Best Bait to Use for Catching Mice in a Nutshell:
One of the most successful baits for catching mice is peanut butter. Place it on a candy wrapper to enhance the aroma. The next most successful bait is nest making material like cotton wool. Remember, mice breed frequently so are always looking for materials to build new nests.
Full list of first class food baits:
Peanut butter, cream cheeses, smelly cheeses, chocolate fudge, marshmallow, jam, gumdrops, Vanilla extract, beef jerky, cooked streaky bacon, seeds, sausage, pet food (wet not dry food).
Popular list of nesting material baits:
Cotton wool, floss, shredded paper, wood shavings, string, yarn (glue or tie the bait to the trap so the mouse can’t just run away with it).
Keep reading to learn about the do’s and don’ts of baiting traps or click the link to discover which are the Top 3 Mouse Traps.
Table of Contents
Mice sniff their food before they eat it. That’s not because they are peanut butter connoisseurs. It’s because they won’t eat food that might be attracting a larger predator, such as you.
Mice can smell (what are for them) alarm pheromones from the sweat on your hands if you touch the bait with your ungloved hands. Wear gloves when you are handling mousetraps. Wear gloves when you are handling bait. And to prevent contact with E. coli, Salmonella, and Streptococcus bacteria, wear gloves when you are disposing of the mice you catch. Gloves used in health care, or for washing dishes, or for food preparation are adequate.
Successful fishing is mostly about using the right bait, and like fishing, if you don’t use the best bait for catching mice, you may not catch any mice at all. It’s true that mice will be attracted to just about any kind of food, but when you use the best bait, you will catch a lot more mice.
In the wild, mice mostly eat seeds and insects. However, while mice will be attracted to food, whatever it may be, they are known to practically lose their minds with desire when presented with peanut butter. In the winter, when mice are building nests, they go on the prowl for soft threads, but thread isn’t really a very practical bait. You would have to tie the thread to the trap so the mouse couldn’t just run away with it.
Different types of mouse traps do not really need different baits. What will work for one trap will, by and large, work for all types of traps. However, there is one thing that all bait should have in common; they should be sticky, and not solid.
In Tom and Jerry cartoons the mouse bait is always a traditional chunk of cheddar cheese. The main problem with this is that it could be possible for the mouse to steal the cheese without triggering the trap. That’s why sticky bait works best. Examples of sticky bait include peanut butter, jelly, marshmallows or cream cheese.
Because the sticky bait cannot be lifted up and carried away by the mouse, it will have to eat it where it finds it and that will usually mean it will trigger the traps, sooner or later.
The exception to this rule is if you use poisoned bait chunks in a mouse bait station. This is solid, but it has a hole through the middle which is used to hold the bait in place in a bait station. This means the mouse can’t walk off with it.
It isn’t necessary to use a lot of bait, and it is probably a good idea to use just a small amount. Use a teaspoon (5 g) or so. The idea is not to feed the mouse, but to entice it into the trap. For this reason you will need enough bait to produce a strong smell that the mouse can easily detect, without having too much bait.
In the case of traditional mouse snap traps, the bait needs to be placed on the trigger mechanism. There are usually a few short metal spikes on the trigger to hold solid bait, but using sticky bait will work well too. Make sure the bait is held securely with snap traps, so that the mouse cannot steal it without triggering the trap.
With electronic mouse traps and humane traps, always place the bait as far into the trap as possible, right up to the far end. These type of traps depend on the mouse entering the trap far enough to complete an electric circuit, in the case of electronic traps, and triggering a mechanism that will close the door and prevent escape, in the case of humane mouse traps.
If the mouse can get at the bait without entering far enough to trigger the trap, then it will simply eat the bait and go away, thereby negating the reason for baiting the trap in the first place.
Mice keep close to cover. They navigate by keeping their whiskers in contact with a flat surface, such as a wall. They don’t ordinarily visit open spaces unless they absolutely must. You will need to leave baited traps close to a wall. It helps to place the narrower end of the trap against the wall so that whole trap is perpendicular to the wall. This forces the mouse to explore the trap while moving down its runway.
Whenever you can, place traps where mice have overhead cover. Under the stove is a great place for glue traps. Take out the oven drawer for easier access.
If you have a serious infestation of mice, you will not be able to keep up with demand for the bait, so this will not be a problem. However, if you only have the occasional mouse problem, the bait may be left in the trap for several days without any mouse trying to eat it.
This could also mean you have positioned the trap in the wrong place. It needs to be placed where you detect the most mouse activity. However, if the mice are not taking the bait, and the trap is positioned right, you will need to change the bait regularly.
Mice are attracted to strong smelling fresh food, so keep the bait fresh. In hot weather that might mean changing it more regularly than in colder weather. In any case, don’t leave bait that is not seeing any mouse activity for so long that it becomes stale. Check your traps on a regular daily basis.
It is best to replace the bait after each time a mouse is caught. It is likely that the mouse will have nibbled some of the bait before triggering the trap mechanism. Other mice might detect this, and while this may not deter them, it is best if they are presented with fresh bait every time.
You should also replace the bait if it is left in the trap without mouse activity for more than a few days to prevent it going stale.
A tiny, basically defenseless mouse will be very cautious about anything new in its environment. It’s best to put out bait without traps for a few days to help the mouse become accustomed to the intrusion. Putting out bait will also ensure that you are putting traps in the right place later. When bait starts disappearing on a regular basis, then put out your mouse traps (notice that’s mouse traps, plural).
Don’t put out just one trap. Put out a dozen or two dozen traps. A single female mouse can give birth to six or seven babies in just three weeks. If you don’t have lots of mice now, you will soon. Because they multiply so rapidly, you need to catch them all.
Place at least one trap every 18 inches (50 cm) or so along highly trafficked areas, and for best results, place traps 2 or 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) apart along the entire length of any “rodent runway” you have identified by mouse droppings, mouse urine (visible by black light), or that icky mouse sludge that tends to accumulate when lots of mice travel down the same path at night.
Mice are fast learners. Any mice that escape your traps the first night will be able to avoid them the second night. Take the time to identify rodent traffic patterns and to get the mice accustomed to their bedtime snack, and then put out as many traps as possible with as many different types of bait as possible.
For ongoing mouse catching, it’s OK to give the little pests a steady diet of peanut butter. But while you are getting the mice used to the presence of the bait and on the first night you set out traps, offer an all you can eat buffet. This is the one time it might be OK to leave out bacon, cheese, cold cuts, or hot dogs in very small amounts.
This is where testing comes in. Assuming you have a lot of mouse activity in the area, if the mice don’t take the bait in the trap, it could mean several things. It could be, for example, that they have a source of food that is easier to get at than the bait in the trap. One way to find out is to use a camera trap and catch them on video. Take a look at my top 3 camera traps here.
In addition ensure that the only food supply available is the bait in the trap. However, if the uptake of bait is still much lower than you would expect, then experiment with changing the bait on a fairly regular basis.
Leave new bait in the trap for a day or two, and if it is not being as effective as you would like, change it to something else and try again. Get inventive, think like a mouse, and you will be successful.