How to catch mice better?
October 6, 2005 6:42 AM   Subscribe

My basic mouse traps (snap) aren't working, what am I doing wrong? Help! In the fall (sometimes) mice come into our old coop-apartment building, and seem to come through my Living Room! Last year I caught 13, this year 3 over 3 weeks, and now they eat the peanut butter but don't snap the trap. I've cleaned the traps, but they still get it. I've tried other traps before, but these were the best.

It seems that my pantry is accessible somehow from the attic. and actually, it is good to know where to trap. Last year, my next-door neighbors saw and caught several mice and then when I started trapping, they saw no more.

So, do I need new traps? I tried glue traps before, that was awful. and I don't want to keep driving a few miles to empty live traps. and I tried a little one, and it would snap and I couldn't tell if there was a mouse inside. So , once I released one, and once I drove miles for an empty trap. My mammologist friend says they come back from a long way off, not just a mile.

I want to catch them NOW, before they get established. Last time I bought traps it was hard to find the 'classic' snap trap - they had some with plastic pieces that were supposed to smell like cheese - seems unlikely to me.

I've got a million other things to do, so I'm hoping to limit the number of experiments. I thought there was dried peanutbutter buildup, that's why I washed them. But this morning all three traps had no peanut butter! I hate to feed them!
posted by judybxxx to Home & Garden (21 answers total)
Those traditional Victor mousetraps are definitely still out there. You could also try the glue traps (which are not for the faint of heart) or poison (which is often not for the faint of nose).

Mice actually do like cheese, that often works on traps. Another trick is to put a little peanut butter on the bottom of the trigger so that they guys have to really get in there set it off.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:55 AM on October 6, 2005

Get a few bait stations and some poison. This worked for me when traps failed.
posted by I Foody at 6:57 AM on October 6, 2005

If you're using globs of peanut butter as bait, try a different tack: Spread the peanut butter *super* thin on the trigger mechanism. The mice will still go for the bait, but they'll have to get in close to lick it up --> snap.

Works every time.
posted by nyterrant at 7:03 AM on October 6, 2005

I've had good luck with a five gallon bucket mouse trap.

You can smear the can with peanut butter instead of using bacon as bait. For unheated areas I used to use anti-freeze in the bucket which helps keep the smell down if you can't empty it of little mousie cadavers regularly.
posted by Floydd at 7:15 AM on October 6, 2005

As above: spread the bait thinly on the trigger pedal. My mice became adept at eating the peanut butter gently (or maybe the centipedes were licking it all up before the mice got to it) but I have achieved good results in my murine genocide by switching bait.
I decided that their favourite food was Thai jasmine rice because that was what would incite the most mousy activity when I was being too lazy to clean up. I am now mashing a couple of grains of cooked rice onto the trigger thing and revelling in the slaughter.
posted by nowonmai at 7:19 AM on October 6, 2005

Mice can't resist sunflower seeds in the shell. Take a sunflower seed (unsalted, in the shell) and kind of screw it into the little hole in the bait tab/trigger pedal thing, so the mouse has to tug on it to get it out. Works 9 times out of 10.
posted by bricoleur at 7:35 AM on October 6, 2005

Gunk up the peanut butter really well on the trigger mechanism, so they can't just pick it up off there. That made all the difference for me.
posted by knave at 8:16 AM on October 6, 2005

I agree that adding a seed to some thin PB works pretty well. I've found that both regular traps and a kind of plastic snap trap both work quite well. The plastic ones are easier to get the mouse out of.

I wouldn't worry about no kill traps. From what I've read, a house mouse set free in the wild is not likely to live very long anyway.
posted by OmieWise at 8:19 AM on October 6, 2005

Oh, another tried and true suggestion: get a cat.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:23 AM on October 6, 2005

I had tiny mice in an apartment once, too small to set off traps. In that case, the bait wasn't important; they could just go over the traps at will. Sad to say, I had to resort to glue traps, which are stomach-turning and definitely not humane. But they really do work, sometimes when nothing else will.
posted by argybarg at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2005

why not use a different bait such as chocolate it worked for me3in one week
posted by baker dave at 9:32 AM on October 6, 2005

i think you need to change bait ... capt crunch peanut butter crunch works very well ... you also might try spreading the peanut butter on bits of cracker ...

another trick is to put the traps in pairs ... these mice may have learned how to get the bait from a trap without setting it off ... or without getting caught when it goes off ... but when it goes off, they get scared and don't watch where they're going ... and can run right into the second trap and get caught
posted by pyramid termite at 9:59 AM on October 6, 2005

The Victor traps with the "plastic pieces that smell like cheese" do not, in fact, smell like cheese, but they're actually more sensitive than the classic Victor mousetraps, to the point where it's hard to set them without injuring yourself. I recommend them. Put just a little bit of peanut butter on them, and you're set.

Placement of the traps is important--mice run along walls, so place the trap so that the business end is against the wall. The nice thing about the traps with the plastic triggers is that the mice have to run across a plate, which is guaranteed to trip the trap.
posted by Prospero at 10:01 AM on October 6, 2005

I am with Pollomacho. We have a few of these around the house. The first summer one half-grown kitten cleaned up our yard and the neighbor's of everything smaller than a woodchuck. And he had his eye on the woodchuck. Now the whole pride sits at the door to our deck like velicoraptors, staring at flocks of Canadian geese and pleading "please let us out, we could take 'em".

But if you're allergic to felines, go with the thin coat of peanut butter on the trigger.
posted by Ber at 11:34 AM on October 6, 2005

or poison (which is often not for the faint of nose).

i'd recommend against poison -- my grandfather had a poisoned rat die in the walls of his house and it was not pleasant.
posted by clarahamster at 11:59 AM on October 6, 2005

I don't relish killing animals myself. My experience was that, like you, we saw mice for a few weeks in the fall. After that though, never again until the next autumn. I lived in a large apartment building, and my theory was that as the weather got colder the critters moved indoors and scouted out apartments looking for repeat sources of food. Keeping my food in tupperware, my garbage covered, and my dishes clean (not piled up in the sink) convinced them that I had nothing to offer, and they disappeared.
posted by autojack at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2005

I've actually had good luck with spraying diluted essential oil of spearmint (half and half) around my baseboards. The mice seem to hate it and won't come around when my floors are minty fresh.
posted by cali at 3:21 PM on October 6, 2005

Don't use poison--mice and rats can detect it and even if they do eat it they'll likely expire inside a wall or some other hard-to-clean place, and you run the risk of poisoning dogs or cats.

I've had great success using Victor traps baited with sesame seeds mixed into peanut butter. Here's the trick I learned from an exterminator who described his technique with an odd and unsettling enthusiasm: "Smear the trap with the bait, but don't set it! Let 'em get used to it as a food source so they keep comin' back for more...and then you arm it!"

As an aside, you should consider sanding off the big red "V" logo--rats and mice can learn to recognize symbols. No, I'm not joking:

"Rats that survive to the age of four are the wisest and the most cynical beasts on earth. A trap means nothing to them, no matter how skillfully set. They just kick it around until it snaps; then they eat the bait. And they can detect poisoned bait a yard off. I believe some of them can read."
posted by fandango_matt at 3:48 PM on October 6, 2005

wow, a lot of ideas. which is good, I think I need them. Meanwhile, I really scrubbed my older traps, went out on errands, and came back - one trap had the bait gone, but didn't snap, the other trap caught a mouse. and I bought some newer traps and a couple of the plastic ones, Now to try some bait variations. and placement, etc. etc.

Please don't stop if you have more ideas/experience.
posted by judybxxx at 7:49 PM on October 6, 2005

keep a bucket handy to put water in ... sometimes the traps don't kill the mice outright
posted by pyramid termite at 9:31 PM on October 6, 2005

Just for the record, for anyone who finds this in the future, I think there's lots of good ideas here. I went out doing errands after posting. I started by cleaning my old traps and getting a couple of new Victors - that got me one mouse. But I also tried a new type, called
which was on sale, and by gum, when I set it and then went out, during the day, when I got back, caught a mouse.
It does seem to do better. less likely to stick? I plan to try the sunflower seeds too.
posted by judybxxx at 9:10 PM on October 13, 2005

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