Questions on: Mice
Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service
Q: You probably have received hundreds of letter pertaining to this subject, but I really need your help. I am being swarmed with boxelder bugs. I live on the east coast of Pennsylvania and have a natural buffer zone behind my property. I have attempted sprays, but must be careful about what I use because of the pets I have. I have searched the Internet and am totally confused. Every supposed expert has a different solution. I do not know what a boxelder tree looks like. Is this the only type of tree that the bugs come from? I am looking for the most natural way of getting rid of them. There are times my neighbor's house on the sunny side is completely covered and so is one side of my garage. (e-mail reference)
A: You are right, I've had plenty of inquiries, but yours is the first one for 2007! Congratulations! Other than hiring a professional pest control company, you could use the insecticide Sevin for control. They are at their worst now because the bugs are seeking warmth by collecting on the south side of buildings and also attempting to get inside. As the season warms up, they will not be such pests. If you choose to use Sevin, keep in mind that it has little or no residual effect, so the spray must reach the boxelder bug directly. As to whether or not they stay exclusively with the boxelder maple species, that isn't necessarily so.
Q: I have a co-worker who is battling voles in her yard. Does the master gardener have any suggestions on what to do? She's resorting to what I term voodoo measures (pinwheels in the burrow holes), so she would welcome any suggestions you might have. Thanks for your great advice on just about any topic! (Turtle Lake, N.D.)
A: Itís not voodoo or black magic, just basic science! I have several scenarios you can choose from. Habitat manipulation means keeping the grass mowed, especially around trees. Remove brush piles or piles of unwanted yard or construction material where they can hide. The lack of cover will make them vulnerable to raptors, such as hawks and owls. Poisons, such as zinc phosphide and other commercially produced anticoagulants, are available. The poison comes as bait and is most effective when used in the fall and again in early spring. As with any poison, handle it carefully and follow label directions. You also can use live traps. Place the traps in the volesí runways and cover with a piece of cardboard. Peanut butter is an excellent attractant. Release them as far away from your home as possible, at least 1/2 mile.
Q: We have enjoyed feeding suet to our downy woodpeckers during the past few years and were thrilled this fall to see that a huge, hairy woodpecker had discovered our feeding station. Thrilled until I started noticing some of the huge holes the woodpecker made in our trees. The bird has drilled a hole halfway through one of our young ash trees. Will woodpeckers kill a tree and should we discourage the birds instead of encouraging them to entertain us from our kitchen window? I enjoy reading your column. Keep up the good work. (Linton, N.D.)
A: Thanks for the nice comment about the column! We have had occasional visits from members of the woodpecker family in our backyard, but then they take off. I never have heard of a woodpecker's activity doing enough damage to kill a tree, but a big hole in a tree isn't going to do the tree much good. Since they are creatures of habit, I suggest getting some Tanglefoot and carefully rubbing it around the area where the woodpecker is frequenting. I say carefully because it is messy stuff, but it usually does the job. Perhaps the woodpecker will be content eating your suet, rather than trying to attract a female!
Q. What can I spray around my house to get rid of mice? (Buchanan, N.D.)
A. It is not a spray, but ground-up corncobs infused with a variety of herbal extracts formed into a "brick." The strong herbal odors drive them away but do no harm and smell pleasant to us humans. The contact to make is Kari Warberg at Crane Creek Gardens in New Town, N.D. Her toll-free telephone number is 1-800-583-2921. She could answer questions about this product.
Q. I have a couple of questions for you. What can be done to control moss but won't kill the grass? Mice have feasted on the bark of an apple tree this winter. What should be done to the chewed area? (Stanley, N.D., e-mail)
A. Moss development in turf areas is the result of too much moisture lingering in too shady a location. Permanent elimination of moss and algae can be achieved by allowing the soil to dry or drain better. This can often be accomplished via selective pruning, (if the dense shade is tree caused), core aeration and/or regrading the soil surface. Temporary relief can be achieved with the application of about four to six pounds of iron sulfate or about 10 ounces of ferrous ammonium sulfate per 100 square feet.
If the trees have not been girdled, then simply take a sharp knife and make clean edges around the damaged areas. No need to put on any type of dressing. The tree will begin a healing process faster that way, if it is going to heal over at all.
Q. Can you tell me what kind of "mouse nuts" I have enclosed? I found them in a shoe box in my closet and was wondering what they were. It kind of looks like some of them might be cherries, but I'm not sure. How do you think the mouse made it into my house? (Valley City, N.D.)
A. Those looked mostly like linden seeds or nuts. Could have been a couple of cherries mixed in. As far as how a mouse operates, your guess is as good as mine! There is obviously some run or opening to your house, and the mouse thought the shoe box would be good storage. Just be thankful there is no evidence of nesting. I'd suggest a "glue trap." Place some foodnuts of courseon a piece of cardboard and surround it with rodent glue. That way you'll be able to trap the culprit without the gore!
Q. I mulch my whole yard, and it is infected with mice. My yard is quite large, so I cannot remove it all in the spring. Any suggestions for control of the rodents? (e-mail)
A. Unfortunately, that is one of the problems with mulchit attracts rodents. You have to accept the fact that rodent control will be an ongoing maintenance chore. If you take a "vacation," the population will rebuild.
Two approaches that worked when I was living in the Middle East were the standard snap trap and the glue trap. I definitely preferred the latter as it was less messy to clean up. The rodent simply crawled onto the board or cardboard after the food placed in the middle and became stuck. You "harvested" the rodents each morning. If no catch was made at that location, move the trap to another one. That did a good job for us. Give it a try!
Q. I enjoy your help in the Country Peddler and have received a lot of great information on gardening.
What can I use to deter mice from eating/chewing on my apple tree, or other berry trees?
Thank you kindly. (Niagara, N.D.)
A. Mice can be discouraged with physical barriers, like hardware cloth, or taste repellents like Ro-Pel or hot pepper spray like Capsicum.
There are several products on the market, but these three I have used and found effective.
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