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Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to get rid of rats

  Mat Bihi       Saturday, April 9, 2011

Many readers say that, to their horror, bark has been stripped from branches of their citrus trees, lemons are hanging on trees with the peels gnawed off, or oranges are being hollowed out. One reader reports a debarked pittosporum; another returned from vacation to find two bougainvilleas chewed to shreds.
The most likely culprits are roof rats, which seem to be on the rise in Bay Area neighborhoods of all economic levels. You can have a minor rat problem without ever seeing a rat. If you see even one, you probably have a moderately serious infestation.
The primary neighborhood feature that encourages rats is poorly maintained buildings. It doesn't take much of a lapse, since rats can enter through 1/2-inch openings. They nest in crawl spaces, attics or walls. They also love overgrown gardens, especially bougainvillea, Italian cypress, oleander, yucca, vertically climbing Algerian ivy, and untrimmed palm trees. Pet food and birdseed, particularly if left outdoors at night, are prime rat attractants.
You can keep roof rats out of trees with wide bands of aluminum flashing wrapped around the trunks, but only if the tree can be isolated from other trees, fences and other nearby structures from which the animals can easily leap. Low limbs, which are desirable on citrus trees so you can pick the fruit, also allow access. There is probably no effective repellent for rats, though I have one report that a small bottle of peppermint oil mixed into a spray bottle of water is somewhat repugnant to them.
To avoid damage to fruit, pick it as soon as it is ripe. In fact, you might want to pick all fruit for a season to dishabituate the rats from using your tree as a cafeteria.
In our crowded urban area, an individual gardener isn't likely to solve rat problems alone. Roof rat control often requires neighborhood cooperation and resolve. Even non-gardeners have an interest in eliminating rats, since they damage homes and spread disease.
City or county vector control departments are good places to start for information. Learn about rat abatement programs:


Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/08/HOVA1IL854.DTL#ixzz1J2Eq0MUg
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