Mouse in the compost bin

by Kate Bradbury

There's a mouse living in my compost bin. I first saw it one evening the other week, when I added a fresh layer of tomato side shoots and yellowing leaves.

Wood mouse. Image taken by David Kjaer, courtesy of rspb-images.comThere's a mouse living in my compost bin. I first saw it one evening the other week, when I added a fresh layer of tomato side shoots and yellowing leaves. It leapt out of the bin and charged through the border. That frog looks just like a mouse, I thought (it was dark).

Then last weekend, as I took the fork to gently turn the compost, it leapt out and ran off again, only this time I could see it was a mouse (a wood mouse I think, not a house mouse). I let out a faint scream of surprise, spent around 20 seconds worrying what the neighbours would think, and then relaxed, happy with our new arrival.

My bumblebees (RIP) were rescued from friends who were landscaping their garden; some of my frogs were rescued from a kitchen drain and the rest I picked up from a lady who filled in her pond and advertised the frogs on Freecycle, having kept them in a jar all day. The mouse came all by itself.

I'm impressed the mouse found my garden. It's not like a normal garden, with neighbouring plots separated by fences and hedges – things that make it easy to travel between them. It backs on to a cycle path, has walls on either side and is surrounded by concrete. Yet here it is, a mouse, living in my compost bin.

The great thing about mice is that they have an important role in the lifecycle of bumblebees. Many species of bumblebee nest in old mouse holes. It's thought that they’re attracted by the smell, and the strong whiff of mouse could even deter wax moths from finding and laying eggs inside the nest. So I'm hoping that, if this mouse sticks around, bumblebees might be encouraged to nest in my garden too.

I don't know if I have one mouse or a family (though I suspect it's only a matter of time before there are more of them). I emptied the bin a few weeks ago and there was no sign of a nest (just the usual giant slugs, earwigs and some ant eggs). I'm not sure how I'll feel if it does start a family – my garden isn't big enough to support many – but for now I'm happy. Perhaps it's just a lone mouse scouting for a hibernation site. It might spend the winter in the compost bin making the whole heap smell of mouse, ready for nest-searching bumblebee queens in spring. I hope so.

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Gardeners' World Web User 19/08/2011 at 13:24

arhhhhh,lovely little story and the pictures cute as well.... i have the larger species in my garden[rats] for ages i thought ohhh its sweet and a loner ....NOT now the cheeky chaps had babies....4 that i know of although lovely,sweet and just praying they will leave soon as i dont want to get the nasty people in to remove them plus my neighbours might not be happy...however there is a steady flow of food [birdnuts in feeders all around the garden] and if i take them down my birds will lose out.. any ideas people to move them away safely...

Gardeners' World Web User 19/08/2011 at 13:57

I have dormice, Kate. They make holes in the hazelnuts which are really plentiful this year. Poppy, your female rat and her offspring will soon have more. Make sure your building is rat proof before the winter, when they like to come in for warmth and can cause fires by chewing through electrical wiring.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/08/2011 at 13:59

I have woodmice they live under my shed and under my decking. They use to come out a great deal, we use to love watching them collect peanuts and sunflower seeds we put out for the birds, put cats have found their spot and now they seem to only come out early morning. So I have safeguarded a spot for them, with their own peanuts and sunflower seeds. They hve shared our space for four years now. Like the bumblebees have grown very found of them. Oh! and my leaf cutter insects.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/08/2011 at 23:03

I have field mice in the garden as we back onto open countryside, We are fortunate to have a high number of birds of prey which often hunt over the garden, along with the local cats they haven't become too much of a problem yet! So long as they stay outside I don't mind! Higgy

Gardeners' World Web User 20/08/2011 at 08:16

I've had mice in my greenhouse, one year they ate all my sweet peas. I managed to catch them in humane traps and my husband took them and let them go on the common on his way to work (bless him). This year we have had a rat and it has been caught. Poppy, I think you will have to remove them, they breed so fast and I think the babies are ready to breed in about 5 weeks. I have read on google that a pair of rats and their offspring can produce 1500 in a year. Hope that helps, good luck.

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