An interview with a house mouse


July 7, 2021

Get to know the house mouse (Mus musculus).


For such a destructive pest, the house mouse can be polite sometimes. (PHOTO: ICEFRONT/ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS/GETTY IMAGES)

Pest Management Professional magazine (PMP): In the past, we talked with the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), but this month, we are going to chat with a house mouse. Welcome, and thanks for joining us today.
House mouse (HM): Thank you for the invitation.

PMP: Mice have been called one of the most successful species on Earth. Why is that?
HM: Well, rats frequently try to take the credit for being successful, but we think we are successful in our own right. We have tremendous flexibility in that we can survive on little food, little water, and we reproduce rapidly. We are proud to be one of the more than 2,000 species of commensal rodents that inhabit every continent, except perhaps Antarctica and a few islands. No need to worry, though. Bet on us to get there, too.

PMP: Two-thousand species of rodents?
HM: That’s right; but don’t take my word for it. That information is published in the World Health Organization’s Public Health Significance of Urban Pests. A house mouse has only a few subspecies, so it is not a huge group. But we are very effective.

PMP: Can you survive outdoors? Many people think your common name implies that you need to live indoors, or at least very close to a house.
HM: People notice us in and around houses, but we do live in fields, barns and other areas that are not houses. We like to be near people because we like to share the table. Or, more appropriately, we like people to share their food with us. As with any pest, we need shelter, food and water. Normally, we can get the water we need from food that humans are kind enough to share with us without thinking, such as by leaving food trash uncovered and leaving pet food in dishes overnight.

PMP: What makes your life difficult?
HM: The most difficult thing we encounter, surprisingly, is success.

PMP: Success? Really?
HM: Yes. When people are too hospitable by being generous with food, water, and shelter or harborage, our population explodes. That’s when the competition gets fierce. We can become our own worst enemy.

PMP: You are saying you are so adaptive that if there is a little shortage of food, you will find it elsewhere. Shortage of water? No problem, you’ll get it from the food source or even condensation on pipes. Shortage of harborage? No problem, you’ll move.
HM: Right. Of course, we like to be near the things we need. But many times, if someone seals up one access point, we usually can find another. Conservation of our energy is important; we don’t travel from down the street to get a meal. Like relatives who stay too long, it drives people crazy. When they call in a professional, though, we worry.

PMP: What tips can you give pest management professionals (PMPs)?
HM: Take your time and go to the source of food, harborage and even water. A few extra minutes on the job will decrease callbacks. Our best day is when do-it-yourselfers try to reset traps and we run out of hiding in front of them. We just laugh. They don’t. PMPs, though, are very good at sleuthing. It’s not the control measures that are different. They are just so good at figuring us out. They used to sell application of rodenticides or installation of traps. Today, they sell expertise using those tools, and you can’t fight that.

PMP: I guess that’s why our industry is so valuable.
HM: Well, you’ll never get rid of us, but the professionals sure do keep our numbers down.

PMP: Thanks for your time.
HM: Thank you.

About the Author

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Greg Baumann is Vice President, Technical Services & Regulatory Affairs for Nisus Corp.

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