So you have a mouse problem? Maybe you wake up at night hearing high pitch squeaks and little feet walking around your home? Or maybe you have heard them scattering when you open a door? Or, perhaps, they have not controlled themselves while feasting on your food behind your back? Who knows, maybe you have found unwelcome droppings (ugh!) in unexpected places? Or have you seen the tiny creatures themselves with your own eyes?
If this is the case, you may need to hire a pest control specialist or mouse exterminator.
Before you run to open the telephone directory, or look online on search of one though, there are a few things you need to know. In fact, you need to assess quite a few things before you choose one; if you do not do so, you may end up employing one unnecessarily, or you may end up spending too much. Even worse, you may end up spending money and have no results! Therefore, before you make a move, read on and make sure you follow the advice you find in this article…
Why are mice unwelcome?
Mice, cute though they are (at least to some people), are known to be a real nuisance to many a household around the world. There are many reasons why these little rodents and humans do not seem to be able to share the same dwelling… One of them, and certainly the most serious, is that they can carry disease and infections. It is, in particular, their droppings that you need to be careful about, like all feces, they are a breeding ground for bacteria and other pathogens.
Some of them, though not lethal to a healthy person, may even result in the need for hospitalization in serious cases or with people who already have health problems prior to contracting the ailment.
Yet another common complaint about mouse infestations is that they cause a mess around the house; apart from the droppings, which are not a pleasure to find and clean, they also chew through your food supply, they use drawers with paper and wool as nests and they even gnaw away at wood (table legs etc.), material (keep an eye on your reupholstered sofa!) and make holes in your walls. Thus, many people find that cleaning up the mess after they have gone is as tiresome as getting rid of them if not worse. So, the sooner you act, the better!
Finally, they cause disturbance to you and your family or household. These small animals are mainly nocturnal, though they are known to be active during the day as well; however, they usually start scurrying around when the sun sets or thereabouts. This means they you will hear them squeak, eat (sometimes noisily) and run or play when you most want to sleep, or when you have just managed (after hours of tiresome effort) to put the baby to bed…
Thus, as you have seen, cohabiting with them is not easy at all!
Do you really need a professional?
Before you start spending your hard earned money, make sure that you really need a specialist to sort out the problem for you. There are a few factors to consider before you make your decision, and you need to weigh them very carefully:
- The size of the infestation. If you only have a few mice, or the mischief (the proper name for a group of mice) is small and new, you may prefer to solve the problem yourself.
- The availability and feasibility of alternatives. Things, like getting a cat, using traps, glue traps, peppermint essential oil, zappers or poison, may be a better solution, especially if you are faced with a small group. Moreover, this may present itself as a moral choice; killing an animal, even if through necessity, is always an act to consider very carefully. As a consequence, to people with a conscience that respects nature, the least violent and more natural options like peppermint essential oil, using zappers or taking a cat into your family may be preferable.
- The urgency of the problem. This may be due to the composition of your household, for example. If it comprises young children, old and/or sick people, you may wish to act faster and more decisively.
- If you sell/cook food professionally. In case, for example, you have a restaurant or a food shop, you may be pressed to act very fast; a hygiene inspection when you have mice as unwelcome guests may be a real disaster! Even so, try to act ethically and consider alternatives (especially if there are only a few animals) before going to a specialist.
- Other factors. For instance, if you discover little rodents just before you go on holiday, the prospect of coming back all suntanned to discover a full-blown infestation may be, to say the least, daunting… Even in this case, though, do consider alternatives first.
Having taken all these factors into consideration, and having tried alternatives first to no avail, it may really be the case to hire a professional, so please read on!
What do we mean by professional?
A professional is, in general, someone who does a job as a living (part time or full time does not matter) and is, in most cases, registered with a professional body. Therefore, check what the regulations are in your country. In most Western countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, in order to be allowed to operate as a pest control specialist, you need to have a license. This is because it is a serious job, handling poison (therefore with risks to oneself and others) and with many complexities, possible complications and so forth to manage.
But this is not enough… There are other qualities and skills that make a person not just qualified, but a real professional:
- Experience; make sure that the person or company you choose has a long experience in the sector. There is no better guarantee of quality. In fact, some people may do a job for some time and then give up because they have no real aptitude or interest. Moreover, the more you work in a sector, the more you learn the tricks of the trade and secrets that others may ignore.
- Reliability; when you look for a professional, make sure he or she tells you when he or she will come, what type of job he or she will do and the exact cost of the operation.
- Knowledge of the local area; indeed a local professional may be better than a national company; this is because local mice may be immune to some poisons; a local person dealing with these problems all day would know for sure! Moreover, buildings are not the same (in terms of building materials, layout, and age) everywhere; someone from the area would know where to put poison, traps etc. around your place.
In general, I have found that family businesses or individuals are better than large companies; this is because the former do it independently and for a living; the latter, instead, hire people who may do this profession temporarily and with no real interest; thus, as general advice, go for a local, small and established operator.
How do you check if they are real professionals?
Now you know how to distinguish an experienced professional from a lesser capable operator, you need to know how to make sure that your chosen pest control specialist has the right credentials for the job. So, how do you go about this? There are a few ways:
- If they have a website, read it carefully. On their page, you may find a lot of information which may turn out useful for you. For example, you might discover if they have been operating for long, if they have a big or a small enterprise, how long you may expect to wait before they come to do the job (some of them are fully booked for some time…), what type of poisons, traps or other operation they run. Moreover, you may find the full range of their services, which may include cleaning up after the disinfestation and sealing holes in the walls, for example. You may even find their prices, though not all of them write them online.
- Find reviews and read them. Most of them will have reviews written by former customers. These may be on their own website (these are not always fully reliable though, as some may be bogus), or on social media. When you read the reviews, look for the signs of genuine ones: if they all sound the same and are all ecstatic (even, in many cases, exaggerated) and, above all, general, the chances are that they are fake. Instead, if they are varied in length, approach, language and they deal with specific points, you should be reading real ones.
- Ask people you know who have had the same problem: of course, if you already know someone who has hired a professional in the past, it is a good idea to ask him or her for information first before you open your wallet. If the person is a close, reliable friend or family member, even better!
- Phone them and ask as much as you can. Without being irksome, do pick up the phone and start asking questions, including how much they will charge, how long it will take etc. Try to spend only a few minutes on the phone, though, not hours!
- A good professional asks questions as well. He or she will want to know as much as possible about your situation in order to act efficiently. This is a real sign of professionalism. Instead, someone who sounds dismissive and in a hurry might just be after your money! Questions they may ask you are, for example, how long you have known about the infestation if you have tied alternatives, how big is the mischief, what signs you have seen of their presence and how big is your house. Thus, be prepared to answer these questions just in case.
How much should you pay?
The price of a good professional varies according to the service you need and size of your home. However, the average fee would start at about 40 or 50 dollars for a cheap one and rise to a few hundred. Do remember that one visit may not be enough; depending on the gravity and size of the infestation and the resistance to the poison of the rodents in question, a second visit may be necessary and a good professional would normally warn you about this. You would, of course, need to pay for a second visit separately.
If you also want a full cleaning service and you ask them to repair the holes in your house afterward, the minimum fee you would expect would start at about 150 dollars and rise according to the size of the damage and of your house.
People to avoid
Finally, it is important that you know how to avoid charlatans. Apart from people who clearly ask for too much or too little, you should also be wary of the following:
- People who are not licensed. Do ask them if you are not sure.
- People who do not answer your questions.
- People who promise it will take too short. To get rid of an infestation, it may take weeks, even with professional poison and traps.
- People who do not offer to come to check or a second time; this may mean that they are aware that their service is shoddy.
- People who put poison where children and pets can reach; they need to be put under cupboards, sofas etc. This is a very important safety measure!
Hiring a good professional is important; for this reason, this article has given you practical advice about what to expect and what to ask from a pest control operator, as well as how to go about hiring one. Remember to try alternatives first if it is possible. Having said all this, all I have left to do is to wish you good luck!