Palm rats are extremely common in Florida and the US Gulf Coast and can cause extensive damage to your attic if they are not dealt with quickly.
There are two types of rats called “Palm Rats” but we are only concerned about one of them. The species that actually deserves this name is the “Rattus palmarum“. However this species only exists on two remote islands in India and is actually listed as an endangered species.
The species that you are dealing with is actually the common black rat, also known as a roof rat or a tree rat. As you might have guessed by their other common names, black rats are spectacular climbers and will readily nest in trees.
The following short video shows that rats can make a perfect nest in the crown of a palm tree. The video is in Spanish but you don’t really need to understand what they are saying to see what the rats have been up to.
So now that you know what these rodents are the big question is what to do about them.
If you have a palm tree within three feet of your roof line then it will be easy for these rodents to jump from the tree onto your roof. If the openings on your roof are not properly sealed then the rats will gladly move into your attic. Any vent on your roof that has an unobstructed opening of over half an inch is an open door into your home.
Once you have palm rats in your attic they will proceed to chew insulation and wiring, poop all over the place, and make scurrying sounds that will drive you crazy in the early morning hours. In general the rats will stay in the attic but will occasionally move into the walls of your home.
Ignoring the problem will not work. These things will not go away on their own. Instead they will find your attic to be a perfect nesting spot to breed and a single female rat can produce nearly 1000 baby rats over the course of a year.
Fixing the problem takes a little work but in the end is not that hard. The whole process has three main steps:
- Kill the rats in your attic
- Do home maintenance to keep the rats from getting back in.
- Do yard maintenance to make your property less attractive to rats in the first place.
Killing the Palm Rats in Your Attic
This part is simpler than it sounds.
The easiest thing to do is fork over some cash and hire a rat exterminator.
If you want to save a couple hundred dollars then check out this guide on the best rat traps and how to use them. If traditional rat traps are a little too messy for you then you can invest in a few rat zappers.
I strongly advise against using rat poison except as an absolute last solution. The poisons are highly effective but will leave you with the stench of rotting rat corpses. The stench will subside after a few days but you will be suffering during that period.
Home Maintenance for Rat Exclusion
Item number one that you should do RIGHT NOW is to trim your palm trees. Get those dead fronds out of there and trim anything left at LEAST three feet away from your roof line.
After the trees are trimmed then it is time to get onto your roof and seal any entry holes. Those rats got in somehow. It is your job to find the entry points and seal them off. The product I used to seal some of the hard to fill holes was the “Great Stuff” sealing foam. The foam can seal just about anything but try to keep it off of your hands….it will stick to your fingers for a week!
Remember, it is absolutely pointless to kill the existing rats if you do not make it harder for new rats to replace them.
Yard Maintenance to Stop Attracting Rats
Rats don’t come to your yard because they are on vacation. The came into your yard because something attracted them and provided something they needed for survival.
The most common attractant is food. Do you have any of the following?
- Pet food left outside?
- Bird feeders with spilled seeds?
- Dog poop in the yard (rats love it…they are disgusting).
- Open trash containers?
- Citrus producing trees?
You might not be able to fix or eliminate whatever is attracting the rats to your yard but you should make efforts to minimize. In my case I reduced the number of bird feeders I had and moved them to 50 feet away from my house.
If you are unable to eliminate the attractant, or simply can’t figure out what is bringing them in, then you should consider using a Tier 1 rat baiting station. These bait stations let you poison rats but the bait housing is tamper proof from children and chew proof from dogs.
Again, you only want to poison these rats when they are OUTSIDE your house.
Palm rats are a big problem but can be dealt with by the average homeowner. Please remember that in order to completely solve the problem you must not only kill the existing rats but take steps to keep new ones from replacing them.