The House Mouse, and sometimes the Long-Tailed Field Mouse, seek the warmth and shelter of buildings for nesting sites and food. Their presence is usually detected from their dark-coloured droppings or damage to stored foods in the larder, packaging or woodwork.
Mice become sexually mature in eight to ten weeks, and a pair may produce eight litters, each of 16 young, in a year. Multiply those and you arrive at a horrifying number of mice! They climb well and can squeeze through very small gaps.
These nibbling nuisances have a compulsive need to gnaw in order to keep their incisor teeth worn down to a constant length. Electric cables, water and gas pipes, packaging and woodwork may all be seriously damaged by mice – many instances of electrical fires and floods have been attributed to them. They contaminate far more food than they consume and they are capable of carrying many diseases, particularly food poisoning. The average mouse deposits 70 droppings in 24 hours and urinates frequently to mark its territory.
Mice are erratic, sporadic feeders, nibbling at many sources of food rather than taking repeated meals from any one item. They do not need free water to drink as they normally obtain sufficient moisture from their food.
Tiny dark grey flies, only about 2mm long with hair-fringed wings, most prevalent in spring and summer near sewage works. Also known as Filter Flies or Owl Midges, their grubs perform a useful purpose because they break down organic material at sewage works.
Barely visible to the naked eye, mites have eight legs and a round body, and are seldom noticed until they have built up sufficient numbers to be a major infestation. They are not insects but are arachnids, related to spiders.
The typical mite emerges from its tiny egg in a dark crevice as a six-legged nymph, growing by a series of moults and acquiring another pair of legs in the process. Some species can survive starvation for up to six months.
Most houses have the House Dust Mite which lives on our mattresses, feeding on tiny particles of shed skin. The Furniture Mite occurs in damp upholstery. The Flour Mite infests damp cereals or pasta and causes “Grocer’s Itch”, in people who handle infested commodities.
Mange in pets is caused by mites; and the Itch Mite or Scabies Mite causes the disease of scabies by burrowing into the skin, causing an irritating rash. Bird Mites frequently enter houses from old nests of sparrows, starlings or house martins, or from poultry. Harvest Mites may bite people if brought in on the coats of dogs or on clothing. The most conspicuous mite that enters houses is the Red Spider Mite, a plant feeder which comes indoors in spring to seek egg-laying sites and again in autumn to hibernate.