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What’s the best rat bait? Dr Stockum weighs in

rat bait designer Goodnature

The best way to catch a smart rat is with an irresistible bait. But what’s the best rat bait? We’re often asked this question, so today we’ll be exploring what food rats are drawn to and why our rat traps are designed the way they are.

What’s the difference between rat bait and lure?

Firstly, it’s important to note the difference between lure, rat bait, and rat poison. We talk about lure often, because it’s what we use in our Automatic Lure Pump. It’s the food source that attracts rodents to your trap. This could be described as rat bait, but for us, rat bait feels a lot like rat poison. Rats are attracted to poisons, as they’re usually mixed into a grain-based block. The rodents come in for a snack and don’t realise it’s actually poison, resulting in a slow death. 

To understand what the best rat bait (or lure) is, we decided to meet with lure expert Christine. She’s got an MSc in Molecular Biotechnology and a PhD in Plant Molecular Biology, so she’s the perfect person to help us out. Christine shares how to catch a smart rat when they visit your trap and how you can better lure them in. 

What foods are rats looking for? 

"All three rat species (the black, brown and Kiore or pacific rat) that live in New Zealand are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. This allows them to eat whatever food is available at the time."

"In the bush this could be seeds, berries, bird eggs, and insects while in urban settings rats will eat pretty much any human food items (fresh or in the compost or rubbish bin), pet food, and anything else they have access to. On farms and in food production facilities rats will eat any crops, fruit, etc. available."

“They will eat whatever is available and safe to eat, and if they cannot eat an item where they find it, they will take it away with them.”

Why do they eat what they do?

"Rats need to get enough energy from their diet to survive and reproduce. They will eat whatever is available and safe to eat, and if they cannot eat an item where they find it, they will take it away with them. High energy foods that contain lots of sugar and fat are particularly desirable as small amounts of them will provide lots of energy and therefore less foraging is required."

What foods make the best rat bait?

"As rats eat a large variety of foods, it is possible to use many different types of food as irresistible rat bait. Often availability determines what people use as lures, and in New Zealand peanut butter and chocolate or nutella are popular and work well. [It’s important to note, if you’re using peanut butter or nutella rat bait it will only be fresh for around a week, so you’ll need to refresh this bait regularly to stop mould growing]. 

If you know what the rat you are trying to trap is already eating, and therefore knows to be safe, it can be a good idea to use the same type of food as lure. However, it is very important to restrict the rat's access to its previous food source. For example, if the rat is eating chicken feed, make sure to put the chicken feed in a rat-proof feeder, if the rat is feeding on your household rubbish, put the rubbish in a rat-proof bin. Any food source that competes with your lure will reduce your chance of luring the rat into your trap. 

Trap placement is also very important. No matter what lure you provide, rats have to feel safe to eat in order to want to eat the lure in your trap. To easily find places where rats feel safe to eat we have developed detector cards that will tell you where the best location is to place a trap. In addition, the chocolate lure in the detector cards will make the rats familiar with this lure and they will then seek out more of this yummy food which you will provide inside a trap."

Any food source that competes with your lure will reduce your chance of luring the rat into your trap.”

What do we use in Goodnature lure?

"Our rodent lure has a chocolate formula - yes, there is real chocolate in there! We’ve developed a secret formula which is a great high energy food for rats but also makes it long-lasting. We can’t share the exact ingredients, but our testing shows it’s certainly appealing. Our traps allow users to interact with them as little as twice per year, therefore the longevity of our lures is very important."

Why do they work so well?

"Goodnature lures have an attractive smell and taste for rats and provide them with lots of energy in the form of sugar and fat. When using the ALP, fresh lure is provided over a long time, making sure there is always lure present for the rat to feed on."

How do you test what the best rat bait is?

"We field test our lures to make sure any new lures we develop are as good as our existing lures, but our success measures can be quite different from traditional studies where people compare a whole range of fresh food items to each other.

To us, it is important that our lures are long lasting and when used with our self-resetting traps they allow people to make the most of this amazing feature of our traps and to achieve their conservation goals or catch those pesky rats around their house with minimum personal input. There is not much use in comparing our chocolate lure to say peanut butter, as the peanut butter would go mouldy after a few days, or to nutella as this would melt in the sun."

Are there any new lure changes coming to Goodnature soon? 

"We’re always working on new lure developments and improvements to our current formulas. A great lure is the best way to catch rats after all. There’s nothing I can share just yet, but watch this space."

There you have it, EVERYONE loves chocolate, even rats! It’s the best bait for New Zealand's introduced norway rats and even those pesky black rats. 

If you’re trapping at home, starting with our chocolate-based lure is an awesome place to begin your trapping, and if you’re still left wondering, “what's the best rat bait?" please get in touch! We’d love to help you with your trapping questions.