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Rodent proofing fruit trees is a good idea, but many homeowners have a great amount of success rodent proofing their landscape with just a sprinkling of mouse/rat poison on the soil in the vicinity of trees.
The poison is effective and relatively cheap.
It's very important to kill the rodents, though.
The poisons must be distributed uniformly around the tree, or your efforts will be for naught.
The most commonly used rodenticide in the United States is called Sevin. In fact, it is very probably the most commonly used rodenticide. Sevin is a powerful compound that kills rodents within minutes of contact. It may take a week or more for a rodent that ingests it to die. It has several drawbacks. It can cause liver and kidney damage, if the dose is too large. It can affect the behavior of other, nontargeted, species, because of its toxicity. It can also affect nontargeted species because the bait stations it's given in are highly attractive to foraging nontargeted species.
Sevin is an excellent rodenticide, and it is effective. It's also a major health risk to pets and children, who can easily be exposed to the bait if they get hold of the stations, and it is particularly dangerous to children, who are prone to ingest anything they can get their paws on.
There are also other poisons, some of which are less toxic and potentially safer, but none of them are as effective.
Sevin may be less toxic, but you must use larger amounts of it to ensure that the whole tree is saturated with it, or it won't kill the rodents. As you begin to see the results, you will likely get carried away and apply an excess of poison. There's a good chance that you'll poison yourself and/or your pets. Be careful!
You can use less Sevin and still kill the rodents.
To that end, you can dilute it with other poisons. This is how you would proceed.
First, find out which of the nontarget species you want to eradicate, so you can choose the most potent poison. Use the table on page 39 for this purpose.
Look up the toxicity of the poison you want to use in the table on page 39 and follow the instructions.
If you have a good knowledge of chemical properties, you can choose to use an alternative poison to Sevin or one of the alternatives. The advantage of that is that you can select the poison that best fits your situation.
You can use less Sevin and still kill the rodents.
### Choosing an Adequate Dose
To ensure that you are using the right dose of rodenticide, first select the best, most toxic, most convenient, most effective poison.
Then, when you have selected the poison of your choice, calculate the amount you will need to kill each animal. If you can do this accurately, you can choose the right dose. You can simply calculate the number of animals you want to kill.
However, if you are uncertain about your calculations or if you want a quicker killing time, you can use the formula that I have given you on pages 40–43. If you use the formula, you will have to keep a log of your observations on the days that you work and check the formula at the end of the week.
If you think that a small quantity of poison will kill the animal, it might not, especially if you are in a position where the rodents are coming in direct contact with it.
If you use it directly on food you are eating, it is certain that you have an effective dose.
### Determining How Much to Use
Once you have calculated the dose of the poison you have chosen, it is time to find the quantity that you will need.
First, be sure you have enough time to do the job.
Then, look at the volume of the home you are in. Take into account any large and small items, such as boxes, crates, cupboards, windowsills, or the floors, as well as any furniture that could trap or hold dead rodents.
The volume of all these things needs to be considered when you calculate how much you need.
If the house is large, the quantity needed will be larger than if the house is small.
If you are worried about safety, you might want to choose a small house, or even a tunnel, that will make it easier to keep the poison inside.
You can't be sure, but try to make the house as small as possible to prevent rodents from finding their way back into your home.
As with any job, there are no rules when it comes to calculations. There are as many ways to do a job as there are people who do it. I was once asked by a man who owned a big house to clear his attic. It had enough space for three full-sized trucks to stand side by side and the job involved hundreds of books that had to be thrown into a huge pile to make a huge mound of paper that was higher than the ceiling. He would be better off not bothering with the job as it would involve so much space and so many items that it would be impossible to keep an effective dose of poison inside.
### When the Time Is Right
Remember when you chose the poison, that the time to apply it will depend on when you can get to the house. There is also the consideration of when you can return.
If you get caught out by weather, the chance of your poison surviving will increase.
Do you have time to apply the poison when you arrive at the house?
It is easier to do the job while you are on site than it is to do it after you have left. It is important to be aware of all the variables, to be able to make a decision and know what to do when the time comes.
As with other jobs, I can't tell you the time it will be safe to leave. There are many variables, the biggest being the size of the job.
If I can see into the house with no one around I can assess the risk. If there are other people around I will have to take the time to talk to them and ask if they are OK with the time. As there is a chance of being poisoned, it is sensible to ask them to tell me if they have eaten or drink anything that might have been laced with poison.
It can be better to say a few days instead of a few hours.
### How to Appoint A Professional
I am always surprised by how many people insist on going into their home to apply the poison. They feel that they have no option but to ask for a professional.
Do they really want to commit their house to a stranger who is potentially putting their family's lives at risk?
When you ask people if they have any concerns about who might be applying the poison you are asking them to think in a way they don't normally.
There will be other decisions made in the house that they may not want to know about, decisions that will be of a confidential nature.
They may be embarrassed that a stranger has seen the way they live, that they have been caught out by a professional cleaner.
The other option is to call the tradespeople to do it. While it is not for me to say how these people should be paid, what I can say is that the cleaner will have to have qualifications.
Even the tradespeople can't be expected to know everything there is to know about housecleaning, and this is an area that they are no experts in.
Some people simply