Biological Methods To Control The Rat Population And Why We Need It
Rats, the small long-tailed rodents that have been a pest for humans for centuries. They were also the cause of one of the worst disease epidemics in human history. This epidemic named the bubonic plague, wiped out around 25 to 50 million people in the Eastern Roman Empire.
If they’re not carrying diseases to wipe out the human population, they’re doing it themselves by destroying our food rations. For centuries, rats have been a plague to farmers who tried their best to keep their harvest safe from these rodents to no avail. Many of our modern-day harvest storing methods were the result of our fear of rats.
The rat population has been the highest among rodents and continues to be even in today’s world.
Do rats serve any purpose?
If you do a Google search for the word ‘rats’ or anything related to them, most of the results will show them in a negative light. So, you might wonder ‘the rat population is on a constant rise but, do rats serve any real purpose to mankind?’ The answer is yes, they do. Many of the most important medical discoveries in human history were thanks to rats.
Most of us get disgusted when we hear about mice or rats. But, for ages, they have been the preferred species for biomedical research. The reason behind this is because their anatomical, genetics and physiological makeup is remarkably similar to humans. Their manageable size, ease of maintenance makes them the perfect species to experiment on.
Why is the rat population growing?
Today in 2019 we’re facing what many have called the ‘Ratpocalypse’. Due to climate change that is making every place hotter than usual, the rat population has begun exploding. Headlines all over the US read “Rats love climate change” and “Climate change is scary; rat explosion is scarier”
Rats have only one thing to do when the weather is hot, multiply. And multiply they have. The average brown rat found everywhere can produce 14 offspring with a gestation period of 21 days. Female rats can reproduce all throughout the year if the conditions are suitable (which climate change is making possible). This is the reason for the high rat population around the world.
The rat population in cities
Cities have the worst rat infestation of any place. There are a few reasons for this:
- They have sewers that are not cleaned hence a good home for rats.
- Cities produce the most waste.
- Cities have become overpopulated, hence too many houses.
- Large amounts of food are thrown away.
- Pest control is not up to the mark.
All these facts and much more are responsible for the high rat population in cities as opposed to rural regions. This does not mean that rural regions are completely rat-free. They have their own rat infestation but on a smaller, more manageable scale. Rats in the cities have become an epidemic.
They live and thrive on every street, alleyway, and corner. You may keep them out of your kitchen but you will see them lurking around your apartment or building. The biggest problem is that cities are just too crowded to have a proper pest control system to get rid of these rodents.
The urban rat
In most urban areas the brown rat or ‘Rattus norvegicus’ can be seen. This is the most common species of the rat family. The reason why these rats are so common is that they will eat anything they find. This makes them the most adaptive survivor in any situation and that’s why the rat population is thriving.
How are we controlling the rat population?
As humans, we like to distance ourselves from these rodents for which we use a series of methods. Many of us still use traps designed to lure and capture or kill the rats. Many people even use cats as pets that hunt and eat rats.
Farmers user rodenticides to keep their fields and storage units free of these creatures. They even use these to reduce the rat population as much as they can. There are even some people who keep hawks and snakes as pets and once in a while let them loose to take care of these vermin in their homes or around it.
These methods led to the development of biological rat control.
Biological rat control
Seeing how the rat population is increasing without any way for us to stop or reduce it we need to find other effective methods to do so. One widely used method of stopping or decreasing the rat population is biological rat control. In this method, natural agents are used to getting rid of rodents.
There are several ways of getting rid of rodents using biological control:
- Pathogens: Diseases that can infect the rodents and spread easily among their community are used to kill groups of them at a time.
- Predatory animals: Using natural predators that prey on mice and rats to get rid of them from an area.
- Fertility control: Two rats can be responsible for 15,000 descendants within a year! Fertility control, hence, is a dependable rat population control method.
- Habitat modifications: Sometimes, modifying the habitat is the best way to deal with rats; for instance, replacing bad sanitation with organized sanitation, removing rubbish from the neighborhood, storing and disposing of garbage properly, and cleaning up pet droppings daily.
- Cropping practices: If you’re looking to prevent rats from damaging your crops, seek consultation from your local agriculture information center to understand how you can plan crop timings and can choose the right crop diversification practices to biologically deter rats from infesting.
- Ultrasonics and biosonics: These methods are increasingly gaining popularity as biological rat population control mechanisms
The benefits of biological rat control
- They are far more effective than traditional methods
- They are cheaper and more accessible
- They pose no threat to humans or wildlife
The reason many people are turning to biological rat control is simple – traditional methods are ineffective. We cannot use traps or even rodenticides to kill them as they are quite smart and keep evolving. Sooner or later they understand how our traps work and then avoid it.
Biological rat control uses natural predators to do the work or natural bacteria to kill the rodents. Both of these methods are safe for humans and are effective in decreasing the rat population.
Most biological rat control products are safe for humans and cause no harm to pets or other wildlife. Even if animals do ingest these products on accident it will cause them no harm or pain. Biological rat control is there to reduce the rat population without being an issue for the human or wildlife population.
The most rat-infested cities in the world
Today, rats rule the world just like humans do. They are present everywhere and are still a nuisance. The areas that have the most problems with these rodents are the cities where they have infested and made them their new homes. Some of the most rat-infested cities include:
1. Detroit – USA
Detroit has seen a steady increase in the rat population for the past several years. To combat this threat the authorities called meetings to spread awareness. These were about how to control these rodents but it had no effect. Steps by the authorities to reduce the rat population failed.
The infestation got so out of hand that in 2013 there was a homeowner’s bounty set up. Here, each person would get $5 for each rat they killed. The program did not work as many locals had an objection to it. They felt that the money could’ve helped in other ways hence, it got canceled.
Even today the city is struggling with its rat population while authorities are taking steps needed but to little or no effectiveness.
2. Paris – France
The Pixar movie ‘Ratatouille’ may have felt like an exaggeration about the rat population in Paris but the truth of the matter is that Paris does have a real rat problem. Many have linked the rat population in the city with the River Seine.
Along with that they have also mentioned the numerous pools of stagnant water around the city. These become breeding-ground for the rat population and something that the officials cannot handle easily.
Currently, the rats running amok in the city causes not only property damage but also leave feces around the beautiful city. The number of rodents officials believe to be active in the city is around 8 million.
3. New York City – USA
New York City is the hub of human and rat activity in America. One of the largest cities in the world, New York City has an estimated rat population of about 32 million! Historically, NYC has had both black and brown rat populations. But due to its larger size, the brown rat dominated and eventually wiped out the black rat population by the mid-1940s.
The city has always had a reactionary approach. In response to citizen complaints, they would send poison. Recently though, the problem has become so disturbing, new measures have been adopted, like large scale waste removal, geo-tagging, improving the structural integrity of properties, etc.
Among preventive actions, city employees have been educated and residents have been advised to look for traces of rat infestations in their own homes. A controversial plan of chemical sterilization was introduced in 2013 which sought to reduce rat fertility and control population growth, exterminating them once and for all.
4. Chicago – USA
Chicago is home to the brown-furred rodents who have gotten so used to the city’s skyscrapers that they can reach inside the tallest buildings. Since early 2013 the rat population in the city has left locals in constant peril.
Chicago in 2012, experienced a very warm winter which many link to the sudden increase in their rat infestation. Warm weather helps rats live longer and boosts their breading-capabilities.
Reports indicate that after the 2012 winter there was a 28% increase in the rat population which resulted in many locals using rat poison to deal with it. This caused huge controversy as the local pets and stray dogs were also affected by this poison. This resulted in officials trying a more natural approach.
5. London – United Kingdom
Since 2010 there has been a steady rise in the rat population in London. A report by the National Pest Technicians Association said that the rise was around 38% since 2010. This became big news since London was honored to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.
According to their reports, the city had an infestation of around 7.5 million rats. These reports were not conclusive and that number could be higher. Many of the local residents were also planning on leaving the city due to the rat population before officials decided to step in.
This is not the first time London has experienced such a serious rat infestation problem. The rat problem is as old as the city itself. In 1655 a great plague hit London that wiped out 15% of its population.
6. Baltimore – USA
According to the ‘Washington Post’, the rat infestation in Baltimore began in 2006-2009. According to the Baltimore City Health Department, ‘the rodent infestation was six times the national average.”
In 2012 the “Rat Attack” initiative which would last for five-years was set up. They set up their pest control department to visit any house that complained about a rodent infestation and clear it out completely then moved on to the next.
The pest control used poison and divided the city into parts for easier eradication. They made sure the homes were completely cleared before moving to the next. This did help in reducing the rat population by a bit.
7. New Orleans– USA
Located in Louisiana, USA, New Orleans is a rat’s paradise. New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since then, large parts of the city have remained vacant. Experts believe that this is the reason for the rise in the rat population.
With fewer people living in the city, rats have more space and food. They are not terminated by as many humans. The large state of Louisiana is being destroyed by nutria or river rats. These massive rats eat almost all vegetation. This results in large-scale erosion, which can lead to further weather disasters.
8. Boston – USA
2012 was the year when authorities and residents noticed how serious the rat population problem had gotten in Boston. Castle Island is a popular tourist destination in Boston, but this location had a huge rat infestation in 2012.
Some of the factors thought to be responsible were residents ignoring rat holes, garbage dumping, and a mild winter. The administrators of the city came down hard and fast. They started sending out violation notices to people who were dumping the garbage. Fines as high as $300 a day were imposed on some people.
9. Atlanta – USA
Another American city on the list is Atlanta, Georgia. It is said to have the second-highest rat population in America. The reason behind this growing rat population is the high rise in poverty and heavy mortgage foreclosure rate.
Flooding in the city resulted in rats coming to residential areas which were warm and dry. Around the 2000s, as a way of developing the city, new construction projects were undertaken. This also pushed the rodents out of their natural homes into the homes of people.
10. Houston – USA
Houston, Texas, has an ideal warm climate that facilitates the growth of both black and brown rats. In 2012, homeless people set up camp in the city’s Quebedeaux Park. After they evacuated the area, the remaining food and waste attracted rats.
Eventually, the area was overrun by a massive rat population. In 2013, reports revealed that certain parts of the city had homes that the rats had ravaged. These black rats were eating through electrical wires and causing serious damage.
Local news outlets urged homeowners to look through their houses for such damage and seek pest control services immediately. The rats were entering houses through tiny gaps and holes. People were urged to block all small holes and cut off unnecessary foliage.
As human activity is increasing at a prolific rate, so is the rat population. Humans generate waste and this, in turn, helps rats thrive. While exterminating them may seem harsh, they are a source of nuisance and spread diseases (we all know about the Great Plague).
Biological methods might be the best and most effective way to deal with this problem that is present in almost every large city in the world. They are currently the most effective defense we have against the rat population.