Have you wondered why your rodent control products no longer control rodents? Governmental intervention lies at the center of this problem. The Department of Environmental Protection has recently ruled that pelleted baits (such as the old tried-and-true d-CON) are no longer permitted in products meant for consumer markets.

Now, rodent baits come to us in gum ball-shaped globes containing three different rodenticides, none of which are very effective. In fact, mice walk past these worthless baits and don’t even stop to take a nibble. The ostensible reason for this change was to protect other wildlife species that might ingest the baits. The feds have listed species that will no longer be susceptible to poisoning from the older, more effective products. These include mountain lions, eagles and foxes.

But, pray tell, how often do cougars, eagles and foxes get into our houses and eat rodent-control poison? Again, this ranks as another triumph for government control and a defeat for homeowners who wish to thin the ranks of pest rodents in and around their houses.

Avoid These

Like anyone else, I had little choice but to purchase these new rodent-control products. The first was a product by Bonide called No Escape Mouse Magic. Well, the magic is mostly how easily consumers shell out their hard-earned bucks for this totally ineffective, mint-scented product.

I laid out the Mouse Magic packs at every potential rodent-access point in my house. The result was that my place smelled like mint, a good thing, but the mice simply walked by the stuff. It didn’t slow them down one bit. My suggestion? Stay away from this product and save your money for something that really works, such as mousetraps.

Next, I spent 20 bucks on a huge bag of RAMIK green bait packs. A mouse had gotten in the wall just behind my bed. So I went to the other side of the wall, removed a picture and drilled a hole in order to drop the bait in. After one week, the mouse still woke me up every morning during the wee hours. The “green” bait was totally ineffective and here again, I advise people to save their money and not buy this product.

But now, I had no idea how to stop the annoying rodent from scraping and scratching in my wall. One early morning, at wits end, it occurred to me to spray insect killer in the hole in the wall. This stopped the rodent’s ramblings, but it only lasted for a few days before it needed renewing. Soon, I was totally out of insect spray and the mouse was, apparently, none the worse for the wear.

Finally, I decided to drop a handful of mothballs through the hole. This stopped the mouse cold and it hasn’t returned since. Mothballs are cheap, whereas these worthless green products are very expensive. So once again, save your money and buy some mothballs.

Deer Control

On another front, the market is loaded with deer-control products, many of which are equally as ineffective as the new rodent-control products.

So last summer along about this time, I bought a package of Deer Off Repellent Stations. These are made by HAVAHART, a company best known for its excellent live traps. Reasoning that since their traps work so well, so should their deer-control products. Well, in the words of the late Jackie Gleeson, “har-de-har.”

These repellent stations somewhat resemble little black flying saucers. Instructions on the box say that Deer Off Repellent Stations can cover an eight-foot by 24-foot garden and should be placed anywhere deer like to forage. Well, in my case, deer were enjoying foraging in my vegetable garden. This was in early summer, before the electric fence went online. Following directions, I placed these stations (each station has a metal wire for a stand, which is sunk in the ground and the station placed atop it) both around and in my garden.

Deer had raided my beets, but at that point had only done minimal damage. So it was with high hopes that I set out these Deer Off stations. The next morning, while sipping my first cup of coffee and looking out the front door, my garden appeared different from how it looked the previous afternoon. Upon closer inspection, I found that deer had totally eaten everything in the garden down to nubs. Worse, the critters stepped all around the Deer-Off stations.

These things didn’t come cheap, either, so I wrote HAVAHART and told them of my disappointment and asked them how they dared to take people’s money for a product that clearly doesn’t work. I also mentioned that unless they could show me some reason not to, that I would give their product a bad review in an upcoming garden column. The company wrote back offering to send another batch of stations. They never addressed my question as to how they could cheat people in such a blatant manner.

And so I’ve kept my word. These things are worse than useless. They do not work and it wouldn’t surprise me if the stuff attracted more deer than it repelled. Bottom line? Save your money.

Finally, I had a go-around with flash tape, that brightly colored Mylar tape that is supposed to keep birds away. This spring a phoebe began building a nest over my back door, something I found totally unacceptable, since phoebe nest are made of mud and debris and the whole back wall was mud-splattered. Wondering how to counter this, I first removed the unfinished nest and hung flash tape at regular intervals over the door.

Satisfied that this would thwart the insistent phoebe, I considered the problem solved. But unfortunately, it wasn’t. The bird totally ignored the flash tape blowing this way and that in the breeze. It’s a wonder it didn’t use the tape to build its nest. My advice is to use flash tape if you want, but don’t expect much for results. But at least flash tape is cheap, unlike those ineffective deer and rodent-control products.

Effective Controls

Homeowners and gardeners still have a few effective means of pest control. First, electric fences work wonders. But how many of us want to deal with an electric fence? I surely don’t, but the pests have given me no choice. I depend upon my vegetable garden for fresh produce in-season and also, canned and frozen veggies during the off season.

Electric fences work well and the new varieties are relatively inexpensive. So if you, like me, reach your wit’s end, don’t hesitate to set up an electric fence.

Another deer-control method, one which I haven’t tried but am told on good authority that it works, seems rather bizarre. But I offer this to those who feel they are out of other options. Just take old, used underwear and place them around the perimeter of your property. It sounds like a last resort and probably it is. But a commercial gardener told me about this and of all people, he cannot afford to lose everything to marauding deer. Also, I suppose it’s possible to somehow camouflage the undies for aesthetics sake.

One commercially available deer-repellent product that performs as advertised, comes in pre-mixed spray bottles and also in concentrate. The stuff is called Deer Out, and it doesn’t wash off after a rain, either. For large gardens, the concentrated form seems the most economical way to go and for smaller sites, the spray bottle should be adequate. I first tried this on a daylily bed behind the house, too far to extend the electric fence. And much to my joy, it worked. And if you are like me in this regard, you probably don’t mind paying whatever you must for something that works. Deer love day-lilies and it irked me to have them destroy my beautiful flowers. But now I’ve found this wonderful product and it has deterred deer from eating my day-lilies.

The same company also offers a rodent-control product. I tried Rabbit & Groundhog Out and it keeps small varmints at bay. In fact, I ran out of Deer Out and applied Rabbit & Groundhog Out to my day-lilies and it, too, kept deer away. I’d say that’s going the extra mile.

Other than the products listed here I am unaware of any other effective measures against deer.

For mice and rats, the only real, dependable solution is to set out mousetraps and rat traps. Anything else, at least to my knowledge, is a total waste of money. Of course you can place mothballs at rodent entry points and they should help to deter rodent infestations.

The long and short of all this is that the market abounds in totally ineffective varmint and pest control products. It saddens me that companies would push these worthless products on the buying public. Those who sell such things should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. But at least now you know what to go for and what to avoid.

Tom’s Tips

Ever have a tomato plant that just wouldn’t stop growing? If allowed to, tomatoes will grow as tall as whatever nearby structure that can support them. These 15-foot plants look impressive, but how do you pick tomatoes from 15-feet tall plants?

Besides that, the taller the plant, the fewer the fruit. So for maximum production, select a maximum height for your tomatoes and when they begin to exceed that height, which they will, snip the terminal, or leading end. That way you’ll get a bushier plant with more tomatoes.


Tom Seymour of Waldo is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist and book author.