OF MICE, MEN AND THE ODD EXTERMINATOR

VOL.2.9

 Eight million people: celebrities, moguls, billionaires, the rich and famous and royals, but the most probable close encounter you will have in London is with a mouse. Nearly everyone who lives in a London house (especially one with a garden) will sooner or later meet one member of the massive population of London rodents, and it is never a pleasant gathering. If you think that mice are not normally found in a metropolis like London or New York, you’d better think again. Mice live wherever there are human beings, feeding off their leftover food.

A female mates 400-500 times every time she is in heat and has a little “reservoir” to keep male sperm to be used in case of an emergency, for example when her colony is under attack from humans.

London (together with New York, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam) has to deal with the problem. But Italy is not much better. Naples is the most mice-infested Italian city, followed by Rome and Milan, where it’s been calculated there are 5 million of the little creatures. Rodents come out at night, eat nearly everything and they just need a hole as little as a pencil to gain access to our houses. They have an excellent memory, six senses (the sixth gives them the sensation of an immediate danger) and multiply worryingly quickly. A female mates 400-500 times every time she is in heat and has a little “reservoir” to keep male sperm to be used in case of an emergency, for example when her colony is under attack from humans.

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Basically, it’s very difficult to eradicate them from our towns, despite the efforts of many pest control companies. The first mousetrap was invented in 1897 in Leeds by an ironmonger called James Henry Atkinson. The invention was so successful that it arrived to us scarcely improved. But mousetraps are now so passé. The Pied Piper of Hamelin par excellence is an Italian from Treviso, a nice, fairly clean town not far from Venice (which is infested by rats, incidentally). His name is Massimo Donadon and he has been appointed by the City of New York to eradicate the mice plague and was also hired to exterminate mice from the Athletes’ Village during the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. He has discovered that nowadays mice actually hate cheese and have developed very personal tastes, according to the place they live and the rubbish they scavenge. In Paris they have a butter rich diet, in New York they prefer margarine, in London they fancy fast food, and in Arab countries they live off dates. Donadon, like a Michelin stared chef, prepares a poison that tastes differently according to the place mice live.

 

His company, called Mayer Braun (a German name is perceived as more trustful, confesses Donadon) prepares a fatal delicacy sold in 17,000 different shops worldwide.

Donadon wants to kill all the mice “before they kill us”, he says, adding that even the Houses of Parliament had a rodent problem, which he was called in to sort out. But there is a softer, gentler, more feminine way to get rid of them as developed by Carla Delfino, a blonde history of arts scholar who has patented a completely different – and she says way more successful – approach. “Mice are extremely intelligent, adaptable and incredibly similar to humans”, Delfino explains. “If we kill them, they will find a way to resist our poison, to escape our mousetraps, to avoid our glue. They will feel under attack and will breed furiously. “Historically there has always been a rate of one human being for every three mice. Now, thanks to our aggressive methods, there are fifteen”. Carla has developed a liquid repellent that releases a cocktail of different scents which mice do not like. They will simply avoid the place where these bags of liquid – which are totally organic and harmless to humans and pets – have been placed.

 

Her formula, called Scappatopo (which means runaway mouse)has gained her a place among the finalists in the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award.