In the spring, our orange tree is often overrun with squirrels and they often eat the fruits before we do. We’re working on solving this, but since squirrels are rodents, we’re worried if our citrus trees will also attract other rodents, such as rats. It’s no secret that rats are one of the most unwelcome pests for any home, so is there any reason to be concerned with having citrus trees?
Citrus trees can attract rats since all rodents love fruit. Rats will eat almost anything, but fruits are a preferred food. They’re attracted by the fruit’s sweet smell and taste, and these creatures naturally like to live in trees, so citrus trees can be an ideal home for them.
So, even though rats are attracted to citrus trees, what are the exact reasons? After all, to prevent and repel them, it’s helpful to know their motivation. In this article we’ll answer this, how to get rid of them, and more. Let’s get into it.
Why Are Rats Attracted to Citrus Trees?
Citrus trees are a great source of food and habitat for rats. While rats are omnivores and will eat meat, plants, and even garbage, they prefer fruit’s sweetness. Rats also sometimes feed on the tree bark. They benefit from the nutrients in citrus fruit and often live in trees, as squirrels do.
Roof rats, also known as black rats or Norway rats, cause about 19 billion dollars worth of damage to fruit and nut crops in the US each year. They love to forage in backyards, where citrus trees can be found.
“Roof rats are omnivores (plant- and animal-eating) but are very fond of fruit. They feed on most cultivated fruits and eat many native fruits and nuts.”University of Florida
The smell and sweetness of citrus fruits attract them, which is why they might be bothering your citrus trees. The bark on the tree is also a convenient source of food for rats.
Additionally, there’s some speculation that rats benefit from extra vitamins and minerals to grow and reproduce.
Rats are similar to squirrels as they’re able to move across trees via wines and wires.
So, overall, citrus trees are a good source of food and shelter for rats.
How To Keep Rats Out of Your Citrus Trees
Dealing with rats is almost always unpleasant, so if you want to avoid having rats in citrus trees in the first place, prevention is key.
When it comes to rat infestations, it’s best to aim for prevention instead of control.
Here are a few tips that you can use so that you hopefully never have to deal with rats:
- Keep a proper space between your trees. Don’t make it easy for the rats to jump from one tree to the next. That’s why it’s best not to plant the trees too close to each other. If you do, it’ll make it easier for the rats to spread from tree to tree. Check that the branches of your citrus trees don’t touch and keep the appropriate spacing in mind when you plant them.
- Get Rat Guards. These are mostly used on boats to prevent the rats from entering from harbors, but they can also be used if you want to prevent rats from coming into your home via the citrus trees. It’s also helpful to generally prevent them from going from tree-to-tree.
- Trim and prune branches. Droopy branches should be trimmed as soon as you can do so because rats will easily go unseen. Drooping branches hide these tiny, dull rodents quite well. They’ll also try to go for any fallen fruit from the tree. Regularly trimming your tree could keep them from hiding.
- Pick up any fallen fruits. Again, rats will go for any fallen fruit, so if you see any lying around your tree, pick them up as soon as you can. If you’re going to throw out these fruits, don’t forget to seal the trash properly so the rats won’t infest your garbage. In other words: limit the potential food supply for the rodents. This could also include dog/cat food that could be left outside at night.
- Sanitation. Keeping the area around the trees free from any trash or garbage is also essential since this type of stuff attracts rodents. Clear your backyard of any spots that rats might like to nest in, such as piles of wood. If you do have piles of wood outside, make sure to move them around from time to time to discourage nests from forming.
Of course, know that even with good prevention, rats might slip through the cracks sometimes.
What You Can Do To Get Rid of Rats
If you have rats that are feeding on your citrus trees, getting rid of them isn’t an easy thing to do. Rats are resilient, and if you’ve had or currently have an infestation, there’s a good chance you might one again if you don’t take the proper measures.
Aside from prevention, the only other thing you can really do to get rid of rats is trapping.
Using more than one trapping technique is highly advised as it will increase the chances of success.
Trapping is the best way to get rid of rats and is much better than using poison in many ways.
If you poison a rat, you run the risk of the poisoned rat finding a way into your home or building before they die, which will cause an odor problem.
Additionally, dogs and cats can find the poisoned rats and try to eat them, or worse—eat the poison themselves. I worked at a veterinarian’s office for 2 years and sadly watched a few dogs die from rat poison. Even if you don’t have pets, consider avoiding using rat poison to protect your neighbors’ pets.
Back to trapping.
While I’m personally a big advocate for trapping for relocation, the specific method of trapping is up to you and your needs.
There are many different levels of effective and ethical traps. Some will vouch for the classic mousetrap, while others prefer electric rats traps.
Here’s a list to consider before choosing a rat trap:
- If you (or your neighbors) have pets
- How large the rats are
- If you have other animals in your area (you don’t want to accidentally catch squirrels, raccoons, etc)
- The weather (this can affect traps such as sticky or electric traps)
- Traps that meet your ethical standards
In general, the best way to find effective rat traps for your area is to call up an exterminator. While you don’t need to hire them, they can point you in the right direction and match you with a trap that meets your above requirements.
Keep in mind that rats are also nocturnal and like to run around on the tops of fences. Therefore, consider this as a place of trapping (although cats and squirrels also run along fences, so proceed with caution).
Which Citrus Trees Are Rats Not Attracted To?
Rats like fruit, so because of this, rats are attracted to all citrus trees.
However, there are some other plants that they don’t like. It might be a good idea to plant some of these in your garden to either keep rats away or just to have some plants that are safe from rodent infestation.
Plants That Rodents Dislike
Some of the flavors and scents of the following plants, as well as their roots, are natural repellents for many insects as well as rodents. Having these plants in your garden will help keep rats away.
The following plants make great rodent repellents:
- Black Pepper
The reasons why these plants repel rats usually is due to their pungent smell or bitter taste.
You can also crush some of the flowers from these plants and spread them throughout your garden.
Some gardeners like to create a solution by mixing water and the crushed flowers to spray it all around their citrus trees.
As a bonus, many of these plants are great to grow in your garden anyway, as you’ll always have access to great herbs!
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Couch to Homestead, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Local Cooperative Extension Services: While we do our best with these articles, sometimes knowledge from a local expert is needed! The USDA partnered with Universities to create these free agriculture extension services. See your local services.
- 7 Easy Steps to Grow Fruit Trees (Free Guide): Need more fruit tree help from the ground up? See our free guide to make growing fruit trees a breeze.
- Ask the Free Community: Join The Couch to Homestead Community and connect with other members discussing gardening, homesteading, and permaculture.
- 30-Day Permaculture Food Forest Course: Learn how to turn your backyard into a thriving food forest in just 30 days with our online course.