October 02, 2003
On The Late Shortage Of Free Ice Cream

Things have been very busy at work. The first grading period (of eight) ended Friday, a fact I did not realize until Wednesday afternoon. What with the hurricane and all, we had had less than three weeks worth of actual classes, so I hadn't given enough quizzes for accurate grading. That made for a busy Thursday, composing six fair-sized exams for Friday, and a very busy weekend grading them. I'm only now digging out from under the pile of accumulated work. Serious posting should resume tomorrow tonight.

In the mean time, here's some mouse-blogging for my more fanatical readers (if such there be):

Between the time I left for work yesterday and the time I got home today, I have caught nine mice. That's with only three old-fashioned mousetraps, though I just put out three more. Thanks for all the suggestions about mouse-bait: peanut butter, gumdrops, and more. Attracting them has not been a problem, and my gooey stinky way-past-its-sell-by-date French Münster has been working just fine, though I also caught one with a bit of Korean squid stir-fried in hot pepper. It's getting the traps to detonate that's the problem. I've caught a total of thirteen mice in about ten days, but have also had roughly the same number of traps cleaned out without going off. So far, my brother's suggestion of flour and water seems to be working best, smeared on the trap before and after adding the cheese to form a crust like a tiny tiropita.

Not really an update:

Make that fourteen. As I was writing the last sentence, another trap went off. The weather has turned much colder in the last couple of days, so I suppose they are looking for a nice warm place to spend the winter. It makes me feel rather like the British soldiers in Zulu: they just keep coming, wave after wave! Or is this a small-scale Willard?

This really is an update: (11:30 PM)

Fifteen. Time to haul away the last two bodies and reset their traps so I'll have all six ready for the hordes of desperate suicidal rodents trying to get into my apartment. Putting the traps a foot away from each other doesn't seem to affect the kill-rate. I would have thought that having a dead friend or relative in plain view would affect even a stupid rodent's appetite, but apparently not.

This is another update: (11:45 PM)

Hmmm. I seem to have stumbled into a pseudoscientific comparison of American and imported technology. The two old traps (the third one seems to have lost its springiness) are Victor brand, made in Lititz, PA, perhaps by Amish craftsmen who pass down the skills from generation to generation. (Lititz is near Lancaster. Whether it's pronounced LIT-itz or Luh-TITS, I do not know. If the latter, perhaps it's French.) The four new ones are PIC or PIG brand (hard to tell from the slapdash paint job), made in Taiwan. The American traps have a much more complex bait apparatus, curved at one end like a toboggan, with a hole in it. I was able to tie my squid strips in knots through the hole. The Taiwanese traps just have a metal plate with a small square depression for the bait. They are also stronger, i.e. springier, and more sensitive. I had to set one of them four times, since it kept going off when I set it down and tried to gently nudge it into place.

Results of last unscientific test: The two American traps caught no mice, though the one closest to the stove was licked or nibbled clean. The four Taiwanese traps caught two mice, but one of the two traps that went off broke irreparably, and the other has a (relatively) huge pool of congealed mouse blood on it -- around half a teaspoon, which is, I suspect, more than half of what the live mouse contained. Despite the small sample size, it seems that stronger Asian traps are more fragile and messier, but American traps are insufficiently sensitive. Experiments will continue, at least until the mice are all dead and damned.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at October 02, 2003 10:08 PM

That might be great to have such a life journal like this! People used to
have a paper diaries and now it's electronics. Anyhow I wish you luck and
all the best in your life and work!

Posted by: Jeniffer on October 3, 2003 08:39 AM

You couldn't just get a cat? It will hunt down and discourage the waves of mice, AND keep your feet warm, too...Just a thought.

Posted by: Sgt. Mom on October 3, 2003 01:18 PM

If you're sufficiently Mechanickally Inclined (which I suspect you're not, or you'd probably ahve already done this), you could Fiddle and Fuss with the various Bits, Pieces, and Parts of the Trap, so as to fine-Tune its Triggering and Rodent-Killing Properties.

(IE, wiggle and bend the metal bits until it goes off easier.)

Posted by: Sigivald on October 3, 2003 02:09 PM

A good thing to do is to test the trap's sensitivity before putting it to use by simulating a mouse nibbling on the bait (a pencil works great) and determine how much of an increase is needed. Sensitivity can be adjusted (on the Victor traps) by slightly bending the little latch catch on the flat metal piece back and forth accordingly. If you don't have a gentle touch with handling traps, a good way to avoid the snap-the-trap-as-it's-set-down routine is to put the unset trap on the floor, swing the little snapper over and use the edge of your shoe's heel to keep it in place while the mechanism is set (also lessens the chance of snapping your own fingers inadvertently). Slowly release the pressure and if the trap doesn't snap, all that is left to do is simply slide it into place.

Posted by: Bashir Gemayel on October 3, 2003 05:21 PM

And it's LIT-itz, so maybe.

Posted by: DJ on October 4, 2003 10:47 PM

Man, and I thought I had mouse problems, catching four mice in the past week and a half!

Have been using Victor traps (mostly), also some wickedly powerful mousetrap with a picture of a black cat on it— can't remember the brand name, once I catch a mouse I can't stand to reuse the trap. The dead mouse goes outside on the concrete by the garage door, the trap goes into the waste basket, the site of the capture gets sprayed down with Lysol. Call me queasy, I can't stand the critters!

Bait, I slice off a piece of string cheese "against the grain" and smush it in place. Haven't had the cheese stolen without the trap going off yet.

Posted by: Paul Burgess on October 5, 2003 05:46 PM

Funny, my experience has generally been that once a trap has caught a mouse, no mouse will ever go near it again. I finally decided that there must be a "dead mouse smell", and I might as well toss them out with the mouse.

Maybe northern Michigan field mice are smarter than whatever you are dealing with, or maybe they are simply less numerous and less desperate. They only come one at a time, even when winter is nearing and it is getting cold outside. I'm in a fairly rural area (no farms anymore, but averaging about 10 acres per house), I see hawks flying over every day, and there are far too many people letting their dogs run loose. So I suppose wild mouse food is plentiful, and their numbers are rather severely controlled.

Posted by: markm on October 10, 2003 02:28 PM

It's LI titz, according to the residents. I got certified as a pretzel maker at a factory tour there once.

Posted by: Chuck on October 15, 2003 02:24 PM