This is Rodent Prevention Month, so if you're planning to do something, you've got most of October to do it.
Consider especially the squirrels, those timorous beasties that chew through fascia and dig holes in the grass looking for nuts, and take bites out of ripening tomatoes and then decide they don't want them. Those little miseries that rearrange tulip bulbs after you've planted them, so you have stray flowers growing in the middle of the front yard instead of in the gardens where they started.
The electrician I periodically hire suggests that knob-and-tube -- the original electrical wiring in many older houses -- would last longer if squirrels didn't enjoy gnawing through it.
And are these creatures tenacious! A friend once borrowed my tallest ladder to replace some molding that the squirrels had chewed away to enter the house.
Finishing the work on a Saturday afternoon, he and his family spent the Sunday out of town. By Monday morning, the squirrels had chewed apart the new molding and were back in the attic.
Although man vs. rodent stories can be humorous, such infestation can have a serious side.
The deer mouse and the cotton rat carry the hantavirus, which can lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, an often-fatal lung infection.
Humans walking on wet floors that are contaminated with rodent urine can contract leptospirosis, an infectious bacteria that imbeds itself in vital organs.
And let's not forget bubonic plague, which is carried by rat fleas and killed an estimated quarter to half of Europeans in the mid-14th century. Cases were reported in the American Southwest in the 1980s.
Squirrels are, for the most part, just incredibly annoying. But rats and mice can bring serious disease.
Here are some signs of rodent invasion:
About 21 million U.S. homes are invaded by mice each year. They are nocturnal animals that live in groups and rarely come out in the daytime unless their environment is disturbed by weather or they are hungry.
If you see one, there could be 20 to 40 nearby. If you see two, there could be 50.
That's because they reproduce like rabbits. Mice reach sexual maturity just two or three months after birth and can reproduce every four to six weeks. A single pair of mice can produce thousands of offspring in a year's time.
I can say with some certainty that as long as there are plenty of food sources out of doors and the weather is warm, rodents will remain outside. As the weather turns cooler, they'll check into any motel that will have them.
Set up roadblocks. Seal access to your house with sheet metal, steel wool or cement, especially around vents, pipes and ducts. Make sure windows and doors close properly. Keep garbage in sturdy cans with tight-fitting lids.
Remove nesting materials such as newspapers and boxes from the walls and off the floors. Store firewood, lumber and building supplies away from buildings and at least a foot off the ground.
Trim bushes and hedges away from the house and clean up plant debris to prevent nesting.
Baits should be put in low-traffic areas such as basements, garages and attics. Once they consume the bait, mice leave the area to die.
Set the bait in dark corners -- behind the stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer. In fact, put the bait in as many places as possible without endangering children and pets.
Check the bait frequently and discard any that's wet and contaminated. Check to see whether a large amount was consumed. If so, increase it, because the rodent infestation is bigger than you thought.
Put traps in high-traffic areas. If mice aren't caught in four or five days, move the traps. Peanut butter, nuts and cheese are effective baits for mousetraps.
If the bait and traps have remained undisturbed for 15 days, it is likely that the problem is solved.