Termites - I guess
the first thing I'm supposed to write
about is termites. All my friends
were surprised when they found out
that I did not get a termite inspection
before purchasing this house. My
logic - the house was a teardown,
and I was purchasing the view. As
I explained to them, if I had learned
that there was $30,000 worth of termite
damage, it wouldn't really have changed
anything. And speed in this transaction
That said, I understand that the best termicides are Termidore and Premise.
Mosquitoes - Here in the North Bay we have the Marin-Sonoma Mosquito Vector Control District (website = www.msmosquito.com.) They actually deliver, for free, little fish that will eat the mosquito larvae that thrive in decorative ponds and other such water sources. Free is good.
- Up until recently I assumed
that rats were a sign of filth, of
a dirty house. Up until recently
I would have been ashamed to say I
had a rat-problem. Well, I have
(or more accurately, "had")
a rat-problem, and it's not because
of filth. It's because we live
on a hill in a heavily wooded suburban
area. (I'm sure it didn't help
that the house sat empty for 18 months.) And
as an old house, with no perimeter
foundation, there are plenty
of penetrations, so the wildlife on
the hill simply moved in. When
Terry and I moved in, it was time
to get them out of here.
take a rocket scientist to know that
there was a problem. Droppings
were everywhere, and holes had actually
been gnawed in a few walls, and even
a kitchen drawer. I went about
purchasing rat traps, glue traps,
and a Have-a-Hart trap and went to
traps cost ~$2.60 each. I purchased
six initially, and I've periodically
added to the collection. The
first time I caught a rat you would
have thought I was dealing with Bubonic
plague. With gloves on, I carefully
double-bagged the rate with the trap,
and placed it in the garbage can. Now
I'm used to this part of home ownership. Traps
get reused. They say that rats
are smart, and will stay way from
a trap that's killed. Not true.
One of my better ideas is attaching, with screws, a wood extension to the bottom of rat traps so I can hold the traps firmly in place with my foot while setting the trap with both hands. I have a fear of those mechanisms and so far my fingers have been safe.
Four more thoughts on rats:
1) Glue traps work, but I seem to catch mice with them, rather than rats.
2) The sonic traps that are advertised as using vibration to work, apparently don't work. We received one as a gift (!) and there's no indication that it worked here.
3) Rat poison seems tempting but the last thing you want is a dead rat somewhere in your house that you can't get to. As I recall the poison vendors promote that the rat will want to die outside or die where there is water. I also have an article here that I clipped that says that's a crock. The rat will die where he feels like dying and you will deal with the smell.
4) For those
that are animal lovers, understand
that I am too. But there's a
time and place for wildlife. In
spite of my aggressive stance against
them, the rats have eaten a hole though
a $700 kiteboarding kite, and a similarly
valued inflatable boat.
- Skunks are a bigger concern
than rats. And we had skunks. Apparently
they also like the dryness and warmth
of the crawl spaces of our house. Unfortunately,
they don't get along with the rats. Or
maybe they don't get along with the
possums. Or raccoons. Or
whatever else they would face-off
In the middle
of the night I would hear this squeaking,
squealing sound. Actually, I
wouldn't hear it, my wife would hear
it and wake me up and tell me about
it. Then moments later, there
would be the smell of a skunk having
fired off. This went off repeatedly,
sometimes every second day, every
third day, for weeks on end. This
was bad. I probably could have
slept through it all, but my wife
was adverse to the smell of skunk
and in the middle of the night would
get up to boil vinegar - she had read
somewhere that this would help knock-down
the smell. I'm not sure it worked. We
tried other chemical tricks to make
our new home less appealing: ammonia
rags tossed into the deep dark corners,
mothballs tossed into crevices, etc. The
cure might have been worse than the
illness. The whole house stunk.
three listings in the Yellow Pages
under "animal capture and
removal." One of them
was just a person's name. Left
a message on the machine, he did not
get back. Next was Animal
Damage Management. Their
rate was $100 per five nights of servicing
a Have-a-Hart trap plus $75
per animal removal. Then we learned
that they don't trap in Marin. The
last vendor was Atco
Pest Control (415)898-2282. I
spoke with Stella. Three nights
of trapping cost $200 and there was
no guarantee they would catch anything. Desperation
being what it was, we had Atco come
visit. Richard set a Have-a-Hart
trap just outside of the crawl entrance
and on day three captured a possum. Possums
look like big bald rats, and they
seem pretty mean, but at $200 it didn't
seem like a bargain.
I think we agreed to keep the trap for a few more days and pay $100 if we needed them to pick up any more animals. Sure enough, that night, or at least the next morning, we had a skunk. Now I had a chance to watch how a professional dealt with a skunk. What I learned was Richard was nervous. He indicated that if the skunk is thumping or tapping with its paw, that's a sign that the skunk was tense. If the skunk is tense, you should be tense, too. Sure enough, this skunk was thumping.
draped a blanket over the case and
gently walked down the stairs with
the cage, telling me that they released
trapped wildlife in the outskirts
of Novato. Sure ;-)
Other things Richard told me:
- Skunks are pretty tame, they will do nothing and give you a chance to get away
- You will know when they're planning to spray you because they will face the other direction and raise that tail.
- When in the crawl spaces, I should make noise, so that I did not surprise a skunk.
key really is to keep the skunks from
getting underneath the house. Chicken
wire is a good solution. Richard
explained that they are diggers and
that the chicken wire needs to be
buried 4 to 6 inches.
- February is the mating season and litters are born in March, maybe early April. The county was very protective of litters, so a skunk with a litter could not be touched.
We picked up our own Have-a-Hart trap, and in the course of the few years, each time we got skunked from underneath our own house, I set a trap near the likely entrance point, baited with a can of cat food, and later, peanut butter. I think I captured two raccoons and four skunks. The raccoons I released at the edge of the lot. They came across pretty mean, but when I opened the cage, thankfully the raccoons wanted nothing to do with me; each bolted.
Capturing a live skunk is a mixed blessing. The middle-of-the-night squirts were over, but there are no great solutions when you have an angry skunk in your cage. The $100 pick-up service starts to sound OK.