Beans and rodents

Dan Johnson
September 2, 2018

The good news is that it's been a good year for pole beans here in the Pacific Northwest - warm spring and hot summer. The bad news is I'm having to fight rodents every step of the way. My harvest has been disappointing, but the rodents are feasting at my expense.

Cutting to the chase: does anyone have any ideas for keeping mice out of my pole beans? Here is a picture of the damage they are doing:

It's hard to grow beans on plants that are stripped of their leaves! I've set out traps, but they spend their time up on the top of the plants and work their way down, so traps at ground level are ineffective. They invade at night from neighboring properties. I set up flood lights but that doesn't seem to deter them. They are too quick for my dog and I don't have a cat.

So, if anyone knows of some sort of deterrent or any other strategy to keep them out of my garden, your advice would be most welcome!


Comments (24)

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    I don’t have an above ground rodent issue, but I do have issues with birds perching on my tomato cages and then pooping on the fruit. I started giving them perches elsewhere in the garden (not suggested for the mice) and fastening Mylar pinwheels to the tomato cages since the combo of movement and shiny is disconcerting to critters. This has totally solved the problem. I get the pinwheels from the dollar store. There might also be Mylar ribbon you could use for this purpose. Is there any breeze in your area at night or perhaps set up a swiveling fan somthey move?

    You might also want to add something sticky in bands on the trellis such a adding a band of material and Tanglefoot (don’t use if you have small birds, especially hummingbirds without a box or other cover over it) or even duct tape sticky side out, again covered. You could also wire a couple of snap traps to set at night in spots where mice will run but birds aren’t likely to perch or cover those. Just leave a small opening for the mice to get in.

  • shuffles_gw

    I was having rats chewing on my starfruit. I strung Tomcat brand mouse blocks up among the branches. These blocks are wax based, waterproof and have a cavity running down the center that can be used to attach them. They worked for me.

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  • Dan Johnson

    Thanks for the prompt responses. Shuffles, I have set out a half dozen of the mouse blocks. The mice appear to prefer bean leaves over the blocks. I don't see any evidence of nibbling on the blocks. NHBabs, I haven't tried shiny ribbons - I'll give that a try, though the winds are very light overnight here. My wife suggested one of those fake owls. That might work, but that may be the last I see of my song birds :(

  • susanzone5 (NY)

    Are you positive this is mouse damage? Have you seen the mice? Rather it looks like damage from a larger animal that can climb your fence like a woodchuck or other mammal larger than a tiny mouse. It also looks like deer browsing. They can getb their large tongues through the fencing. Mice don't eat so much and usually work on the ground in my experience.

    The only deterrent I think would work is a havahart trap for a larger animal, electric wiring along the bottom of your fence, and deer/rabbit repellent spray.

  • Dan Johnson

    Susan, that's what's so surprising to me. Yes, I've seen the mice up on the trellis and the dog has chased some of them off.

    I've grown beans for decades in the same general area and my only problems have been squirrels digging up the starts. I've had very limited success with snap traps (2 rats traveling thru to my neighbor's bird feeder and 2 mice over a 10 day span). Lot's of mouse droppings below the trellis. Some of the droppings are on the snap traps, I'm sure just to mock me.

  • Embothrium

    Agree it resembles deer damage. There is even a partly clipped off leaf near the top of the picture, just like deer leave behind.

    Mice run around all over at night, seeing a few on the trellis does not automatically mean they are somehow stripping your beans of their big leaves. If you haven't seen any with leaf parts hanging out of their mouths you have probably been trying to go after them for nothing.

  • zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

    Agree with the above. Mice only rarely climb my trellises; and when they do, they are harvesting the bean seeds - not the leaves.

    I just went through a round of rodent elimination, mice were chewing holes in the sides of bean pods in one of my patches to get the seeds within. I put out traps in the area, caught 4 mice the first day, 3 more two days later. Nothing since, and the damage has stopped. At this time of year, mice are beginning to stock up food for the winter, so the victory is probably only temporary... others will move in from the surrounding area. Trap, harvest, repeat.

  • Dan Johnson

    Hey, thanks for all the comments, but... mice, not deer, are doing the damage and that's what's so confusing. I trapped one more of the vermin a couple of nights ago, but they are quite adept at avoiding the traps.

    As you'll see, I'm surrounded by houses and the yard is fully fenced. P.S, cherry tomatoes are growing in the caged area in the foreground. It has stopped the squirrels but not the mice.

  • Mike McGarvey

    I have some friends who have a bird feeder that was attracting mice and rats. Someone suggested a 5 gallon bucket half filled with water and a layer of bacon grease poured on top. The first night they caught a whole family of rats and a mouse. The bucket was placed so they could get on top of it. They scooped them out and buried them. Now they only get one or two a week.

  • catherinet

    I know this is an older post, but I just saw it. I've had luck scaring mice away from various places by using fake owls. You could attach one somewhere on your trellis. It's best to occasionally move it around, so that the mice don't get used to it. I have about 4 plastic fake owls around my property.......several to keep female cardinals from pecking on my windows, and one by my golf cart. The mice got into it once and chewed wires, but since I added the fake owl......no problems. I do have problems at times with mice chewing only the bottom stems of my pole beans. When I had that problem, I would just put some chicken wire fencing around the bottom, and that would help. I've never seen the problem of them eating the tops....but I use galvanized electrical conduit pipes for my trellises. I see you use wood....which they probably have no trouble climbing.

  • joe graham Zone 9 Central Ca.

    I had mice and rats on the ground at night coming from the super highway AKA Canal bank and the solution was Tomcat All Weather bait chunks. You won't eliminate the problem overnight. I made several bait stations and placed them all around the garden perimeter. The wood pile etc. My garden is fenced so the dog can't get to the bait. You have to check on them and keep bait in them. The mice will find it and eat it eventually. I buy it by the 5 gallon bucket at Tractor supply for the best deal. I always have an influx around October when the vermin want to hole up for the winter. I made the stations out of 4" ABS plastic and glued caps on each side. Then I heated up a 1-1/4" copper pipe and melted a hole in one side so I could squeeze the bait chunks into the pipe. If you make the hole to big the rats will take the chunks back to their hide out .

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    I try my best to discourage folks from using baits because it is an unpleasant death for anything that eats the rats or mice and which will be poisoned as well. So if the rats take it back to a nest on someone else’s property you may be poisoning their pets or some of the wild predators of mice and rats like foxes, owls or hawks. I much prefer the various kinds of mechanical traps, either snap traps or ones like the 5 gallon bucket with a ramp and bacon grease or sunflower seeds floating on top of water.

  • Embothrium

    They'll keep coming back year after year as long as there is something present - and accessible to them - that attracts them. With birds stripping fruit crops it often becomes necessary to cage the blueberry bushes or cherry trees to put a stop to it, something similar may actually be called for in the instance being talked about here.

  • shuffles_gw

    This year is the first in many years I am growing lima beans. While I wasn't looking, the rats or mice ate about 2/3 just as they emerged. After I put out Tomcat chunks, that problem went away. I let them take the blocks back home to feed their kiddies.

  • catherinet

    NHBabs....I'm glad you said something. I know it seems to take care of the mice and rats....but it can also take care of hawks, owls, turkey vultures, pets, etc. We need to try to not be shortsighted in some of our fixes.

  • Embothrium

    Yes, I have heard others comment on this aspect here in my area. Unfortunately using Warfarin seems to be standard practice, including among pest control services. One time when it was used to deal with a wharf rat here the affected animal went out and plopped on the lawn in broad daylight (it was waiting for the garage door to be opened when I came out to do something else, went out the door in front of me).

    I bring this up because two crows were very soon and closely inspecting the situation after the rat presented itself. (When I came back not long afterward all three had disappeared, presumably the crows were checking to see if the rat was dead).

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    Unfortunately, I think they no longer use warfarin, but something more long-lived and toxic when preditors or scavengers eat it.

  • shivece
    They say mice hate peppermint. Try planting some peppermint in containers around your plants.
  • Embothrium

    something more long-lived

    Probably developed for being able to remain effective sitting outdoors in bait stations.

  • shuffles_gw

    The active ingredient in Tomcat is Bromethalin.

  • Macmex

    I used to use the Tomcat chunks on rodents, when they went after my sweet potatoes. But two things happened: first, my daughter's terrier got into the garden and ate some. We saved the dog by taking her to the vet immediately. But that year's crop was pretty expensive. Secondly, I had a friendly little box turtle in the garden. On day I found him eating a Tomcat cube. A week or two later I found him dead. After that I determined not to use the stuff.

    It's been a long hard journey, but we've settled on a cat, and it took a number of attempts to get one to survive here. Our current cat is doing a fabulous job. I knowt here are drawbacks to every approach, but the cat seems the best for us.

  • zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

    I had a similar experience that caused me to rethink the use of poisons outside.

    When gardening in SoCal, I had a severe problem with ground squirrels. There was a major burrow complex about 1000' feet away. Once the squirrels discovered the garden, they began digging bolt holes nearby, and were causing a lot of damage in the garden. This was on a military base, so I couldn't use an air rifle. The bolt holes were shallow, so for awhile, I would just place expanded metal over the holes, and drown whatever squirrels were in them.

    But the nearby colony was large & the damage grew to be intolerable; so I decided to bait the colony. It worked - too well. The next day, the surrounding field was littered with dozens of dead squirrels! There were hawks nesting nearby, so in a panic, I canvased the entire field to pick up & bury the carcasses before the hawks could find them. (Not something to be done casually, since ground squirrels in San Diego can carry bubonic plague.) :-0

    That incident left a lasting impression on me, I have never since used poison outdoors. Where I live now, a family of Cooper's hawks have been nesting in my treeline for over 10 years, and I am determined to be a responsible steward.

  • Dan Johnson

    They’re baaaack! After chowing down on my raspberries throughout May and June, the mice have turned their attention to my ripening beans. This year I will do whatever it takes to defeat the little rascals! In short, I appear to have succeeded in keeping the mice out of my bean patch without having to poison or otherwise kill them.

    Being a retired engineer with too much time on his hands, I decided to build a mouse-proof bean patch. My strategy is to surround the base of the plants with a vertical, slick-sided “skirt”. Mice can climb most anything that they can get their tiny little claws into. My beans are now surrounded by clear plastic shower curtains from ground level to about 2 ft. Guess what – the mice appear to have left in defeat.

    Raising and lowering the skirts takes 2-3 minutes each evening, and raising them in the morning another 2-3 minutes. I did grow 6 plants outside the protected areas and, sure enough, those plants have been discovered and are being picked over. So, about $35 and a few hours with a saw and a screw driver seems to have succeeded and the neighborhood is benefiting from a bountiful harvest. Next year I’ll protect the raspberries as well.

  • zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

    An interesting & original solution... glad to hear it has solved the problem.

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