The House Mouse – identification and Prevention

The House mouse (Mus musculus) can live under a variety of conditions in and around the home as well as in open fields.   It is a very common rodent in the United States, consuming and contaminating food and even causing damage to property with its constant gnawing.  Although innocent-looking, these mice can transmit salmonellosis (food poisoning) by leaving their feces in and near food. The name “House mouse” is derived from its preference to be close to humans and all we have to offer in terms of comfort; plus the House mouse isn´t very good at defending itself from outdoor predators, including other mice species. House Mouse (Mus musculus) House Mouse (Mus musculus)

Description and Origins

Originally from Asia and arriving in North America with settlers from Europe, the House mouse has become “the most troublesome and costly rodent” in the U.S. (U.C. Davis Agricultural and Research Department).  The adult House mouse is about 5-7″ long, including the tail and lives 9 – 12 months.  Color is usually gray or brown with a white underbelly.  Males are polygamous, mating with several females; during her lifetime, one female has 5 to 10 litters within a year and up to 6 babies in each litter. Baby House Mouse Baby House Mouse – 4 days old

Food and Shelter

House mouse mice often come into the home as the weather gets colder, squeezing through openings as little as ¼ inch in diameter.  Nesting material is made from shredded newspapers and other debris found around the home.  Craving warmth, the House mouse nest may be found close a stove, heater, or refrigerator.  Favorite foods are cereal grains but the House mouse will eat just about anything that is available.  Feeding time is usually 30 minutes after sunset and before sunrise. House mouse eating cantaloupe House mouse eating cantaloupe

Preventing Infestations

Mice, including the House mouse have developed a resistance to anticoagulants (baits) making them harder to eliminate.  Controlling the House mouse from entering a home may require exclusion work (blocking off access points) to eliminate any chance of finding shelter.   Limiting food sources and practicing good sanitation will also help keep mice away.  Trapping may be required for an inside infestation and rodent baiting can be used outdoors.  NOTE:  Using bait inside will cause mice to die, leaving a terrible odor.

The Beneficial Role of a House Mouse

On the positive side, these pesky, innocent-looking creatures have become domesticated as pets for young children (or adults too) and consistently give their lives over to research in our laboratories.  In its natural environment, the House mouse feeds on a variety of plant material, including leaves, stems and seeds.  However, given the choice of eating grains or plants, these mice would just as soon make their nests in residential homes or in food storage facilities.
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Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California – Rodenticide Resistance Action Group (RRAG), “House mouse resistance guidelines,” International Pest Control Magazine, November 2012.  

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