Winter shelter for wildlife

Posted: Friday 9 November 2012
by Kate Bradbury

This autumn, there’s been a steady stream of wildlife coming into my flat, as if there's some impending disaster and I live in an ark.

Mouse running across the floor

Where I live, the leaves have only just started to fall from the trees and we’ve not yet had a frost. Still, there’s been a steady stream of wildlife, from vine weevils to hoverflies and even ichneumon wasps, coming into my flat, as if there's some impending disaster and I live in an ark.

First came the house spiders, Tegenaria spp. The males always come in at the beginning of autumn looking for a mate, but for some reason there seems to have been a lot more of them this year. After the spiders came the vine weevils, which slowly trickled in over a few weeks. I watched one amble up the outside of the window, then suddenly it was in, clambering over the carpet looking for somewhere to settle down.

I’ve seen the odd harlequin ladybird in the flat, but nothing like the large numbers that can sometimes congregate behind curtains or in the corners of rooms. Neither have I spotted any peacock or small tortoiseshell butterflies, which may also enter homes mistaking them for cool, dry shelter.

The most entertaining of my autumn visitors has been the wood mouse. I’m not sure if I have one repeat offender or if two have tried their luck, but there have been a couple of occasions in recent weeks when a mouse has dashed into the flat while I’ve popped into the garden. Both times it was raining.

The first came in while I was harvesting salad leaves. A movement, spotted out of the corner of my eye, alerted me to the mouse running into the lounge while I was still cutting leaves outside. It looked so happy - its little bum waggling in the sudden dry warmth of my home.

I set up a humane mouse trap (which it ignored) and locked it in the lounge. It was gone by morning - I think it squeezed under the back door.

I accidentally brought the second one in as cargo hidden in my veg box. This one charged around my kitchen, noisily investigating the furniture. It got stuck under the fridge several times and squealed like loud, squeaky castors. It, too, ignored the mouse trap and was (eventually) locked in the lounge. The next day, I left the back door open for a few hours and I haven’t seen it since. But who knows what else used the opportunity to walk in.

Apart from the mice, which, thankfully, don’t appear to want to stay, everything else seems happy in my flat. But if only I could tell the insects that the cool, dry spot they’ve found is likely to be warmed by occasional blasts of central heating. Centrally heated homes aren’t good for overwintering insects because the warmth may encourage them to remain active and expend energy they can’t replace, as there’s no food for them. By contrast, house spiders are apparently better off indoors, as they can die if put outside.

If butterflies and ladybirds are coming into your home, it’s a good idea to gently transfer them into a shoebox. You can then pop this in your shed or garage, where temperatures should remain cool and the insects won’t be disturbed. Other insects can be popped outside under a thick layer of leaves. What you do with vine weevils is, of course, your business.

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Talkback: Winter shelter for wildlife
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donutsmrs 11/11/2012 at 18:14

Your little mouse is so cute Kate. I have never had them in the house but I have caught a few in the greenhouse in humane traps, this was back in the spring. My husband then has the job of taking them to the common and letting them go. The spiders have been in, I just catch then in a jar and take them outside and let them go. Some have been quite large.

flowering rose 12/11/2012 at 10:48

mice or rats might be cute but in a house they will chew wiring and cause no end of damage as well as spreading disease.I had rats in the past and believe me they are not nice live with.Of course there will some outside always but you need to discourage them by not leaving food available or nooks or uncovered drains or holes.Rats are becoming immune to poisons.They do not like the smell of bleach so a bit down the drain helps.spiders on the other hand help to eliminate bugs and flies e.t.c so if you kill them you ll have more bugs.Ugly might not be cute but cute wont be friendly.

Kate Bradbury 13/11/2012 at 09:56

Thanks for your comments! I like my little mice donutmrs but I don't really like it when they come in the house, especially when this one got stuck under the fridge! And yes, flowering rose, rats can be a nightmare. Trays beneath feeders a must!


Garden Maniac 13/11/2012 at 21:27

They are cute, agreed, but if you own a cat the rules are out of your hands unfortunately...
I'd named ours Mrs Tiggywinkle... very upsetting!

Gary Hobson 14/11/2012 at 07:02

I have a mouse about the house.

I cheated slightly to get him to pose for the photos below. I put an empty chocolate bar wrapper on the floor.

He was a very brave little mouse. I was in the room, and the telly was on quite loud, but he still came to investigate...

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