Thursday, April 29, 2010

Carpenter ants, mice in the house. What to do, what to do. My husband and I don't always see eye to eye on this, but we're working on it. Last year we noticed a long line of ants marching right along the power line onto our house. Now if you are not familiar with carpenter ants, let me provide a short summary. They are the only ants that live up off of the ground, and while they don't "eat" wood, it is their habitat, which is created by chewing tunnels throughout it. Well I don't think much more explanation is required to demonstrate they aren't a good sign for wooden structures. As you may have already deduced, we're living a wooden home.

For my spouse, there was no question about what to do, but I still felt guilty. In the end though, we had to protect our home and used baits to rid our house of them. This was after completing extensive research on what was actually effective with this particular species of ants. Most places we consulted recommended spraying the entire house, and this didn't sit well with us. In the end, the baits worked and we did not need to spray everything in sight.

After that ordeal, we ran into yet another issue once fall came around. One of our adopted cats cornered a mouse. We caught it and relocated it to a nature center close to our house. We were hoping it wasn't a problem and a freak occurrence. Then our cat killed another one. Clearly it was more than happenstance.

First our goal was to control the mice without lethal means. We didn't catch anything with the live traps. Nada. Next we called out a company to help seal up the house, and used glue traps to catch the mice after a couple weeks on unsuccessful live trap testing. Then we checked the traps daily. Whenever we caught something, my brave and honorable spouse would use vegetable oil to get the poor mice off the traps, and then relocate them to a nature center by our house. This carried on for a couple weeks and then the mice stopped getting caught on the glue traps. Crap, what the hell were we supposed to do then?

In the end, we used lethal traps. I honestly feel terrible about it, but the other alternatives just weren't working. Our cats WERE NOT earning their keep darn it! All other options were exhausted. I think we both felt badly about it, but my spouse was a lot more freaked out about a mouse in the house. Our family has more of a role reversal going on with feelings on rodents. I think they are cute, but not in my house. They were pooping all over the place, could potentially spread disease to our family - especially the animal ones, and were chewing up stuff. My oldest cat actually caught a tape worm from killing a mouse at my parent's house a few years ago. Not a fun situation by any means. Just like with the ants, we were protecting our home and family. I know there are surely vegans out there who would condemn this, but I'm curious if that is the case, what would you recommend? What would you do?


  1. I think that veganism entails a commitment to live your life in a way that opposes the use of animals for unnecessary human ends. I think it also means that, whenever possible, we should refrain from harming animals, even if we aren't "using" them.

    You weren't using the mice in your house. They were using your house. We could go on and on about how by even building houses we're using the habitats of animals and ... well that line of thinking isn't really useful in a modern context.

    So the situation was one of those "if a tiger broke into my house and was going to maul my kids, would I be justified in harming and/or killing him or her?" problems. The answer, of course, is yes. Your situation may not have been as immediately dire as that example, but the sentiment is similar. The integrity of your house could have been compromised, your kids (including the furry ones) could have gotten bit or diseased.

    In the past, I've taken the "as long as they're invading my house" attitude in the past. The problem with this is that they don't realize that the invasion is something that's creating a negative effect on the human end. I don't think we should hold animals responsible for actions that cause harm because they likely don't have the ability to consider and moralize about that harm. So it's not really a battle against invading pests, it's just an unfortunate but genuine conflict of interest that almost never has a positive solution for all involved. When genuine conflicts of interest arise between humans and animals, we as humans are justified, I think, to choose our own interests over the others'.

    It sure seems like you did everything within your power to rid your house of the unwanted guests without the use of lethal measures. You DID get rid of a lot of mice without killing or, it sounds like, even harming them. That's pretty awesome.

    So, no condemnation from me, that's for sure. Being vegan doesn't mean we have to let animals invade our house or maul us or that we can't swat at a mosquito or treat head-lice. At least that's not what it means to me.

  2. Hi there, Celeste! This is a great blog! I am just waiting to give birth to our first baby, who will at least be half vegan! :) I really empathize with your mouse problem...we had the same thing, and I ended up getting the humane traps but then the mice disappeared! We had another issue with sugar ants and I tried vinegar and hot sauce for a while but no luck. Good for you, for trying! I also liked your Easter egg post. I loved decorating eggs, too, and am glad that you found such a neat alternative! Plus, they have something they can remember and keep for years to come. Keep up the great work!

  3. OMG, that would be so tough :( We haven't had an issue like this with mice, but with hornets. They build in our carport AND in the kids playhouse. I could never be the one to spray them all, that's when a non-veg husband comes in handy I guess. The hardest part to me is explaining our decision to the kids. I remember once when Ava saw me swat at mosquitos that were flying around her she looked at me in horror. Like I was an aweful traitor!