ARTICLE

How to deal with loft infestations

There are few things less conducive to a good night’s sleep than the sound of scraping and scurrying overhead. It could indicate that squirrels, birds, rodents, rats or even wasps have taken up residence - not entirely comforting news for homeowners. It’s important to act as soon as you suspect an infestation; not only can these critters cause damage to the contents of your loft, they can also gnaw through electric cabling as well as create an unholy breeding ground for disease and insects.

In this article we look at common pests, how to get rid of them and - crucially - how to make sure they don’t come back.

How to deal with loft infestations

How to deal with loft infestations

FAST FACTS:

  • Bats are non-destructive animals and very clean, grooming themselves almost constantly
  • A house mouse can produce 8 litters per year with 5-6 offspring in each
  • Mice continually dribble urine which makes them a health hazard
  • For more advice read our guide to common indoor pests

How do I tell which pests are in my loft?
Identification by sight: the surest way to identify what’s in your loft is by seeing it with your own eyes. Alas, that’s easier said than done as mice and rats will disappear as soon as they hear the loft hatch open. If you notice an increase in wasps around the house - and you may even be able to see them enter the loft through your home’s eaves - it could mean you have a nest in your loft.

Identification by sound: if you hear noises during the daytime this could indicate the presence of birds which are generally more active during the day. Birds nesting in springtime are often mistaken for a mouse problem. Bird noises will tend to be confined to one area of the loft. Mice and rats on the other hand are comfortable in the dark and tend to be more active from dusk to dawn, scurrying the length and breadth of your loft. Occasionally, if you have acute hearing, you can hear wasps chewing the timber which they use to make their nests.

Identification by droppings: the average mouse deposits 40 droppings every 24 hours so if you notice hundreds of fresh droppings it could suggest a fairly serious infestation.

  • Mouse droppings resemble grains of dark rice and measure about 5mm long
  • Rat droppings are either spindle or sausage shaped and are typically longer measuring 1.5-2cm
  • Bat droppings are dark brown or black, measuring 4-8mm. Unlike mouse droppings they crumble into powder when crushed
  • Squirrel droppings are similar in length to rat droppings but are usually rounder

    Identification by damage: if you notice packaging, plastics or wood is damaged or gnawed look closely. You can tell if it’s a rat doing the damage as the grooves between the teeth marks will be 2mm apart.

    How do I tell where they’re nesting?
    Wherever you find the biggest concentration of droppings is likely to indicate their whereabouts. A clever way of locating pests’ hidey-holes is to sprinkle talcum powder on the floor to track their prints. Wasps' nests are usually visible in the loft, but can be hidden among your insulation - never hunt for a nest yourself, as disturbing it can release lots of angry insects.

    What help can the council give me?
    In law, infestations are the responsibility of the owner or occupier of a property to deal with, not the council. That said most local authorities offer a pest control service, at a cost. For example Haringey council charges £164 to treat rodents in a three-bedroom domestic dwelling and £51 for each extra room. There are concessions for those on benefits.

    How do I get rid of rodents in my loft?
    If yours is a small rodent infestation and you’re comfortable dealing with furry friends, the DIY route can be effective. DIY stores and plenty of online sites sell pest control products ranging from humane traps to fast-acting poisons. If you suspect the infestation is serious, if it’s a recurring infestation or if you feel uncomfortable dealing with rodents (and many of us do!), call in the professionals.

    The most effective ways of reducing rodent populations are trapping or poisoning. Live capture traps represent the most humane approach but be warned, rodents breed at an alarming rate so you’ll need a lot of traps and a lot of patience to be sure you’ve captured them all.

    Most professional pest controllers will recommend a combination of rodenticides combined with rodent-proofing your loft, ie blocking holes with wire wool embedded in quick-setting cement or by fitting metal strips to damaged wooden doors.

    How do I get rid of rid of squirrels in my loft?
    Firstly, don’t attempt to do it yourself. Professional treatment of squirrels is strongly recommended not only because they bite and scratch but also because it’s an offence to release a grey squirrel back into the wild. Grey squirrels must be destroyed humanely which probably isn’t something you want to do yourself. By contrast, red squirrels must immediately be released back into the wild.

    How do I get rid of bats in my loft?
    Bats are an endangered species so it is an offence to try to kill them or to block their roosts. Contact the Bat Conservation Trust for advice on 0845 1300 228.

    How do I get rid of birds in my loft?
    The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects wild birds, their nests and eggs so please don’t. If you have nesting birds in your loft you may decide to wait until they’ve flown the coop, then you can block the entrance so they can’t nest there again, maybe offering alternative accommodation via a nesting box. If the birds aren’t nesting it may be enough to simply scare them away. The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) can also offer advice.

    How do I get rid of wasps in my loft?
    Don’t attempt to do this yourself, as a wasps’ nest is a very dangerous thing to be around. Contact a local pest controller to come around and remove it.

    How do I prevent an infestation returning?
    Completely pest-proofing a home isn’t realistic – you’d end up living in a hermetically sealed box – but there are some simple steps homeowners can take to prevent unwanted wildlife getting in. Examples are:
  • Fix leaking plumbing... leaking water invites pests in
  • Cutting back overhanging branches touching the roof
  • Sealing gaps in floorboards, brickwork and around pipework
  • Installing an ultrasonic repeller that can’t be heard by humans but is uncomfortable for animals
  • Managing household waste and not eating food in bedrooms.