This is a story of mice and chocolate.
The Brits claim they did it — built a better mousetrap that is. With the construction going on all over town, they did it just in time. As my exterminator, Dom, explained, Philly houses are overrun with mice driven from one habitat to another by the construction vibrations. He says he’s never been busier. Yours may be the next stop on the rodents’ and Dom’s citywide tour.
I returned from a two-week trip to find my South Philly home invaded and would have put it on the market immediately had Dom not told me that no matter how clean you are, if there is something they smell and some teensey opening no larger than a dime, they’ll be your unwelcome house sitters. The only hope is to keep everything in glass or heavy plastic containers.
Opening my pantry shortly after my return, I saw one scurrying away in broad daylight. My shriek brought my neighbor to my door and we commiserated. She had them for the first time in her 60-year residency.
I put on plastic gloves and started throwing away about a $100 worth of damaged goods. As a former pastry chef and baker, I keep many costly ingredients — candied ginger, coconut, chocolate, dried cherries. Until now, I just left them in their original bags. What skeived me most was picking up the expensive, cellophane-wrapped blocks of partially eaten sweetened to unsweetened chocolates. Chocolate? Mice eat chocolate?
Yes, according to Dom, who laid out chocolate-scented glue traps along the perimeters of my basement and first floor. The secret has been out for some time. Mice love it. Most creatures like things that are bad for us, might even kill us. For mice, it won’t be the food but what it’s on.
My more humane friend, Malgosia, begged me not to use glue traps. “It is a terrible way to die,” she said, “and it may only be the one mouse anyway.”
“Are you kidding?” I cried. “These are biblical multipliers. They have nieces, nephews, ex-husbands, mistresses, bastard children, even foster kids. If they’re not eating, they’re fornicating. I’ll be inundated.”
Dom disposed of one that had expired at the scene of one of their gruesome parties — a carefully sealed bag of cheese curls eaten through leaving bits of cheese curls which, mixed with their droppings looked like Halloween-colored confetti.
I poked around online for the effects of chocolate on mice. There are many people who actually like rodents and raise them, not for research, but as pets. I suppose if kept in a cage, it’s not so bad as if they have the run of your foodstuffs.
The Rat and Mouse Club of America is not your Mickey Mouse Club. They actually breed the critters, and seem to prize something called chocolate mice that they breed for their natural chocolatey color, and what I swear I saw in my pantry. One article concluded that despite the possibly toxic the bromines found in chocolate, feeding your pet rats a chocolate chip or two a day would not kill them, “especially when you see how much they enjoy it.”
A 2003 scientific abstract from Poland, however, cites a study in which chocolate-fed mice produced offspring with shortened limbs. On a chat room I found a toxic recipe for Chocolate and Plaster of Paris using a dry mix of the plaster with cocoa which, when ingested, will send the mice out of your home to seek water and die out of sight. Right.
Nebraskan writer Marilyn Pokorney asserts that chocolate is poisonous to mice and chocolate covered peanut candy will kill them without introducing poisons to your home, pets and children.
The British mousetrap is not necessarily a better one. Looks something like the old spring-loaded trap, but they manufacture chocolate right into the plastic putting the highest concentration on the spring. Problem is the scent disappears after about six months and then has to be used conventionally with chocolate or cheese. But the UK scientists are working on a chocolate scented spray that may give the traps a longer shelf life. Sounds like the mice will have a longer shelf life too.
So, if you love your mice give them just a little chocolate. If you hate them, give them a lot. There is no such thing as a humane death, but there may be a sweet one.