House Mouse

House Mouse Control in Your Home or Business

General Information

A well-known rodent throughout the world, house mice inhabit temperate locations in the wild and almost any place humans dwell. The house mouse, or Mus musculus, most likely originated in Europe or Asia and spread to the rest of the world via trading or passenger ships.

In New England, house mice commonly live outside during the warmer months. However, homeowners may notice signs of house mice infestation during winter months, as the rodent seeks shelter indoors during inclement/colder weather.

Picture of Two House Mice
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Appearance & Identification

What do house mice look like?
Size: On average, adults measure two or three inches long, excluding a three to four inch tail.
Color: The slender house mouse has brownish or dark gray fur with a white or buff underside.
Characteristics: Additional identifiers include big ears, a pointy nose, and small, bulging, black eyes. Its long, hairless, scaly tail and small feet help with balance, allowing house mice to run and climb over most surfaces very quickly.

Habitat

Shelter: House mice commonly nest in the small spaces of houses or barns that experience less foot traffic from humans, in places such as:

  • Wall voids
  • Under furniture
  • Boxes, shoes, clothing, and other items left untouched in storage spaces for long periods of time.

Seasons: During the summer months, house mice are often found in fields eating crops. The pest moves indoor during colder seasons, if possible. House mice enter buildings easily due to their ability to squeeze through cracks slightly bigger than 1/4 of an inch.

Behavior

Getting Around: House mice prefer to live in close proximity to food. An acute sense of smell, hearing, touch, and taste compensates for the house mouse's poor vision, and the rodent continuously explores and memorizes its surroundings.

Nest Materials & Locations: Nests are constructed from a variety of materials, including:

  • Cloth
  • Paper
  • Other soft materials

They typically contain spaces for the following activities:

  • Nursing
  • Everyday living
  • Food storage
  • Entering and exiting

Outdoors, house mice may burrow into the ground to create nests. The nocturnal house mouse tends to forage within 30 feet of its nest in order to transport and store food for future use.

Diet

What do house mice eat?
House mice consume anything humans eat but tend to stick with grains and seeds when available.

  • Seeds, roots, certain insects, and various plants when outdoors.
  • Fatty and sugary foods like butter, chocolate, meat, and other proteins.
  • Stored grains, cereals, and pet food.
  • More obscure food items may include glue or rubber.

House mice can survive without the presence of fresh drinking water, as the rodent gets most of its hydration from the food it consumes.

Reproduction

When do house mice mate?
House mice typically mate during the spring or fall. A single female house mouse may produce up to 10 litters annually.

What is a typical litter size?
A typical litter comprises five to six mice, though some females give birth to as many as 12 mice at a time.

What is the lifespan of a house mouse?
Most mice reach adulthood within 50 days. The entire life cycle of a house mouse typically lasts no longer than nine to 12 months.

Problems Caused by House Mice

The rodent may cause significant aesthetic damage to property due to its propensity to nibble or gnaw on items, edible and non-edible, in search of suitable sustenance.

  • Items damaged in the home: Insulation in walls, electrical wires, and any area the house mouse nests.
  • Food destruction: House mice often destroy containers and bags in houses or barns in order to reach food.
  • Injury to crops: In some cases, large populations of house mice may decimate crops by digging up seeds or consuming the maturing plants.

The presence of house mice leads to food contamination, as the creatures leave droppings and urine containing potentially harmful bacteria everywhere they forage.

  • Health risks: People who consume contaminated food run the risk of contracting food poisoning or more serious diseases such as lymphocytic choriomeningitis, rickettsial pox, and leptospirosis.
  • Parasites: House mice may also act as transportation for parasitic organisms like tapeworm and bacteria that cause ringworm.

Learn more about diseases carried by house mice here.

Signs of Infestation

New England homeowners may find the following indicators when house mice infestations occur:

  • A strong, musky odor.
  • 1/4-inch long droppings and urine stains.
  • Noticeable bite and tooth marks on wooden furniture, doors, plastic containers, and other storage items.
  • Footprints along runways or smudge marks on baseboards.
  • Audible sounds of crawling and scurrying in the walls and ceiling.

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Prevention

Good housekeeping: Keeping foodstuffs sealed in airtight containers, cleaning up well after meals, and sweeping floors regularly diminishes the chances of house mice finding sustenance in the home.

Modify the habitat: Eliminating easily accessible living areas and replacing cardboard storage boxes with durable plastic containers proves another way to keep house mice from taking up residence in the home.

Trapping: Commercially available traps, baits, and poisons may help with house mice infestations, but some pose danger to children and pets. Consult a pest control expert for a comprehensive solution to a house mice infestation.