Palm trees are beautiful things to have in your yard, but they can sometimes cause issues and harbor pests that we don’t want around. These can wreak havoc in your garden, and may also get into your home. A common pest is the palm rat.
If you think you have rats living in your palm trees, you should:
- Get your palm trees trimmed
- Fix any damage to your roof/upper stories
- Clean up in your yard
- Remove food sources both inside and outside the house
- Call pest control
What Are Palm Rats?
Palm rats are known by many other names, including black rats, ship rats, roof rats, and citrus rats. They are related to the other rats in this family, and they are found in many places, especially in Florida. They like tropical climates and don’t thrive as well in cold places, just like the trees they inhabit.
They nest high up, and palm trees are particularly popular for them – but they will not limit themselves to just your palm trees if other places are available. However, the trees offer them a source of food as well as a safe spot to nest.
Palm rats can be up to fourteen inches long, and they are usually brown or gray, and sometimes black. Their undersides are lighter colors, and they have long tails.
Are Palm Rats A Problem?
Many people adopt a live and let live attitude to wildlife as long as it stays in the garden, but you should be aware that palm rats can cause several issues. Firstly, like many other kinds of rats, they can carry and spread diseases, and they may bite if they are cornered by a pet or a person.
They will leave diseases by running over countertops and surfaces if they get into your home, so it is important to take action and prevent this from happening.
They are also pretty destructive guests to have in your garden. They will wreak havoc on any vegetables and fruits they can find, and they may also eat and destroy young plants. They will rip open garbage bags and chew their way into bins. They have strong teeth, and plastic presents no problem to them.
Another big issue is that they often attack wiring, and they can cause short-circuits, often killing themselves in the process. They will eat sealant if they find it, which can result in roof leakage, and grant them access to your house – which they will spread through quickly.
It is, therefore, best not to ignore palm rats if they are near to your property. They can do a lot of damage in a lot of different ways.
How Do I Know If I Have Palm Rats In My Palm Trees?
If you think you might have palm rats but you aren’t sure, what should you do? These rats can be tricky to spot at times, but they do leave some distinctive signals.
The first step is to investigate. Look out for the following key signs, both in your home and in your garden:
- Gnawed areas on your house, your furniture, and the eaves of the home.
- Fruit that has been hollowed out, with the rinds being left. This may appear both inside and outside the house if you have fruit growing in your garden.
- Pawprints in muddy or wet ground, or dirty marks going up surfaces.
- The noise of rats at night, especially in the eaves of your home. You may hear chewing or running feet.
- Droppings – these will be around half an inch long and are usually dark in color. They may appear both inside and outside.
You don’t need to see all of these signs to be alerted to the presence of palm rats. If you notice any of them, start looking out for more and consider getting a pest control company in. Remember to inspect both your home and your garden, as rats can live in both places.
What Do I Do If They Get Into The House?
If you get palm rats in the home, you need to take swift action. The very first step is to cut off their access to the house, and the second is to deal with the ones that have managed to get inside.
Cut Off Access
The first thing you should do is to get your palm trees trimmed or trim them yourself. All dead foliage should be removed, as the rats will use this to hide and build nests.
You should also remove all fronds that come within three feet of any part of your home. This will stop the rats from jumping to the building and running up it.
Once this has been done, it should be hard for rats to access your house without coming to ground level. Make sure you keep the branches trimmed.
You should pair this strategy with inspecting your home and identifying any entry points. These must then be repaired properly so that the rats cannot continue to use them. Check they do not get re-opened by more rats in the future, and keep up maintenance in that area to prevent further issues.
This will often involve getting up on the roof and inspecting the roofing material. Usually, palm rats will enter your home from above. Seal up holes using foam in any difficult gaps, and use wood and other robust materials for bigger areas of damage.
Deal With The Rats
Once you have prevented more rats from entering your home, it’s time to call a pest control company or get some effective rat traps.
Do not lay poison, as the dead rodents may be eaten by other animals later and this could kill owls, foxes, coyotes, or even people’s cats and dogs. Poison carries a lot of risks, and should not be used when avoidable. Traps are much safer.
While the issue is ongoing, make efforts to clean very thoroughly in your home. You should disinfect surfaces and floors regularly, and keep all food in sealed containers or the freezer. Do not leave food on the counters or in easy-to-access cupboards.
Discard any food that gets damaged by rats, and thoroughly clean and disinfect any areas that you think they have accessed. This is crucial to prevent the spread of diseases.
Even when you believe the rats are gone, be rigorous about cleaning for a while, in case any remain.
How Can I Get Rid Of Palm Rats In The Garden?
If you are struggling with rats in your garden, you can call pest control to deal with the issue, or you can use traps. It may be necessary to take both approaches if you have a large infestation. Again, avoid the use of poison, as this is not safe.
Keeping your trees well maintained should discourage them, but a lot of the time, getting rid of palm rats comes down to making the environment uncomfortable enough to encourage them to move on – which we will cover in the next section on how you prevent the rats in the first place.
How Can I Stop Palm Rats From Getting Into My Palm Trees?
Palm rats move into your trees because the area is attractive and they have everything they need there. You should review your yard carefully for the things that these rats need, such as food, shelter, and nest spaces.
Food may be provided by:
- Unsealed trash cans
- Fruit trees (especially citrus)
- Pet food/chicken seed
- Bird food
You can’t always get rid of all of these things, but sealing food in, reducing the availability of it, and bringing it indoors at night can help to discourage the rats. In some cases, just moving a bird feeder away from the home can at least encourage the rats to keep away from your house.
Keeping your yard tidy will also help. These rats like areas where they have lots of cover to run around and hide from predators when they do come down to the ground. That means trimming back shrubs, removing underbrush, and regularly disturbing hiding spots.
You should also work to protect any vegetables or fruits that you are growing yourself. If you have put the work into growing plants, you probably don’t want to share them with the rats, so create fencing, use cloches, and protect your plants from any rodent visitors.
Remember, rats spread diseases, so if you are aware that some are wandering in your garden, be sure to wash the produce before consuming it.
Palm rats are a major nuisance, and keeping them out of your home should be a top priority. You can do this by maintaining your roof and ensuring that palm trees are not allowed to grow too close to the building.
Minimize the risk of rats in the yard by cutting off food and water sources and clearing up any bush that the rats may be hiding in.