Thursday, August 18, 2011

More Plague and a Few Rat Control Tips

I wrote about the Plague a little while back. But since then, my take on the role rats played in this decimating scourge has changed. I recently read an article in the Guardian that vindicates the vermin a bit. It seems they are not responsible for the lion's share of transmission; that's according to archaeologists studying the Black Death in London in the mid 14th Century. 

It essentially comes down to transmission time. The Black Plague, which wiped out possibly two thirds of the city's population, was not a rat control issue, but more of a people control problem. The scourge moved too quickly to be a flea-related illness. Because the city's population was so densely packed, the infection spread through airborne pathogens, finding purchase in the closest human. 
Mortality rose  throughout the cold winter of of 1349, which debunks the whole fleas on rats theory, as fleas would not have survived the frigid temperatures. Black rat skeletons have been found at many burial sites, but not enough to make a case. 

That doesn't mean I have to start liking the creatures though. I mean, I don't want them in kitchen; or trying on my clothes for that matter. Here a few things you can do to keep them out of your house:
  • First, inspect the house for a genuine rat control problem (droppings etc.)
  • Then, find out how the rats are getting inside the building, and seal those places up. 
  • Now it's time to start trapping
  • Set the traps on the rat thoroughfares, where there are droppings, and some trails in the insulation.
  • Check them every day, and get rid of all dead trapped rats
  • Finally, disinfect the area; rat droppings and remains aren't exactly sanitary

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rats and Global Warming

I'm not one to cast dispersions. I won't pretend that I know the first thing about global warming and the science behind any theories scientists may have about its absence or presence. But strictly from a hypothetical standpoint, let's just say the earth is getting warmer. What would that mean for rat populations?

I found a little article in Digital Journal that poses a hypothesis: Officials in China's Xinjiang region are putting the blame for a recent boom in the rat population on global warming. They say because winter's are becoming more mild (due to the climate dynamism), the rats aren't dying off in the winter, and there's a resulting exponential breeding explosion.
They say the uptick in rats is reeking havoc on the pastures in the country's  northwest Autonomous Region. The meteorological bureau put last winter's average temps in  three degrees higher than normal. There was substantially less snow in the region's more extreme areas. Officials are approaching this rat control issue with poison, but they're having to be careful about the other fauna in the region including the foxes, and other semi-lovable creatures.Officials are saying that they are being extra careful with the raticide, which is known to pollute the environment and could poison the foxes and eagles that usually feed the rats. 

I don't know what to make of this -- just that I smell a Chinese horror movie about a little farmhouse attacked by healthy fertile rats.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Uptown Rats

It seems the New York Daily News is the place to go for rat stories. Not that I don't have a wealth of personal and empirical experience to share with you all. It's just I sometimes need a little more inspiration than my morning/early-afternoon cup(s) of coffee.

You've heard of the Plaza hotel I'm sure.Well, it seems the fountain in front of the historic building is attracting some unwanted visitors. The city park, Grand Army Plaza, on Fifth is a longtime rat haunt, and it seems the little pests have established  a little thoroughfare between the water source and the green space adjacent to the Plaza. This appears to be a rat control problem of hoighty-toighty proportions.

Tourists are freaking out, and apparently hardened locals are getting the creeps, too.One cart vendor told the Daily News the rats are rabbit-sized. Passers-by can see the shrubs shaking and hear the horrifying rat chatter as the little beasts spill out onto the sidewalk.

The same vendor put the blame on the horse-drawn-carriage operators, who he claims leave their animals' food behind. A local hansom cab driver says he's seen the population boom over the past few months promoting him to park his carriage elsewhere as not to scare of potential fares.

The hansom cab operators blame the tourists, saying it's their food that's causing the infestation. Here's what I think: The rats are to blame. You can pawn this thing off on whomever you want, but when it comes down to it, it's those nasty, resilient, reproductively savvy rats that deserve reproach.

A spokesman for the Central Park Conservancy said there had been no increase in rat numbers in the area. Which really isn't a surprise. What is a surprise is the burgeoning ease they display around humans. Here's what I'd say to these rats if I thought they understood me:

Rats, we liked you better when you were scared of us. "Like" is a strong word, fellas. Actually, we wanted to destroy you less when you were scared of us.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Can a Rat Climb Up Through the Toilet

I know this video is gratuitous and gross. But it's proof, man! Rats can enter your home through your toilet. Again, this is as unlikely as any of the scenarios I post. But doesn't it make you dislike rats more? After watching the video, please read on. I shall elaborate. Warning: this actually isn't that gross - it's more the idea than it is the footage that frightens me.
I found a blogger that sort of dispels this video as fraud. Those of you living in fear of rat toilet attacks should rest easy; his argument is pretty convincing

He said rats are really good climbers but even the most adept scramblers can't scale slippery PVC sewer pipe connected to your toilet.It's not really the circumference that would deter the little beasts; they can squeeze through quarter-size openings without skipping a beat. It's the slipperiness that would send them packing -- there's just not enough friction. And the whole set up of indoor plumbing relies on gravity; everything's lined up in graded angles. 

Rats are good swimmers, but that really wouldn't matter. Pipes in the home are typically not full of water. So, it's not  an issue of whether they could make it or hold their breath, it's more an issue of will. Would a rat see a toilet run as cost-effective? If you've made it this far, and are still afraid of this urban folk tale, there's one more thing to take into consideration: toilet bowls are the slickest surfaces in your house -- and we know rats can't handle slick surfaces. So if, against all odds, a rat made it up your toilet into the bowl, then that's where he's staying. At least until you call a rat control specialist. 

Let's Talk About the Plague

Again, I'm not trying to scare you. Well, maybe just a little bit. All I'm saying is the plague exists and it will get you. OK, it probably won't get you, but here's what I've found out about it in one of my exhaustive research sessions. 

The Plague is a disease typically spread by rodents (not unlike our friend the rat). Humans are bitten by the fleas carrying the bacterial disease living on the rats.Plague has has three forms: Bubonic plague,septicemia plague, and pneumonic plague. They respectively affect the lymph nodes, the blood, and the lungs. Pneumonic plague is the most contagious because of its ability to transmit via blood and fluid droplets in the air.

How do people get plague?
  • Infected flea bites
  • Contact with body fluids of a plague-infected animal
  • Inhalation of airborne droplets from persons or animals, such as rats, but ironically cats as well; they're big carriers of plague pneumonia
  • And finally, here's the "Outbreak" scenario, by exposure in a laboratory

Here's where it gets really gross: symptoms of infection

After exposure via bite or whatever, the Plague makes a b-line for the bloodstream and on to the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes swell into what are called buboes, the rock star characteristic of bubonic plague. Other symptoms include:  fever, headache, chills, and extreme tiredness. If gone untreated, plague typically devours the body within a week, maybe a few days.

So, what does all of this have to do with rat control you ask? I'm not sure. But it makes me not like rats that much more.

The First One's for Real

I came across this one in Metro. It's about rat bites -- rat bites in a city known for its rodent population: New York. Before I get into this, it's important to note that rat bites are rare. Odds are you'll go your whole life without getting bitten by one. That being said, it does happen. Here's how 2010 looked.

Rats bit over 100 people in the Big Apple last year. Those beady-eyed little monsters you see gnawing on discarded french fries in the subway are capable of, and have been known to, bite humans.  So watch out!

There were 86 reported rat bites last year -- that's "reported rat bites." There were obviously more that went unreported.  In 2011, there have been 29 people who've been attacked by rodentia in the city that never sleeps. But we haven't hit peak rat bite season yet. A period of time, I've been unable to pinpoint... as of yet!

The Health Department looks to bite accounts on their website for yearly numbers. Emergency rooms are also taken into consideration.  Here's a seriously creepy quote from a Bronx-based exterminator who specializes in rat control , and was called in after a mother reported finding bites on her infant.

“They were getting into a crib and they bit on a baby’s toes. [They] sometimes climb right into a baby’s crib and suck milk out of bottles."


There have also been reports of rats attacking pets. One particularly strange story involved a Long Island rat climbing into a parrot's cage, and subsequently devouring him. But remember, these stories are the outliers. Rats typically keep to themselves. If they were to actually bite you, it would probably be by accident. However, if one should sink it's filthy little teeth into your flesh, call the Health Department; you don't want rat bite fever ; it can be fatal, unfortunately.