Important Information About Roof Rats and Fruit Rats in Florida

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Roof rats consume and destroy stored animal and human food, attack fruit crops, and take up residence in attics, soffits, hollow walls, and out-buildings.

When they invade buildings they chew through wires (potentially starting fires), gnaw through plastic and lead water pipes, make holes in walls and cause other structural damage. The secretive, nocturnal nature of rats means that they often go unnoticed in a neighborhood until dooryard citrus and other fruit starts to ripen. They then make their presence known with a vengeance. In citrus, papaya, cantaloupe and watermelon, the characteristic damage is a circular hole about the size of a quarter or half dollar and the whole fruit hollowed out.
As we progress through the citrus season (from September through March), the roof rats that may have been living quietly around your house or grove make themselves known. Hollowed-out fruit is the most common evidence of roof rats. In apples, peaches, tomatoes, carambolas, bananas, pineapples and mangos, large sections of fruit are eaten away. They remove whole fruits from blueberries, figs, grapes, strawberries, lichees, Surinam cherry, loquat, and dates, so the damage is less noticeable or birds are blamed for the missing fruit. In Florida, roof rats - along with our native cotton rat - destroy or damage a great deal of sugar cane every year.


Adult roof rats are 12-14 inches long (30-36cm) and weigh 5-10oz (150-250g). The tail of a roof rat is longer than the head and body length: hairless, scaly, and black color.

The body is sleek and graceful with prominent ears and eyes. There are three color phases seen in Florida: black back with a slate gray belly, gray back with lighter gray belly, and brownish gray above with a white or cream colored belly. In addition to the damage done to fruit, other evidence includes black banana-shaped droppings about 1/4-1/2 inch long (about 1 cm) and dark smears or rub marks seen along the rat's travel routes.

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