our attic. Vegetation removed from outside, garage door repaired, etc. We have had a few droppings in the house and had to continue baiting outside traps. We finally took the plunge to tackle behind the refridgerator this weekend. It's not an easy task. The fridge fits into the hole so tightly that pressure fit isn't much of an exaggeration; we rocked it forward and back, forward and back, for almost an hour. I knew the mice were back there because I cleaned the top of the fridge and below it (to some extent). I was not prepared for the droppings and urine throughout the back of the fridge. And when we removed the panels to get a better view, it looked hopeless. The urine has been puddling in the drop tray; it gets progressively darker with the slope until it's brown. The feces have gone through several wet-dry cycles. And there are feces everywhere, not just the un-removeable tray... I am certain there must be some in areas I cannot see yet.

I've read that one can clean droppings from inside fridges, around the motors and coils. I'm not convinced. Those giving the advice don't clarify the extent of the cleaning. But then, if a vacuum and bleach is good enough for a few droppings, why shouldn't I be able to clean it? ... Or will I have no hope of actually reaching all of the areas that the mice have touched? And am I fiddling with fridge components best left alone?

Other thoughts weighing on my mind. If we do attempt to clean this fridge, checking behind it for returning mice or setting traps behind it is not realistic; it'll take an hour or more to move out, and it scratches the floor (engineered hardwood). Based on the feces that I've found over the last few months, behind the fridge is where the mice are going when they come into the living area of the house. A kitchen remodel is on the 5-10yr wishlist; but its not practical at this time with two helpful toddlers, nor financially possible. The fridge is probably 10yrs old and probably has had a leak in the water/ice dispenser line, based on the water damage to the floor. However, it appears fully functional.

We do have a back-up fridge that we could use; my old apartment fridge went to my mother's basement but I can borrow a trailer to move it here next weekend. It would be sufficient for our needs now, but maybe not when the kids are older, especially not when I have teenage boys. It's 6yrs old. And should last until we can remodel the kitchen. So I'm tempted to get rid of the infested fridge.

I'd appreciate comments, especially from anyone who has cleaned out the insides of a Kenmore 26" side-by-side refridgerator. Thanks!
 
 

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