Whether it's roof rats or Norwegian rats, these rodents are something you do not want to have around your home and property. They live in cities and on farms, will eat almost everything and can be the carriers of diseases. They also damage ornamental and edible garden plants and can get into your car engine, where they like to chew up wires. They are true survivors and can be difficult to eliminate, but with some natural controls such as mint, you can help rid your home of these bothersome animals.
Determining the Presence of Rats
Rats are primarily active at night. If you suspect that they are present, quietly walk to an area where you might have seen their small, pellet-like droppings---perhaps near a bird feeder or area where you store grain, groceries or other foodstuff. If they are active, you will hear them scurrying about. They might be frightened away by a flashlight, but if you shine it briefly to the area where you hear scurrying, you often can catch a glimpse of them.
Prevention is the best cure for rats. Most importantly, do not leave food around, either indoors or outside. This includes compost piles, which are a favorite place for rats to dine after nightfall: keep them covered. Keep all garbage cans securely closed and trees pruned away from your house and other buildings---rats climb up trees and then jump onto buildings. Seal all holes in buildings, screens and under doors. If you install door sweeps, they will prevent rats from entering your home or outbuilding.
Although mint is a pleasant aroma to most humans, rats shy away from it. Soak rags or cotton balls with a few drops of peppermint oil and place them in areas where you have seen or suspect rats. Kentucky Colonel mint (Mentha cordipholia) is recommended as a type of mint that works well when you use it fresh, but try peppermint, spearmint, pennyroyal and other varieties. Another method is to make a strong tea from mint leaves and then spray it wherever rats are present.
Other Helpful Plants and Substances
Other herbs and plants that deter rats include orange peel or orange essential oil, black pepper, cinnamon and cayenne. The smell of daffodils, wood hyacinth, allium and camphor plants is unpleasant to rats. Because dogs are natural predators of rats, their scent will scare these unwanted creatures away if you place dog hair or urine where rats congregate. If you soak a rag in ammonia and then place it in a coffee can near their home, rats will relocate in short order.
Hints and Tips
Don't expect a little mint oil or a few mint plants to completely rid your property of a large rat population. Your city might allow live trapping of rats, so this practice could be an option. Be sure to release any animal you catch far from populated areas. For severe infestations, look for an environmentally friendly exterminator. These companies are on the rise and specialize in pest control without the use of toxic substances.
Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.