E2M2C Chronicles: Updated for September 2021

This newsletter, authored by Jerry Cates, is published to keep our clients up-to-date on the E2M2C™ program installed at their homes and businesses. It is accessible to all who are interested in the general subject of rodent control. If you know someone who could benefit from its contents, please pass it along. © Bugsinthenews Vol. 23:09(01): Published on 19 September 2021.


THE E2M2C™ PROGRAM IS EXPANDING THROUGHOUT TEXAS

E2M2C™ devices are now installed at numerous residential and commercial sites throughout Texas. Participants give it high marks for bringing rodent infestations to a halt and keeping them there. Besides Austin, Round Rock, Georgetown, Buda, San Marcos, Driftwood, Dripping Springs, Marble Falls, Kingsland, and Wimberley, we also have active E2M2C™ sites in Granbury, Burleson, Fort Worth, Arlington, North Richland Hills, Cedar Hill, Dallas, Garland, Frisco, Roanoke, Decatur, Sanger and Gainesville. Many of our commercial clients are restaurants, because rats target restaurants and similar food-production sites. You can tell if your favorite eatery is enrolled in the E2M2C™ program by looking for E2M2C™ devices on the perimeters of their stores. They look just like the ones at your home, which are highly modified versions of a rodenticide dispensing station manufactured by Bell Labs. If you can see our E2M2C™ devices, you can be sure that restaurant is rodent-free…

We Never Stop Learning…

Once E2M2C™ devices are placed at a residential or commercial site, we commence regular servicing 30 days afterward, and then tailor each site’s service schedule thereafter in accordance with the rodent pressure we observe at that site. Most E2M2C™ clients continue to participate in perpetuity. Because rodents are endemic to most locales, their infestations will likely resume, should these devices be removed.

E2M2C™ provides, at its core, novel devices and servicing protocols that soon bring existing rodent infestations to a halt and prevent new ones from happening. The program uses specially designed rodenticide dispensers, that have been modified in our laboratory to be more attractive to rats and mice, and more easily accessible by them. Our modifications ensure they cannot be accessed by non-target animals or young children, and that they protect their rodenticide provisions from the elements for longer periods of time.

Those devices are never serviced in the field, but are swapped out with fresh units at each service event. At the client’s site, each used device is sealed in a bag, along with a sanitizer, before being transported back to the laboratory. This initiates a cleansing regimen that, on arrival at our lab, is joined with additional processes that ultimately produce fully sanitized, re-provisioned devices, ready for their next deployments. 

The Ancient Art of Rodent Control, Revisited… [and Revised]…

Though rodent control is one of mankind’s oldest professions, human understanding of rodent behavior — even by those considered to be experts in the field — remains primitive. Did I really mean “today”? The here and now? When man’s knowledge in every field is touted everywhere as being superior to that of the past? Yes. That’s exactly what I meant.

Over the centuries a body of anecdotes and folklore concerning the way rats and mice behaved slowly accumulated, was passed down from generation to generation, and came to assume a stature larger than life. That body, which provides the framework on which most of today’s beliefs about rats and mice are based, continues to be considered gospel even though it has never been subjected to the full rigors of field-based scientific analysis. By comparison, laboratory rat behavior has been studied up one side and down another, for centuries. But it is well known that lab rats don’t behave like rats in the great outdoors, so where lab studies differ, that distinction explained those differences away and allowed the gospel to remain intact. 

That same, still intact gospel is being taught in our colleges and universities as settled science. It is enshrined in thick reference books that are updated and reprinted every few years, and that wind up in the libraries of reputable pest control companies to be used as bibles for that company’s practitioners. Those practitioners then regurgitate the tenets of that gospel back to their customers as self-evident truths.

So, what have we just described? A full circle, beginning in the anecdotal folklore of the citizenry, passed upward to earn its imprimatur within the hallowed halls of academia, from there passed down to the tradesmen who practice the art, and finally to be returned, back to the masses, who recognize their earlier stamp of approval and greet that gospel as the old friend that it is.

All well and good? It’s only as good as the gospel itself, and not all gospels can be fully trusted. The history of scientific investigation is riddled with examples of self-evident truths gone bad.

De-throning Self-Evident Truths…

We did not seek to dethrone anyone’s honored preconceptions, much less any of the important facets of the aforementioned gospel. Yet, In the process of reconciling what we observed with the accepted wisdom of old, serious disparities surfaced that had to be addressed. In light of the analyses we’ve conducted with the E2M2C™ program, some of the most widely-accepted and closely held beliefs concerning the behavior of commensal rodents began to appear as nothing more than half-truths. A few even seem totally false.

Notice that I am not claiming that they definitely are. Time will tell the tale, one way or the other. But as our field-based discoveries began to shed fresh light on the vagaries of rodent ethology, even more of those old ideas began to crumble in ways that seemed to confirm our early suspicions. We’ll not call those questionable ideas myths, but it is not unreasonable to consider them good candidates for the title.

But how could so humble a process as ours possibly uncover fallacies others have overlooked for decades, even centuries? Of course, it could not. Asserting it could would be the height of arrogance. We shrank from being thought as that, but still we wondered. And as we wondered, even more of the gospel of old began to unravel. 

When so much of what has previously been thought to be ironclad science starts falling by the wayside, there has to be a reason. If so, that old bugaboo, confirmation bias, has to accept some of the blame. It is hard, even impossible, to conduct scientific inquiry with a perfectly open mind. Information gleaned from observations and experimentation is almost never interpreted in a vacuum, but is viewed as being appended to what is already known. If what is “known” is even slightly incorrect, interpretations seen “in light of it” will also be somewhat or entirely faulty. The breadth of each faulty interpretation is widened, too, if the investigator has no urgent reason to doubt and really wants to believe what has been passed down, so that obvious or suspicious disparities are best overlooked or ignored. It is always safe to confirm foundational beliefs, and treacherous to question them, even when naked truths appear to raise important doubts.

What exactly am I getting at? I apologize for the lengthy preamble, above, but without it what follows might be harder to understand, much less swallow. Let me explain…

Today’s Rodentologists Sometimes Get it Wrong…

It was and still is widely believed that both roof rats and Norway rats are neophobic, that is, that they are fearsome of new things and, because of that fear tend not to be curious. Samuel Anthony Barnett, the Australian biologist recognized today as the father of ethology and behavioral physiology, implied in his 1963 book “The Rat,” that wild rat neophobia was nothing less than settled science. Based on that assertion and a noticeable lack of contrary evidence, today practically every expert claiming the mantle of “Rodentologist” breathlessly tells crowds of pest controllers they cannot expect rats to get into their bait stations for days, weeks, or even longer after the stations are placed in the field.

Don’t blame the stations, they’re told. The bait stations are just fine the way they are. The problem lies wholly with the simple fact that wild rats get spooked with something new. Just wait it out, and be patient. 

Neophobia debunked?…

Wild rats, it is said, get so spooked by newly placed objects in their established pathways that they don’t just avoid those new objects for awhile. They even go so far as to postpone using those old, established pathways where the new object is placed. Time must pass until they get used to having it around. Yet we’ve found — over and over again, throughout Texas — that wild rats will eagerly explore new objects that are placed within their established foraging zones and pathways. Furthermore, they do so right away. 

We know this because wild rats get into our E2M2C™ devices within minutes after they’re deployed. We’ve seen it happen, on wildlife camera video, and we’ve witnessed — again and again — the neutralization of significant rodent infestations in the span of a few days. That should never have happened so quickly if the wild rats involved were as neophobic as we’ve been told they are. 

Rather than assume that the stations now on the market are not the problem, we re-designed them. We took an existing design, then modified it in a myriad of ways that we hoped would make it appear — in the eyes of the rodent — more worthy of exploration. Some of those pains specifically sought to suggest to rodents that the modified design contains something worth eating.

Amazingly, the rats bought it…

On observing that the rats we’ve observed in Texas show no signs of neophobia when encountering our E2M2C™ devices, I studied Barnett’s writing on the subject again. To be fair, he included a number of important caveats, which were cloaked in cautionary language. Those caveats temper the implication that neophobia is settled science, though one is led to believe that he was more wedded to the idea that wild rats were neophobic than that they were not. Based on that, both academia and the pest control industry it educated came to embrace the notion of wild rat neophobia without giving those caveats a second thought.

That notion had never been challenged since, until E2M2C™. If our understanding about the candidate-myth of wild rat neophobia is correct, one reason why it persisted so long might be that, standing alone, the notion of ingrained neophobia conveniently explains away many of the deficits afflicting today’s crude rodenticide dispensers. If so, this is a wonderful illustration of the power of confirmation bias. It stifles further analysis, and if it had not done so a curious fact would have risen to the surface: Rats don’t just avoid traditional rodent dispensers newly placed on their established pathways; they also shun those same dispensers on pathways they’ve never traveled before. Perhaps when they eventually do enter those stations, it isn’t because they’ve gotten used to having them around, but simply because idle curiosity got the better of them. Maybe somebody should have noticed that. 

Repelled by The Scent of Humanity?

Similarly, expert rodentologists also claim that contaminating rodenticides with human scent, by touching the dispensers or their baits while provisioning or servicing them, will repel rats and delay or prevent consumption. I don’t recommend handling rodenticides or touching used rodenticide dispensers for other reasons, but it seems nonsensical to believe that these animals are repelled by the odors left behind by humans. They eagerly consume foods, contaminated with our scents, that fall from our tables. Why would they object to those same odors on rodenticides or bait stations?

In fact, as best as we can tell, they don’t.

Our E2M2C™ surveys show that regular human activity attracts rats to our abodes, our restaurants, and our places of business. What is it about that human activity that attracts rats, if not the odors humans leave behind? As much as 1% of a rat’s DNA focuses on the detection of odor. The interpretation of smells, as a precursor to decision-making, occupies much of the rat’s brain. Commensal rodents have become wedded to living close to humans and eating their food for millennia, so they must find the smell of a human attractive.

It wasn’t hard to find proof. We’ve consistently observed that rodenticide consumption in our E2M2C™ devices is always highest in those devices located closest to doors humans use most often. That’s where the odor of humanity prevails.

Why would the candidate-myth that human smells repel rats, have come into being? Perhaps, like the notion of wild rat neophobia, it also explains away some of the difficulties experienced in trying to get rats into the crude rodenticide dispensers on today’s market.

Wild Rat Filthophilia…

Here’s another one, and if we’re right it’s a doozie. We’ll call it filthophilia, though to my knowledge that word does not presently exist in the English language. Rats are claimed by many expert rodent biologists to prefer to consume foods in places that are contaminated with rodent feces and urine over places that are relatively clean and fresh.

Several of the most celebrated rodentologists in the world continue to advise pest managers to carry around bags of wild rat feces to sprinkle into their rodenticide dispensers for that very reason. Paradoxically, those rodentologists tell those same pest controllers that wild rat scat has the potential to carry some of the most dangerous pathogens known to man. 

But back to the origins of this candidate-myth: The theory isn’t just that rats prefer filth over cleanliness, but that they are also attracted to places other rats have frequented. If this is so, the more rat excrement and urine that a rodenticide dispenser contains, the better. Admittedly, on the surface the idea may seem to have merit. Maybe the presence of rat scat is analogous to a 5-star review. Isn’t rat poop clear evidence that other rats liked it here? And if others liked it, shouldn’t the newly arrived visitor check it out?

Maybe, maybe not. Mostly, in my opinion… not.

On closer examination the theory that gobs of rat scat makes a rodenticide dispenser attractive to foraging rodents falls apart. Rodent scat is as likely to repel a foraging rat as to attract it, as — in addition to all the stuff we would expect it to contain — it is laced with pheromones, chemical signals that alert other rats to certain characteristics of the rat that deposited them. The fecal pellets deposited by an alpha male, for example, are distinctive. If the newly arrived visitor is a juvenile male, or sub-alpha adult male, such scat would likely repel.

Further, animal studies involving rats and others have shown that foraging behavior is commonly mediated as much by evidence of a lack of previous activity as by evidence of its paucity. If a rodenticide dispenser contains lots of rat scat, a new visitor may not waste time there if, in its earlier foraging excursions, it has correlated a preponderance of scat with an absence of palatable food. The previous visitors should have wiped the plate clean if the food was any good, and an experienced adult rat — the prized target of every rodenticide dispenser worth its salt — would know that and pass such a station by. But there are other reasons, too, why accumulations of rodent scat in a rodenticide dispenser is not a good thing.

Our observations, in conjunction with the E2M2C™ program, testify to the fact that rats — like humans — prefer to consume clean food, in clean places. They don’t get to do that often, because they usually have to settle for what’s left behind, on the floor or in our trash cans. Because we often see them rooting in the trash, we automatically assume they like it when, in fact, they almost certainly do not. 

We’ve observed that when wild commensal rats find something clean to eat in reasonably clean surroundings, they eagerly partake of it. The E2M2C™ devices are designed to give them both. The speed at which these devices bring rodent infestations to a halt testifies to the wisdom behind keeping them, and their provisions, as clean and sanitary as possible.

How and Why Myths Originate…

In summary, then, all the evidence we’ve collected thus far strongly suggests wild rat filthophilia is a myth. If so, a lot of rodent biologists will be mightily surprised, which begs an important question:  Assuming it is a myth, why — besides the fact that humans see rats wallowing in filth so often — would such a theory as wild rat filthophilia come into being, and be embraced uncritically by so many in academia and the pest management industry?

The easiest answer is explained by how well it justifies the industry’s failure to come up with ways to keep rodenticide dispensers clean at their customer’s sites. Granted, it’s not easy. It even requires a special set of protocols that not just anybody can or will be able to carry out. Every E2M2C™ device gets fully sanitized, on a regular basis, away from the placement site, in our laboratory. Those involved have to be specially trained, must wear protective articles of clothing, and have to adhere to sanitation protocols impossible to carry out in the field.

All E2M2C™ devices are sanitized in our lab, initially at the first 30 day mark, then every several months thereafter. Their success at neutralizing serious infestations and keeping them there is strong evidence that rats prefer to consume food in them when they are clean and sanitary.

I could go on, but you get the picture. The number of candidate-myths regarding rodent biology and control continues to grow as more and more E2M2C™ devices get placed in the field. No one has conducted rodent control this way before. The trusted perspectives of yesterday have rarely been challenged. Until now, fresh viewpoints have had little opportunity to make themselves known.

So, we’re not slowing down, but are instead continuing to dig deeper to find more definitive answers to those puzzles. We’re passionate about it, for good reason.

The Ugly Step-Sister Syndrome…

Rodent control is logically one of the most important fields embraced by the honorable trade known as pest management. That is true because, done right, it has the potential to save more lives, and improve the health of more people, than any other facet of this business. Yet, when compared to the rest, it has never been thought of as anything more than a step-sister, and an ugly one at that.

Most of the time it is carried out begrudgingly, always with crude bait stations serviced right where they lay. The designs of even the most advanced stations cause them to soon become loaded with trash blown in by the wind. When a technician opens one in the field what they find is trash and leaves, surrounding a vestibule closed off by the debris, that holds the rodenticide. If that locale has been rained upon in the past week those stations are — more often than not — laden with pools of stagnant, stinking gunk.

All the rodent bait stations of old, as well as those now on the market, have their ports placed close to the ground, so  grass growing nearby soon hides them, and rain showers move silt and dirt up, concealing their entrances. A rat couldn’t reach the station’s bait, past all the trash, grass, and silt, even if its life depended on it.

But even if it could, those stations are so poorly ventilated and drained that — wherever rainfall is common — what’s left of the bait is moldy and rotten. Before now, you may have believed rats will eat anything, but now you know they won’t. Mold-ridden, rotting bait is definitely off their menu.  But that’s not the worst part. The few bait stations that can be found with open ports, stocked with clean, good-tasting bait, and whose interiors are not yet stuffed with windblown debris — i.e., the ones that rats can get into and find something they’re willing to consume — soon become loaded with the bacteria, viruses, fleas and mites that those rats leave behind.

This poses a conundrum for the service technician.

Opening them where they lay exposes that technician to rodent-borne pathogens and their vectors. Nobody wants those on their bodies, and nobody should carry them home to their families, yet practically every broad-band vermicide the technician could possibly treat the interior of that station with has the potential to repel rats, so the tech is faced with what amounts to a Catch 22. No wonder the majority of the rodent bait stations scattered throughout our urban and suburban locales are serviced only haphazardly, if that.

Until E2M2C™, rodent control was rightly considered among the dirtiest and riskiest jobs on earth. I’ve known that throughout my 40 years of experience in pest management. In earlier times I did my best not to do any more rodent control than necessary. If I couldn’t do it right, I didn’t want to do it at all. But doing it right requires using bait provisioning devices that rats can always enter with ease, that keep their contents palatable for months even in inclement weather, and that can be regularly sanitized and cleansed via a service protocol that doesn’t expose anyone to rodent-borne pathogens. These are just the bare minimum necessities for doing it right. But until E2M2C™ the technologies needed to meet those minimum requirements just didn’t exist.

The Gestation and Birth of E2M2C™ …

Developing those particular technologies was not on my to-do list, either. Much of my pest management career focused on improving the way termite control is performed.  That had been my primary passion since chlordane was banned in 1987. The challenges in that field were burgeoning, time consuming, and intellectually exhausting. I didn’t have enough time or brain-power left over to lavish on the glaring deficits in rat management. That changed when my termite management project reached full development. For the first time in more than twenty years, I could take a deep breath, look up, switch gears and start noticing other challenges that were just as important.

Around that same time, a number of new clients showed up unexpectedly. Over the previous years they had hired a long list of pest control firms to bring the rodents at their sites under control, but without success. Now the rats were more numerous than ever and they were hurting, badly. They’d been told I had a penchant for finding solutions to hard problems, so they came to me for help.

Knowing the technologies needed to properly solve their rat issues didn’t exist, I hesitated. Instead of jumping in with both feet, I visited their sites to see what was going on. Those visits confirmed my suspicions. Their pest control firms were not servicing their old-style current-technology bait stations properly. Proper servicing of those stations was not a perfect solution, but it was still a great leap forward. My recommendation to those clients was for them to go back to the pest control firms they’d hired and and insist on better performance. Now they balked. They weren’t sure how to tell those firms what to do, much less how to check up on their work. So they asked me to do that for them. Acting as their consultant, I met with those firms, showed them how to do a better job, and got them to promise to do so.

Holding the Pest Control Firms Accountable…

When I checked back a few weeks later, the rats were even worse. Nobody had kept their promises. That got me thinking, long and hard. Everybody wanted to blame somebody and those pest control firms were like sitting ducks. But the more I thought about it the closer I came to one grim reality. It wasn’t their fault. Nobody could do it the old way with the current technology and make it work well, especially when that many rats were involved. Lacking an alternative, anybody could make promises they couldn’t keep, just to keep the money flowing, so that’s what they’d done. They must have thought that was the best they could do.

The old way was nasty, risky work. Though failing to get the job done, the fees those pest control companies were charging were so low their customers didn’t complain until things reached catastrophic proportions. Still, even then, as my new clients knew full well, complaining didn’t bring any improvements. With those low fees, all those pest control companies could afford to hire to do that work were poorly trained personnel, paid more to perform rote procedures than to wrestle with complex problems.

The new way — doing it right — just wasn’t on the table. Nobody had come up with anything close to the right way yet.

Well, If you can’t do it right because the technology is no more than a dream, you are left with just two options. Either create that technology yourself or turn your back on the problem. I never do the latter if I can help it. These clients needed real, honest answers, and genuine solutions. As luck would have it, my last big project was off the burner. I had some time to spare. Suddenly, rodent control, done right, became my new passion. And, before long, E2M2C™ was born.

Every one of those clients remains, today, a loyal participant in the E2M2C™ program. And, for every one of them, their previous rodent infestations are old history.

E2M2C™ Works…

This newsletter only exists because E2M2C™ works. It resolves rodent infestations quickly and keeps them there. That’s mighty important, but it couldn’t do any of that if it didn’t first address all the requirements mentioned above. Getting there was not easy, but — with a ton of research, field work, and experimentation — we did it. The present incarnation of the E2M2C™ program removes most of the drudgery and all of the risk. But it also does something else. It allows for a comprehensive analysis of the rodent infestation problem at each site, down to the last detail. 

Again, the analyses we conduct are limited by the concomitant need to avoid unnecessary exposure, by our lab personnel, to the pathogens, inside the E2M2C™ devices, that are left behind by rodent visitors. I explain how that requirement affects the way we assay each site in another article

The E2M2C™ staff at EntomoBiotics Inc. constantly gleans new truths from our service events. Those discoveries increase our knowledge and understanding of rodent behavior, and spearheads constant improvements to the E2M2C™ program. In the process we also become privy to trends in rodent population dynamics. We want to share what we’re learning with our clients and other interested individuals. Hence this newsletter.

IMPORTANT E2M2C™ PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

E2M2C™ devices are never sold, but remain the property of EntomoBiotics, Inc. Once installed, the E2M2C™ program works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week protecting the health of our clients, their families, visitors, employees, and customers, while virtually eliminating risks of secondary poisoning.

How?

By first providing a bait dispensing device that rodents can easily get into, i.e., one that doesn’t get loaded with wind-blown trash, whose ports cannot be occluded by grass or silt, and that is so well ventilated that standing water and high humidity won’t mold up or rot their bait provisions. We did that. It took lots of trial and error, along with field trials and tests, but we got there.

But what do you suppose happens when you place a device like that at a site infested with rats?

Bait dispensing devices that accomplish all the objectives on that list become equivalent to rodent fast food joints. Every rodent on site, once they find they are there, flock to them en masse. Now, think what happens at the fast food joints you’ve visited. The more customer traffic they have, the more untidy the store gets.

The difference, with rats and mice, is that the un-tidiness is in the form of deposits of rodent feces and urine, laced with the pathogens the rodents are carrying. With residential sites that are not enrolled in the E2M2C™ program, rodent feces and urine rarely end up in a traditional bait station, but instead get spread all over the place. In fact, it gets concentrated in those areas where kids drop edible food items, where pets are fed and pet food falls on the patio, under bird feeders, and around BBQ pits, precisely where it poses the greatest danger. At restaurants it is concentrated wherever small portions of food get dropped, again where it is most likely to do the most harm.

Like Sharps Containers…

With the E2M2C™ program in place, rodents spend more time in the E2M2C™ devices than anywhere else, so their feces and urine deposits are concentrated inside those devices, rather than being spread all about, contaminating all the other surfaces that humans and pets regularly contact.

Think of the E2M2C™ devices as being analogous to the sharps containers in hospitals and doctor’s offices, that sequester hypodermic needles out of harms way, so people cannot get stuck accidentally. As with those sharps containers, E2M2C™ devices have to be regularly serviced, and that has to be done carefully and safely. 

So, the second part of this picture consists of a service protocol that ensures careful and safe disposal of those pathogens. That protocol must prevent, to the greatest extent possible, human and pet exposure to the rodent-borne bacteria, viruses, and parasites inside the E2M2C™ devices. Knowing this, we would never dream of opening these devices at a client’s site. Instead, we take them away, to be sanitized and re-provisioned in a laboratory setting, after replacing them with freshly sanitized, re-provisioned ones.

Hence Our Passion…

The importance of this work explains why I am so passionate about it. Knowing we are potentially saving lives, improving our clients’ health, positively affecting their quality of life and longevity, drives us to make constant improvements to our E2M2C™ program.

Avoiding pathogens as much as possible is not a new idea, although the COVID-19 pandemic gave added urgency to its meaning. Rats and mice are reservoirs of a host of pathogens afflicting humans. Some rival or surpass the dangers posed by the COVID-19 coronavirus. Direct contact with rodents can produce bites capable of spreading these diseases, but the most common route of infection is indirect, via contact with surfaces contaminated with rodent urine and feces, or from getting bitten by the rodent-borne mites or fleas the rodents leave behind.

Fecal pellets are generally visible if found inside a home, though rodent urine usually isn’t. Outside they, along with sub-microscopic rodent mites, often cannot be distinguished from the normal detritus littering porches, outside appliances and furniture. Unwitnessed contact with the rodent feces and urine that contaminates surfaces outside is common at most homes and businesses if a good rodent control program is not in place. 

The Folly of Ceding the Yard to the Rats…

Infections emanating from such unwitnessed contact events are difficult or impossible to trace. Though how many sicknesses occur in this manner is unknown, it is reasonable to conclude that it is not insignificant. Hardly anyone questions the obvious fact that allowing rats and mice to roam inside a home is an invitation to disaster, but — surprisingly — many doubt they need to be concerned about the rodents that roam their yards, sneaking about their patios and doorways, depositing liquified and pelletized presents all about, willy-nilly.

I’m not one to sound unnecessary alarms. Sensationalism is, in today’s journalistic and advertising jungle, a disgrace. But it is not sensationalism to assert that surrendering a home’s or business’s yards, entryways and patios to the rats and mice is just as much an invitation to disaster as letting them loose inside. It is crucial, to the health and well-being of all concerned, that rodent activity outside homes and businesses be attenuated to the greatest extent possible. Simply excluding them from the living spaces of a structure is not enough.

Rats, mice, and their ectoparasites continue, today, to pose serious epidemiological threats to all who live, work, visit or play where these animals nest and forage. The only way to reduce that threat is to reduce — to the point of essentially eliminating — rodent populations in all areas where humans live, work, and play. That’s the goal of the E2M2C™ program, and making that program perform at peak efficiency is our primary focus.

Protecting Raptors, Other Rodent Predators, Pets, and Children…

Though efficient at neutralizing commensal rodents, this program is harmless to birds of prey (raptors like owls, hawks, falcons, eagles, etc.), other wild animals like squirrels, raccoons, skunks and opossums, as well as the dogs, cats and small children who play where these devices are located. By securing each E2M2C™ device with multiple locking mechanisms we prevent casual access by unintended animals and children.

That’s not to say they are impenetrable. Vandals or otherwise determined individuals armed with hammers, knives, diagonal cutters, or similar tools can open them if they try hard enough. If a car runs over one, too, it will not survive the test. But young children, dogs, and cats cannot gain access. They simply cannot be opened in the field without using special tools or forcibly breaking into them. That fact does not affect our service protocols. We never open them in the field, but service each one in the confines of our laboratory using sterile procedures, after swapping them out with freshly sanitized, re-provisioned devices at the placement site.

The interiors of these devices are specially constructed to prevent their contents from being shaken out, too. Under ordinary conditions the provisions inside these devices remain sequestered, inside, even if someone (particularly a large animal or a child) casually shakes the device to see what might drop out. We have subjected these devices to the wiles of some of the most determined raccoons Texas has to offer, imaging their efforts on wildlife cameras, and though early models failed the test, after we made a few adjustments, not one raccoon was able to reach the bait or shake any out.

With vigorous shaking, yes, a few small particles can sometimes be dislodged, but large particles and intact bait provisions cannot. Again, vandals or otherwise determined individuals, with the help of a few specialized tools or by applying vigorous brute force to break them open, can defeat this safety feature, but only with considerable persistence and grit. 

Mitigating and Avoiding the Risk of Secondary Poisoning…

The mix of rodenticide provisions placed in each device is chosen carefully, to limit the risk of secondary poisoning. That mix simultaneously ensures that each visiting rodent will be induced to partake of those provisions, regardless of that rodent’s dietary proclivities. The interior design keeps those provisions fresh for four months or more, even in inclement weather.

As long as your site’s E2M2C™ program remains in place, with the right number of devices, and is serviced on schedule, raptors and other rodent predators should not suffer any ill effects even if they occasionally consume a rodent that has received a lethal dose from one of the E2M2C™ program’s devices.

The E2M2C™ program addresses the risk of secondary poisoning on two fronts. Besides favoring rodenticides that pose a low-to-zero risk of secondary poisoning, it quickly eliminates all maternity nests (the proximate source of bountiful numbers of rodents), then reduces the population of transient foragers to practically zero. The longer the program is in place, the number of transient foragers continues to diminish, and those that do visit tend to be juveniles less than one third the size of full-grown adults.

Raptors and other rodent predators habitually hunt only where rodents are plentiful, and shun areas where rodents are scarce. Once only transient foragers are visiting the area, the site’s neighborhood raptors and other rodent predators soon shift their hunting grounds elsewhere. The few transient rodent visitors that enter the program’s neighborhood are soon neutralized. At this stage few if any predatory animals are hunting there, so it is unlikely that a raptor or other rodent predator will ever encounter a rodent poisoned by an established E2M2C™ program.

POPULATION TRENDS: RATS AND RODENT-BORNE FLEAS AND MITES

In 2021, throughout Texas, the epidemiological threats from rodents are still on the upswing. Observations from existing E2M2C™ sites show rodent populations have grown throughout Texas since last winter. Not surprisingly, rodent-borne mites and fleas are also on the rise: both are important vectors for dangerous diseases afflicting humans and our companion pets. Our expectation, that “snowmageddon” would bring all those populations down and keep them there, never materialized. Why? That freakish cold spell was immediately followed by a mild spring and summer, accompanied by abundant rainfall. Together, those factors helped even rodents that were temporarily harmed to fully recover.

Near-term Trends…

So, what about the coming months? Weather forecasts indicate rodent, flea, and mite populations are still heading upward. Everything needed for an increase in rodents and their ectoparasites will, these forecasts suggest, continue.

Mild temperatures will likely prevail through October. The Old Farmer’s Almanac projects temperatures for the rest of September at 2 degrees below normal, though paradoxically — in the first half of the month — they’ve been slightly higher than normal, surpassing the atypically mild temps recorded for August. Rainfall is projected to be an inch above normal.

October temps, OFA tells us, will be 6 degrees lower than usual area-wide, with rainfall up by four inches. As you know, weather forecasts are always iffy, so take all of this cum grano salis. Be aware, though, that the consensus from other sources tends to follow, in general, this basic prediction: temps unseasonably low, rainfall unseasonably high.

So, we now have a lot of freshly weaned rodents in our surrounding environments eagerly awaiting the chance to get into our homes and businesses, and that number is going up. Many, if not most of those newly produced rodents are happily living the good life outside, at least for the moment. And why not? Weather conditions make the great outdoors the best place to be right now. But — maybe sooner than we expect — that will change.

High rodent populations that are present when the first freeze hits (usually in late November or December) will cause those animals to exploit every possible way they can to get into the attics, hollow walls, and crawlspaces of residential homes, stores, restaurants, workspaces, and warehouses. Once there, if possible, they will also gain access to the living and working spaces of those same structures.

But Don’t Worry…

Your presently installed E2M2C™ program should protect your home and business from rodent-associated seasonal calamities, despite the upswing in rodent populations we’ve been seeing.

Most of those with the E2M2C™ program in place should have nothing to worry about. That’s true no matter when the first freeze arrives or how cold it gets. This assumes each site has the right number of devices, and that those devices are being swapped out with sanitized re-provisioned ones every four months or less.

There are Exceptions…

Our earliest E2M2C™ placements were conducted when rodent populations, though higher than in previous years, were still lower than they are now. Yes, rodent populations have been in a steady upward spiral for the past decade… Back then, though, we were pleased with the program’s ability to bring rat and mouse infestations to a halt with as few as three stations placed at a home. That number was less than half the minimum number of rodent stations that rodenticide manufacturers recommend — one station placed every 30 linear feet of perimeter — for most residential and business structures, but because they worked so well at neutralizing the rodent infestations du jour, we saw no reason to add more devices. 

In later years, as mild temperatures and high rainfall totals helped surrounding rodent numbers to soar, some of those early sites began seeing evidence of rodents again. Increasing the number of E2M2C™ devices usually corrected those issues. As long as the number of devices was brought up to the minimum recommended for the site, that usually worked, though as noted later in this newsletter, sometimes conditions at or near the site made it necessary to add even more to get the job done. 

Over time, we’ve ensured that all new placements adhere, at the very least, to that minimum. Still, we have not made a point of telling our clients whose sites still have less than that to add more.

Why not? Well, for one thing, some may never need more.

We recognize that certain areas — often unpredictably — tend to have fewer rodents than others. Although those dynamics can change, until that happens, the old truism “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” still gets our respect. 

FACTORS THAT REDUCE OR NULLIFY THE E2M2C™ PROGRAM’S EFFECTIVENESS

As most of our clients know, there are certain factors that can prevent the E2M2C™ program from working at peak efficiency. Some are under your control. Others, not so much.

Traditional Bird Feeders…

Traditional bird feeders almost always end up spreading birdseed on the ground underneath, which provides rats and mice with lots of food and encourage them to nest nearby. If the food supply these bird feeders provide on the ground is enough, the affected rodents will never have a reason to forage for food anywhere else.

We’ve been cognizant of this problem for years. Ardent bird-watchers are never happy to hear my recommendation that they modify the way they feed wild birds in their yards. Still, there are alternatives to the traditional methods of backyard bird feeding that do not feed the rats. I’ve even written a special article that explains the nature of the problem and suggests a few ways to deal with it without eliminating the joys of bird-watching.

Chicken Coops You Can See…

Chicken coops in your yard or within 3 or 4 yards of yours — if those sites are not enrolled under the E2M2C™ program — generate large numbers of rodents due to the usual methods used by the coop’s owners to feed their birds. A number of our clients have chicken coops, and we institute special programs at their sites to deal with the rodents they produce. In every case we have to add more than the normal number of stations to compete with the food rodents find at the coops.

Some chicken coop enthusiasts take added steps on their own, too. Instead of broadcasting scratch, these hardy folk start feeding their chickens via special devices, like Grandpa’s Automatic Chicken Feeder. Training their chickens to feed from that device takes time, but it works well and cannot be defeated by rats or mice, but it isn’t cheap. Still, how much is your health worth?

And Those You Might Not See…

Some of our clients who do not have chicken coops still have neighbors, some several houses away, who do. If those neighboring  chicken coops are not enrolled in the E2M2C™ program, we have to make adjustments to the number of E2M2C™ program devices placed at the affected client’s site. A few of our E2M2C™ clients’ yards turn out to be virtually inundated with rodents for no obvious reason. Their yards are free of food sources, and none of the neighboring yards appear to have obvious food sources either. When this happens, we have to increase the number of E2M2C™ devices without knowing why, though we suspect someone, close by, is surreptitiously feeding wild animals in their yard.

Some of our clients have witnessed their neighbors habitually tossing wild animal food into their back yards, so it is likely this happens more often than most realize. When it does, all the homes within 500 feet will suffer significant increases in rodents and other wild animals. Most will have no way of knowing why that is happening.

Feeding Pets Outside, And Storing Pet Food, in the Garage, in Paper or Plastic Containers…

Feeding dogs and cats outside, especially if the food-dish is not cleaned up immediately after the pets have eaten, is another food source rats and mice love to exploit. Much of the time, that’s all the food they need, so they have no reason to feed in the E2M2C™ devices. Putting”On-demand” pet feeders outside, that drop pelletized food from a reservoir into the dish when the pet projects its nose into the feeder, is a big no-no, for obvious reasons. 

Storing pet food in paper or soft plastic containers in the garage is a common habit, because who wants that stuff inside the house? Unfortunately, most garage doors are no match for a rodent on the prowl, and that pet food is mighty tasty. If storing it inside the home is out of the question, it should be stored in the garage or back-yard shed in galvanized or hard plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. That will keep the rodents out, and protect your pets from unnecessary exposure to rodent pathogens.

Pet Scat…

In consonance with this is the presence of pet scat in the yard. As disgusting as it seems, rodents often eat pet scat because of the nutriment they obtain from that source. Studies have shown that canine stools can contain significant amounts of nutriment, and sometimes rodents can become so habituated to eating pet scat that they consume it almost exclusively. Regularly removing pet scat from the yard is an important part of keeping rodents under control. 

Living in Close Proximity to An Untreated Food-Service Venue…

Living within 500 feet of a restaurant or kindred venue that serves food but is not enrolled in the E2M2C™ program (more and more restaurants are being enrolled, so look to see if those close by have E2M2C™ devices on their perimeters before assuming they don’t) more often than not provides another source of food for rats that may be nesting, but not feeding, at your home or business. When this happens we need to make adjustments to the placements of the E2M2C™ program’s devices. Every site is different in this respect, and so are the needed adjustments.

QUESTIONS?

If you have questions about your particular site, don’t hesitate to call or text me. You have my number… But, for those who don’t, my cell phone number is five-one-two 426-9883.

Sincerely,

Jerry Cates


References:

Note that although some of the references below link to commercial retail sites. We do not have any relationships with the companies involved, and receive no remuneration from them when readers of this site link to them.

  1. 2021 Long Range Weather Forecast for Central Texas. Old Farmer’s Almanac.
  2. Grandpa’s Original Automatic Chicken Feeder. Read this if you have a chicken coop, or one is nearby…

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