Of Mice and Men Solving Your Infestation Situation

"…In 1973, I received my Pest Control license and started my business. My first job was in a building in the South Bronx. The owner of the building had given me the keys to the basement, and I remember driving up to the building and thinking it odd that there were no other buildings on that block, but I didn’t give it another thought. Upon entering the 20-by-40-foot basement with my trusty flashlight, I saw one lone bulb dangling from the middle of the room. Its light didn’t come close to reaching the walls. As my eyes grew accustomed to the gloominess, I played my flashlight onto the tops of the walls… where I saw hundreds of pairs of red eyes looking back at me. My first impulse was to run–at this juncture in my life and career, I was frightened of mice–but I didn’t. With my heart in my throat and hundreds of horror movies racing through my brain, I was left with a burning question: Do you really want to be in the extermination business?"

In the beginning… there were rodents. Humans throughout the world have co-existed with rats, mice, and their relatives since the dawn of recorded time–sometimes peacefully and even reverently, as in the cases of China and parts of India, and sometimes with loathing and hatred, as in the cases of Medieval Europe and modern urban areas like New York City.

Urban rodents eat garbage, carry diseases, and harbor other pests like fleas and microbes. Their droppings are often loaded with infectious diseases like salmonella and leptospirosis (also called Weil’s disease), and when rodents are plentiful, their shed fur and dander can contribute to asthma and other respiratory ailments. Moreover, rodents are seen as bringers of filth and dirt–a house infested with rats or mice is like a body infected with cancer.

Gnawing on the Big Apple

Although several species of rodents make their home in the Northeast, two species in particular have settled in metropolitan New York City: the Norway rat (rattus norvegeicus) and the house mouse (mus musculus domesticus). For the most part, Norway rats and house mice–along with their human hosts–emigrated from Europe over two centuries ago. The boats that carried newcomers seeking freedom and prosperity also carried thousands of furry stowaways seeking nothing more than a plentiful food supply and lots of room to breed.

While their unwitting human chauffeurs struggled to establish homes and livelihoods in the New World, the newly arrived rodents enjoyed a new habitat replete with food and short on natural predators. With few predators to keep their population in check, post-Colonial rodents multiplied furiously. The factors upon which rodent population growth depends–food, water, shelter and lack of disease–are the same environmental conditions human beings need in order to thrive. As the human population in America proliferated, so did the varmints.

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