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Common Questions about Mouse Plagues

It is said that Australia suffered the worse mouse infestation problems in 2007. This massive mouse outbreak was considered as a muse plague, a term which was never used in this place for some time already (in the 1970s, Australia also suffered from the same problems). But what is a mouse plague really? What happens when it occurs? These and so many other questions would-pop out of our minds every time this issue is raised. This article is written to give readers at least the modicum level of understanding of what a mouse plague is really all about.

What is a mouse plague?

The most prevalent determining agent of what constitute a mouse plague is massive mice infestation. When the number of mice in a hectare of land exceeds 1000, mouse plague is definitely occurring. The population can swell up to 3000 (it can't go higher than that because the mice will also compete for food). They usually infest regions that grow a lot of grains, in Australia these are the southern and the eastern regions. When mouse plagues happen, the pests can infest an entire grain barn and leave it empty overnight. The worst part is, in case when the mice are not able to consume all the grains, what's left has to be thrown away because of contamination (i.e. mouse urine, droppings, saliva, etc.). Thus is can be deduced that mouse plagues can cause very serious damages to agricultural lands. In some cases, they can even bring down an entire economy for a while and make that community suffer for the loss of income. Mice have been causing too much stress to farmers and other land owners already, even before a mouse plagues happens, so you can only imagine how stressed they become when it does.

Which places in the world do mouse plagues happen?

Excessive mice infestation does not happen in too many places in the world. One particular reason to this is that only a few regions in the world have the combined factors that make mice breeding fast and easy. In the southern and eastern portions of Australia, mice are able to reproduce incessantly because of the temperature and the overall climate of the place. Moreover, they also get enough food supply from their vast wheat lands (a mouse favourite). Other areas that have cases of mouse plagues are California and some areas in the north-western regions of China. Nonetheless, these areas do not suffer mouse plagues as much as Australia. Thus, in a relative sense, it can be said that only Australia really suffer from repeated mouse plagues.

What causes a mouse plague?

It is sure about what causes the outbreak: the supply of food. But, experts agree that this is not the only reason. While the reasons why the outbreaks happen in the southern and northern portions of Australia, it is still very apparent that they two regions have identical climates. Rainy season is a very favourable weather condition for mice and this normally happens from April to October, and the harvest period is these regions also happen during this period. This means that at the very moment when they can reproduce massively, they will also have enough access to all the food that they need. This mixed condition is probably the surest reason why Australia has had a lot of outbreaks in the past, and possibly in the future. Well, the thing about mouse plagues is that they do not last forever. The peak of the population explosion might last for 18 months and almost immediately, the population of the mice will take a very significant drop; from a thousand mice per hectare, it can drop to 1-3 mice and in a matter of weeks the plague will subside and will not come back for a couple of years.

What ends the plague?

Experts have note really understood yet why the plague ends. Some speculate that it probably happens after the mice have already consumed too much food that the supply starts to become insufficient to support their population. Other factors which might can the end of the plague are: predation, diseases and overcrowding.

Can the plague happen in one place and then occur in another?

Some people actually think that the plague can "travel". However, the truth is that it can't. Maybe to some extent, the plague may move in a small-scale level but this does not happen in a short span of time and in most cases the movement is too insignificant that it would seem as if the movement never happened at all. These slight movements take about 9 months become obvious and is often unsuccessful because right when it is complete, the harvest in the area where they opt to migrate is also finished. Nevertheless, is the climate is still favourable to the mice, there is still very high chance that a good portion of their population will make it into the next location and start to reproduce in this area again.

How do we minimize plague damage?

When mouse plagues happen, it is imperative that a massive population control program be implemented. Although the plague would naturally subside on its own, this natural death happens in 18 months -- a period too long for farmers to wait. This duration is also enough to kill an entire economy. Thus, the government would actually really invest a good amount of money just to cut down the mice's population as fast as possible. One particular example is the action done by the Australian government in 2007. The government has commissioned planes to spread poisoned baits throughout the southern and northern regions in order to kill thousands if not millions of mice at once. Immediately a day after the poison was spread, farmers practically started to walk on dead mice on the ground.

Other methods used to minimize the damage caused by the plague includes: cleaning after a harvest (removing grains from the ground), weeding, fencing and regular cultivation. It is important that the farmlands are constantly visited by people so that the mice will not feel as if they can live in the area without a threat.
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