DEAR MR. MYERS: We keep our home spotlessly clean, but lately we have trapped two fairly large rats and several small mice inside our house. Even now, we still can hear that creepy scratching sound that their claws make when they run across our floors late at night or move around inside our cabinets or walls. What’s going on here? How can we fix this problem?
ANSWER: Pest-control experts call autumn and winter “rodent season,” as the vermin race indoors to nest as the weather outside gets colder.
A rat can sneak through a hole or crack as small as a quarter, and mice can squeeze through one that’s the size of a dime, said John Kane, an entomologist and technical director of pest-control giant Orkin’s Midwest region.
To help combat the pests, Kane says you should look for possible entry points outside your home and quickly seal any holes or cracks if they are found. Trim back tree limbs and bushes so they’re at least 3 feet away from exterior walls to avoid giving the rodents a “jumping off” point into rain gutters, the roof or small openings that your initial inspection of the exterior didn’t uncover.
Install weather strips around entryways, especially under doors, to help keep the little buggers from sneaking inside.
Mice and rats have an acute sense of smell, so it’s important to keep any food sealed tightly in plastic bins, metal canisters or other rodent-resistant containers. Otherwise, the vermin may smell the food and break into weaker containers such as plastic or paper bags.
Similarly, quickly clean up any spills or leftover crumbs to discourage the unwanted visitors from coming inside for a light snack.
The cost of hiring a rodent-control professional to exterminate the pests varies based on a number of factors, including the severity of the infestation and the amount of repairs that you’re willing to make rather than having a pro do the work instead.
As a general guideline, home-repair website HomeAdvisor.com reports that the price of an initial inspection (including the cost of setting traps) should cost between $90 and $250 – but don’t be surprised if the firm wants you to sign a continued-treatment contract that can range from $200 to as much as $2,000.
REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: Orkin recently named Chicago as 2016’s “Rattiest City of the Year,” based on the number of rodent treatments it provided in the 12 months that ended in September. It was followed by New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles, and then the San Francisco Bay Area.
DEAR MR. MYERS: Do people actually live in the North Pole?
ANSWER: It depends on which North Pole you are asking about. Most Americans don’t know it, but the Earth has three North Poles.
The “geographic” and “magnetic” North Poles are both at the top of the world, about 400 miles apart.
The latter, where massive magnetic fields make all compasses point to the north, essentially is a 6,800-square-mile ice cube that slowly floats about the Arctic Ocean. It’s a good environment for polar bears and (yes) reindeer, but not so good for folks who might want to build a house there. That’s because there’s no land under the ice.
Several hundred miles south, though, you can find North Pole, Alaska. It’s a town of about 4.2 square miles, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, with roughly 700 homes and 2,200 residents. Many of its citizens work in its thriving tourism industry, which is largely centered on the legend of Santa Claus.
The tiny community was founded about 60 years ago by a real-estate developer, who thought that toy manufacturers would flock to the area so they could stamp “Made in North Pole” on their products. But few companies jumped at the offer, in part because the temperature in the winter typically falls far below zero and the wind-chill factor can sometimes make it feel like 50 below.
That’s enough to freeze toy-making machines, not to mention humans.
DEAR MR. MYERS: What do you know about the big recall of Cuisinart food processors? How do we know if the model we have in our kitchen is affected?
ANSWER: Connecticut-based Conair Corp., owner of the Cuisinart line of food processors and other kitchen-related products, announced the recall on Dec. 18. It covers about eight million of the gadgets that were sold in the U.S. between July 1996 and December 2015, plus another 300,000 sold in Canada during the same time period.
The problem is scary. The Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission states that the riveted blades inside the China-made processors can crack over time, and small metal pieces of the blade can break off into the processed food.
Conair confirms that it has received at least 69 reports of consumers finding broken pieces of the blade in their food, including about 30 reports of mouth lacerations or tooth injuries.
The recall spans 22 different Cuisinart models. To find out if your processor is one of them, call the company toll-free at 877-339-2534 or visit its website, www.cuisinart.com.
If your processor is included, immediately stop using the machine. Cuisinart will send you a free replacement blade.
David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.