Pest Library: Rodents
Rodents (from Latin rodere, “to gnaw”) are mammals of the order Rodentia, which are characterized by a single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. About 40% of all mammal species are rodents; they are found in vast numbers on all continents except Antarctica. They are the most diversified mammalian order and live in a variety of terrestrial habitats, including human-made environments.
Species can be arboreal, fossorial (burrowing), or semiaquatic. Well-known rodents include mice, rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, porcupines, beavers, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils and capybaras. Other animals such as rabbits, hares, and pikas, whose incisors also grow continually, were once included with them, but are now considered to be in a separate order, the Lagomorpha. Nonetheless, Rodentia and Lagomorpha are sister groups, sharing a most recent common ancestor and forming the clade of Glires.
Most rodents are small animals with robust bodies, short limbs, and long tails. They use their sharp incisors to gnaw food, excavate burrows, and defend themselves. Most eat seeds or other plant material, but some have more varied diets. They tend to be social animals and many species live in societies with complex ways of communicating with each other. Mating among rodents can vary from monogamy, to polygyny, to promiscuity. Many have litters of underdeveloped, altricial young, while others are precocial (relatively well developed) at birth.
Some rodent species are serious agricultural pests, eating large quantities of food stored by humans. For example, in 2003, the amount of rice lost to mice and rats in Asia was estimated to be enough to feed 200 million people. Most of the damage worldwide is caused by a relatively small number of species, chiefly rats and mice.
Rodents are also significant vectors of disease. The black rat, with the fleas that it carries, plays a primary role in spreading the bacterium Yersinia pestis responsible for bubonic plague, and carries the organisms responsible for typhus, Weil’s disease, toxoplasmosis and trichinosis. A number of rodents carry hantaviruses, including the Puumala, Dobrava and Saaremaa viruses, which can infect humans. Rodents also help to transmit diseases including babesiosis, cutaneous leishmaniasis, human granulocytic anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, Omsk hemorrhagic fever, Powassan virus, rickettsialpox, relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and West Nile virus.
Because rodents are a nuisance and endanger public health, human societies often attempt to control them. Traditionally, this involved poisoning and trapping, methods that were not always safe or effective. More recently, integrated pest management attempts to improve control with a combination of surveys to determine the size and distribution of the pest population, the establishment of tolerance limits (levels of pest activity at which to intervene), interventions, and evaluation of effectiveness based on repeated surveys. Interventions may include education, making and applying laws and regulations, modifying the habitat, changing farming practices, and biological control using pathogens or predators, as well as poisoning and trapping. The use of pathogens such as Salmonella has the drawback that they can infect man and domestic animals, and rodents often become resistant. The use of predators including ferrets, mongooses and monitor lizards has been found unsatisfactory. Domestic and feral cats are able to control rodents effectively, provided the rodent population is not too large.
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Ants: Acrobat Ant, Allegheny Mound Ant, Argentine Ant, Big-headed Ant, Carpenter Ant, Citronella Ant, Crazy Ant, Field Ant, Fire Ant, Ghost Ant, Harvester Ant, Little Black Ant, Moisture Ant, Odorous House Ant, Pavement Ant, Pharaoh Ant, Texas Leaf Cutter Ant, Thief Ant, Velvety Tree Ant and White-footed Ant.
Cockroaches: American Cockroach, Asian Cockroach, Australian Cockroach, Brown Banded Cockroach, Cuban Cockroach, Florida Woods Cockroach, German Cockroach, Oriental Cockroach, Smoky Brown Cockroach, Surinam Cockroach and Woods Cockroach.
Spiders: Black Widow Spider , Brown Recluse Spider, Cellar Spider, Crab Spider, Domestic House Spider, Funnelweb Spider, Garden Spider, Ground Spider, Hobo Spider, House Spider, Jumping Spider, Spiny-backed Orb Weaver Spider, Tarantula, Wolf Spider and Yellow Sac Spider.
Stinging Pests: Africanized Honeybee, American Dog Tick, Bald-faced Hornet, Bed Bugs, Bird Lice, Bird Mite, Deer Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Bumblebee, Carpenter Bee, Cat Flea, European Hornet, Fire Ant, Honeybee, Human Head Lice, Kissing Bug, Lone Star Tick, Paper Wasp, Scorpion, Soft Tick, Thrips and Yellow Jacket.
Ticks and Mites: American Dog Tick, Bird Mite, Black-legged Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Clover Mite, Lone Star Tick and Soft Tick.
Other Pests: American Spider Beetle, Bean Weevil, Cigarette Beetle, Cowpea Weevil, Dried Fruit Beetle, Drugstore Beetle, Foreign Grain Beetles, Indian Meal Moth, Larder Beetle, Mediterranean Flour Moth, Red or Confused Flour Beetle, Rice & Granary Weevils, Sawtoothed & Merchant, Grain Beetles, Shiny Spider Beetle, Cabinet Beetles, Centipedes & Millipedes, Chinch Bugs and Earwigs.