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Rats Follow Their Nose: Using Odor to Produce New Tools for Urban Pest Management

Project Title:

Rats follow their nose: Using social structure and scent origins to produce new tools for urban pest management



Michael Parsons, PhD, Fordham University, New York, New York

Jason Munshi-South, Fordham University, New York, New York, Michael Deutsch

Arrow Exterminating Company, Lynbrook, New York


Rats rely on odors in their environment for information about their hierarchy among nest mates, to find food resources, find harborage, avoid predators, find mates, and navigate through their environment.  Rats use scents found in urine, feces and sebum to communicate information and interact with other rats in their community.  In the past, very little controlled research has been performed on how scents influence rat behaviors in their natural environment.  Dr. Parsons and his research team have developed a biological assay that enables them to follow individual rats within a colony and track their movements over time, providing a window into an otherwise anonymous population of rats.  By using RFID tags embedded beneath the skin of rats, the researchers can follow rats as they navigate their daily lives and interact with variables introduced to their environment.


Dr. Parsons’ research aims to:

  • Characterize the behaviors of individual rats over time;

  • Determine the efficacy of several types of rat odors (sebum, dander, urine and feces) for attracting rats into traps;

  • Determine the efficacy of dominant (alpha) male sebum to attract or deter other rats from experimental food and harborage sources; and

  • Produce a management plan for pest management professionals to best utilize the behavior of rats to attract them into traps, or to repel them from high-risk to low-risk areas.