For humans, rats are often the stuff of nightmares, but it seems that the rodents may be as likely to experience bad dreams themselves as they are to star in ours. In a new study in Nature Neuroscience, researchers placed rats in a maze and allowed them to explore. At a certain point in the maze the scientists blasted the animals in the face with a bit of compressed air from a keyboard cleaner—a harmless but uncomfortable experience for the rats. Later, as the researchers monitored the animals sleeping, they could see patterns of connectivity in the animals’ hippocampi corresponding to their mental map of the maze. For the first time, however, the scientists saw activity in another region of the brain involved in emotion—the amygdala—whenever the rats’ brains recalled the location of the scary air puff, New Scientist reports. Whether rats actually experience this phenomenon as fear in the context of a dream is impossible to know without asking them, however.
A furry little culprit is causing big problems for car manufactures and, possibly more importantly, for drivers whose vehicles are being destroyed.
Now lawsuits are popping up across the country claiming rodents are responsible, eating cars from the inside out. And it's likely not covered under your warranty.
Critics say soy-wire coverings now used in many new cars are also a tasty food source attracting rodents. They're chewing through wires, and costing car owners thousands of dollars.
Alice Clark, a rat enthusiast, says her cuddly little "pets" wouldn't hurt anyone, but what they could do to the insides of your car is a different tail.
"It's edible, rats will eat pretty much anything that's edible," Clark said.
Clark feeds her rats soy. And critics say as car companies are going green, they've also turned to soy as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic for wrapping wires and car parts.
Driver Sandy Medina doesn't know how long she had furry friends living under her hood.
"Driving around there could have been something underneath while I was driving it and who knows, maybe something would have popped out!" Medina said.
After owning her Toyota Forerunner for just three months, Medina says the first sign of trouble was when her engine light went on and she took it to her dealer.
"They told me, 'There's a nest in the car. Could be anything, could be rodents, could be squirrels, could be anything,'" Medina said.
She says mechanics told her these pests weren't just making her car their home, they were making it their meal.
"I don't even think that there was anything left. Everything was eaten," Medina said.
She fears it wasn't only bad for her car, it was a potential fire and safety hazard, too.
"I felt that my life was in danger," Medina said.
Attorney Brian Kabateck says, "It is a design defect which has effected a lot of people and has cost a lot of people a lot of money."
Kabateck has filed a class action lawsuit against Toyota, which is one of the manufacturers allegedly using a soy based compound for wire insulation.
"Rats think this is delicious," Kabateck said.
The lawsuit says the soy is "baiting rodents" and "enticing these pests to chew through... the wiring" which could "leave the vehicle partially or completely inoperable."
"It can be a life safety hazard, it can cause the car to stop in the middle of the highway, it can cause it to shut down, and it can cause serious problems," Kabateck said.
Kabatech says it's unknown how many manufacturers are using soy in their cars, but Toyota and Honda are two of the most prevalent.
He believes Toyota is using soy to cut costs, not necessarily to go green, and they are leaving car owners to pay for it.
"They ate $6,000 out of my pocket," Medina said.
While some insurance companies, like Medina's, will pay for repairs, the class action cases says Toyota won't cover it under their warranty. Medina says the wires in her truck were replaced with the exact same soy wire covers.
"They can't guarantee that it's not going to happen again," Medina said.
Mark Zickler of Terminix says, "Soy is a little bit sweeter than chewing on a petroleum product, obviously."
Honda has said that rodents chewing wiring has been a longstanding problem and they have seen no evidence that anything in their wiring is increasing rodents gnawing tendencies. Nonetheless, they have come out with a fix - spicy tape - that costs about $45.
"You wrap the wiring throughout your vehicle and it has a really super spicy flavoring in it that deters them from wanting to chew on it," Zickler said.
He also recommends owners move their cars, instead of leaving them in one place for long periods which makes them a more likely home, parking inside, and using traps and moth balls to deter rodents.
"They can come from anywhere and surprise you," Zickler said.
Medina, who is part of the class action lawsuit, just wants to warn other drivers and she wants manufactures to fix the problem, without passing the buck to consumers.
"Why wait until something catastrophic to occur, why can't you do something now?" Medina said.
In a statement to Action News Toyota said "rodent damage... occurs across the industry and is not brand or model specific. And they are "not aware of any scientific evidence that shows rodents are attracted to automotive wiring because of alleged soy bases content."
Honda tells us they believe the class action lawsuits have no merit.
STATEMENT FROM TOYOTA
Rodent damage to vehicle wiring occurs across the industry, and the issue is not brand- or model-specific. We are currently not aware of any scientific evidence that shows rodents are attracted to automotive wiring because of alleged soy-based content. Because these claims are the subject of current litigation, we cannot comment further.
STATEMENT FROM HONDA
It is a long established fact that rodents are drawn to chew on electrical wiring in homes, cars, or anywhere else where they may choose to nest.
Honda introduced a rodent-deterrent tape a few years ago to help combat this age-old issue for customers who live in areas where rodents have caused prior damage. Our attempt to provide some protection for our customers against this natural behavior should not lead to the assumption that Honda created the issue in the first place.
Further, Honda sources parts, including electrical wiring and wire harnesses, from several different suppliers who each have their own proprietary formula for wire insulation and wire harnesses. Honda has not received any confirmation from its various suppliers that the wiring insulation and harnesses used in Honda vehicles are soy-based, as the plaintiffs allege. Honda is not aware of studies or information indicating that any of the wiring insulation or other components used for Honda vehicles are derived from substances that attract rodents or increase their propensity to chew on wiring or other components in engine compartments. It is Honda's understanding that rodents may seek shelter in engine components and once inside, can cause damage as a natural result of their need to chew and use material that has been chewed for nesting. Honda is not aware of any information suggesting rodents use wire insulation as a food source.
Class action lawsuits have been filed against a number of auto manufacturers alleging that vehicles contain soy-based wiring insulation and that such insulations attracts rodents to chew on the insulation. Honda believes that the class actions filed against it have no merit.
By Wendy Saltzman
Rodent-Proofing Your Premises
Rodent-proofing your home, apartment, farm or other buildings involves identifying and eliminating the conditions that make it possible for rats and mice to survive - mainly their food, water and harborage. Once you know the problem areas, follow the four major steps below to reduce or eliminate these conditions.
Keeping Rodents Out of Your Home or Other Buildings
1. Remove Sources of Food & Water
Improving sanitation conditions is one of the best ways to prevent and to get rid of rodent problems. Rats and mice are opportunistic feeders that will eat any food discarded by humans. Eliminating their food and water is critical to controlling them.
Pick up trash and discarded food.
Keep tightly sealed lids on garbage cans.
Store pet and bird food in sealed containers.
Get rid of standing water by filling holes or unlevel places in the yard where puddles might form or by eliminating standing water in buckets, pools, or other containers.
Clean up spilled food in cupboards and on floors.
Keep counters and food preparation areas clear of food at night.
Keep all food packages tightly sealed.
2. Get Rid of Rodent Habitats
Remove clutter and debris.
Keep grass, shrubs, and other vegetation around your home trimmed.
Trim overhanging trees that cause shadowy areas where rodents feel protected.
Clear out boxes and other clutter in basements and storage areas.
Store materials off the floors on shelves, wherever possible.
3. Keep Rodents From Entering Cracks & Crevices
Rats can fit through an opening about the size of a nickel. Mice can squeeze through an area smaller than a dime. Call Rodent Solutions to seal your home and prevent rodents from entering.
Rodents may be in your garage, attic, closets, cabinets, tool shed or yard. It’s a busy time for pest control companies and rodenticide sales. But nature can control rodent populations, if you let it. In the natural environment, there is balance. Every creature is prey to some animals and predator to others.
Raptors – owls, hawks, falcons, eagles and vultures – are rodents’ natural predators. You should not spend money on poisons and put desirable wildlife, pets and children at risk of accidental poisoning. Let the birds of prey naturally remove rodents for you.
Most raptors use the same nest for many years and some even pass from one generation to the next. Bald eagles are known to have used the same nest as long as 35 years. That makes them an excellent long-term control for rodent populations in the immediate area.
During breeding season, a family of five owls can eat as many as 3,000 rodents! Remember that poisoned rodents can poison the predators, scavengers and pets that eat them!
Even though the state Department of Pesticide Regulation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have restricted public access to the most dangerous rodenticides, all rodenticides – including the types still available to consumers – are poisons that can kill wildlife, pets and children.
Unfortunately, even after stricter regulations on rodenticides were enacted, wildlife continue to be exposed to second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum and difethialone). Licensed pest control companies and agricultural producers are still free to use them. If consumers hire pest control companies, they should know that the materials the firms use could poison local wildlife. Only consumers can ensure that it doesn’t. The most effective pest control does not involve chemicals, but sanitation and exclusion.
Like most animals, rodents will congregate and multiply where food is available and they feel safe. The easiest way to discourage them is to remove or modify anything that could make them comfortable. Sanitation is the first step to controlling rodents. For example:
Keep your home and yard neat and clean. Don’t give rats places to hide.
Remove objects and plants that rodents can hide under, such as wood piles, debris, construction waste, dense vegetation and ground-covering vines like ivy.
Pick up fruit that has fallen from trees as soon as possible.
Secure your garbage in a tightly sealed can.
Seal water leaks and remove standing water that can attract unwelcome animals, breed mosquitoes and waste water.
Contact Rodent Solutions to remove mice and rats from inside the building and seal the entries they used to get in: openings where cables, wires and pipes enter buildings, and cracks or holes in the foundation, walls and roofs. Rodents can squeeze into holes as narrow as ½ inch diameter!
We offer poison free solutions. Find out more at http://rodentsolutioninc.com/why-choose-us
The National Pest Management Association explains why rodents invade cars
FAIRFAX, VA – Many causes are possible when vehicles experience problems, but it might surprise motorists to learn that a rodent infestation could be one of them. According to the National Pest Management Association, several innate factors drive rodents under the hood, leading to car damage, particularly during wintertime.
“Vehicles possess the ideal attributes that attract rodents in winter, including shelter and built-up warmth from commutes,” says Michael Bentley, Ph.D., a staff entomologist at NPMA. “Rodents hate being out in the open where they are vulnerable to predators, so when they see a car holding freshly generated heat that also offers protection from the great outdoors, they are drawn to it for cover.”
Entering into cars is easy — a mouse, for example, can squeeze through openings as small as a dime. Once inside, any crumbs the owner leaves behind, or other chewable items, will hold rodents’ attention, and that includes wires.
“Rodents are instinctively avid chewers. About three percent of their daily activity is just gnawing on objects like wires,” says Bentley. “Unfortunately, cars have an abundance of materials that rodents enjoy chewing through.”
Changes in car design may also attract rodents. Recently, numerous consumers have reported experiencing rodent infestations in their cars, attributing them to the materials manufacturers are using in their eco-friendly models, such as soy-based wiring, which is especially appealing to a rodent’s palate.
Costly car repairs aside, rodents can also have negative effects on human health. They can, for example, cause respiratory issues, including asthma and allergy symptoms.
To eliminate the likelihood of rodents infesting a vehicle, keep trash in tightly closed containers and seal up points of entry into the garage. Drivers should also regularly look under the hood for gnawed materials, nests, droppings and frayed wires.
Researchers have developed a new mouse model that could be used in Zika research to better understand the virus and find new treatments, according to a study published in PLOS Pathogens.
A person infected with Zika virus usually has no symptoms or only has mild ones. However, in recent outbreaks, the virus has been linked to increased rates of neurological disorders and birth defects. There is an urgent need for better animal models for laboratory research to study the Zika virus and potential treatments.
Previous studies have shown that young mice with specific immune system defects are susceptible to Zika infection. However, studying Zika in mice with compromised immune systems could skew results. Now, researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research demonstrate that mice with functioning immune systems can be successfully infected with Zika.
"This new mouse model developed by the FDA could be used to explore Zika virus' pathology and potentially help to develop treatments or vaccines," says Mohanraj Manangeeswaran, senior staff fellow in the FDA's Office of Pharmaceutical Quality. "Because the mice used in this model have immune systems that allow them to survive initial infection, they could be particularly helpful for studying the long-term effects of Zika virus infection."
The new mouse model employs a mouse strain called C57BL/6, which is commonly used in disease research. The scientists infected 1-day-old C57BL/6 mice with Zika virus and found that they develop symptoms of neurological disease, such as unsteady gait and seizures that gradually fade over two weeks.
The researchers compared their new mouse model with young mice that have immune system defects and are known to die several days after Zika infection. They found significant differences in disease progression, immune system response, and neurological effects between the two models.
What are roof rats? Roof rats - also called black rats or ship rats - are smaller than Norway rats, but cause similar issues. This rodent gets its name from its tendency to be found in the upper parts of buildings. The roof rat is thought to be of Southeast Asian origin, but is now found throughout the world, especially in tropical regions.
Color: Brown with black intermixed; Gray, white or black underside
Shape: Long and thin with scaly tail; large ears and eyes
Size: 16" total (6-8" body plus 6-8" tail)
Region: Coastal states and the southern third of the U.S.
Roof rats are primarily nocturnal. They forage for food in groups of up to ten and tend to return to the same food source time after time. These rats follow the same pathway between their nest and food.
Roof rats live in colonies and prefer to nest in the upper parts of buildings. They can also be found under, in and around structures.
Roof rats secured their place in history by spreading the highly dangerous bubonic plague. Though transmission is rare today, there are still a handful of cases in the U.S. each year. Roof rats can also carry fleas and spread diseases such as typhus, jaundice, rat-bite fever, trichinosis and salmonellosis.
Roof Rat Prevention
To get rid of roof rats and prevent them from entering a home, seal up any holes or cracks larger than a quarter with silicone caulk. Keep trees and shrubs trimmed away from the building and cut back limbs overhanging the roof. Roof rats are drawn to any accessible food sources, so clean up fruit that may fall from trees in the yard and keep garbage in tightly covered receptacles. It's also important to regularly inspect the home and property for signs of a roof rat infestation, including rodent droppings, gnaw marks, damaged goods and greasy rub marks from their oily fur.
Note: this page contains paid content.
Please, subscribe to get an access.