Rodents like mice and rats can be pests but can also spread disease. For example, rat urine can spread leptospirosis which can result in kidney damage in humans. Viral infections can be spread through their saliva as well as their urine. At one time, rats were responsible for spreading the Black Plague through their fleas. Along with the spread of disease, rats, like the roof rat, can have a serious impact on agriculture. Farmers are always trying to control the rat population because a rat infestation could seriously damage their crops.
Food is the number one attraction to rats. Keep all garbage cans covered. Don’t leave dog food in its bag. Transfer the dog food to plastic or steel containers with covers. The best way to prevent rats in your fruit trees is to keep them from entering the home where they can jump to the trees. If there are holes in the perimeter of the home, stick steel wool into the holes.
Signs of Infestation
Before you see an actual rat, you’ll be able to see evidence of an infestation. Rats like to hide during the day. They’ll come out at night, which makes it harder to detect rats until there’s more than one in the home. As well as a carrier for disease, rats are incredibly destructive to the home. Their nesting and feeding habits can ruin buildings.
One of the first signs of an infestation is teeth marks or holes in food boxes. You might also see rat droppings that are banana shaped and larger than mice droppings. Rats will nest in high spaces like lofts and attics to sleep during the day. They’ll travel at night. That travel will be marked by dirty places on wood where they have rubbed against it.
In the home, it’s easier to see an infestation. Fruit tree infestation is hard to notice until the fruit has begun to ripen. Once it’s ready to be picked, you’ll be able to see small holes and hollow fruit where the rats have climbed in and eaten the interior.
Preventing and ridding the trees of rats includes pruning the trees to keep them from touching anything else. Normally, rats like to stay off the ground. They’ll head to the top of poles, homes and other trees to the fruit tree. If you don’t allow the fruit tree’s branches to touch anything else, you can avoid rats in the tree.
Spacing the Trees
If you haven’t planted your trees yet, you should keep them spaced out properly to ensure that they won’t grow too close together. For trees already planted, you might consider uprooting and moving one to avoid them touching. Branches that touch allow rats to run from tree to tree.
Rat Guards on the Trunks
Sheets of metal can be wrapped around the trunks of the fruit trees to keep rats from climbing into the tree from the ground. This should only be used after trimming. Branches that are touching wires, the home or other trees will allow the rats to travel in that way instead.
You don’t want to use any poisons for the rats because that poison will be too near to your fruit trees. It can also harm other animals like pets or birds. If you notice a rat path because of the dirt trail they leave behind, you can add a trap to that location. If it’s outdoors, place a covering over the trap to ensure it’s not a lure for birds who will get killed in the trap.
Another good way to rid your fruit trees of rats is to use other animals. Rat snakes are great for keeping the rat population away from your trees. The snakes will feast on any rodents in the area while leaving the fruit alone. Attracting owls or raptors are good for ridding the area of rats as long as you keep the ground clear for the predators to see their prey from the sky.
Rats can be a serious danger to the health of human beings as well as a serious danger to the fruit trees. They can cost you thousands in ruined fruit and the home’s structure as well as the health concerns of having rats.
Valerie is a contributing writer for Cascade Tree Works. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors.