Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Urban Legends: Mice don't like Cheese

You'll not believe this, but is actually true! In fact, as many mice owners or pest exterminator knows, mice don’t like cheese at all and they’re even disgusted eating certain types, due to their excellent sense of smell that permits them to identify repulsive smells given by some kinds of cheese.
According to Dr. David Holmes of Manchester Metropolitan University, who recently did a study on whether mice liked cheese or not, mice will pretty much eat anything if hungry enough. Most type of mice mainly prefer grains, fruits, and sweet things; certain types of mice will also eat insects and other small animals. Basically, they like to eat what they've learned eating since before humans started making cheese around 10 thousands years ago.
Nobody knows how the myth that mice like cheese got started.  It’s been around for a long time, even being mentioned by philosopher Seneca about 2000 years ago:

"Mouse is a syllable.  Now a mouse eats its cheese; therefore, a syllable eats cheese…  Without a doubt, I must beware, or some day I shall be catching syllables in a mousetrap or, if I grow careless, a book may devour my cheese!  Unless, perhaps, the following syllogism is shrewder still: Mouse is a syllable.  Now a syllable does not eat cheese.  Therefore a mouse does not eat cheese."  (Seneca’s Letters – Book II Letter XLVIII)

One of the most successful theories probably had to do with ancient people stocking grains, highly salted meats, and cheese. The grains and meats were commonly stored in such a way as to keep all pests away.  On the other hand, cheese that needs to “breathe” was not so securely stored.  Inevitably, a mouse that is hungry enough will eat the cheese, leaving little teeth marks, leading people to think that mice seek out cheese.  But this theory is pure speculation and it seems odd that people who would actively protect grains and meats from vermin would start thinking from this that mice preferred the thing they hadn't under strict protection.

Dr. Holmes suggests that the myth may have arisen from a legend that comes from various ancient mythologies. The most relevant is found in Ancient Greece, saying white mice were often kept under the altars in Apollo’s temples, and Apollo himself was often referred to as “Apollo Smintheus”, meaning “Apollo the Mouse”. The connection with cheese has to be given to one of Apollo’s children, Aristaeus,  who is credited in Ancient Greek mythology with teaching mankind to make cheese, a method he learned from the Myrtle-nymphs. So, the "friendship" between mice and cheese could have popped out from some sub-legends or  artists depiction of Apollo and Aristaeus, which included mice and cheese in the painting. But unfortunately, this is all based on speculations...
Talking about this correlation between mice and cheese, Dr. Holmes notes:

"Cartoonists like to draw little segments of cheese with holes in them and little mice’ faces poking out of them.  They will admit this and they say quite simply it’s a really good image and it’s the kind of image we will continue to use, even though we know mice don’t like cheese."

So maybe it's just a good image, so good we decided to learn this fake truth.
Whatever the origin, given that mice aren’t overly fond of cheese, it doesn’t exactly make the most effective bait in a mouse trap. So don't expect to do something extremely clever putting cheese on the trap and wait for the mouse to come out!
So if cheese isn’t an effective bait for mouse traps, what is?  Turns out, mice go crazy for lots of things, such as peanut butter, Chocolate (and it seems Maltesers works extremely well) and also hamburgers.

Maybe it's a shame to let such delicious food be wasted on mice, but it may be their last meal, so you might as well give them a good little taste before the “SNAP”.
Well, cheese is not a good idea, but also add too many traps isn't, like what happened to the Smunts Brothers in the movie MouseHunt , if you know what I'm talking about. Well, and if you don't click the link to find it out ;)

1 comment:

  1. I grew up watching Tom and Jerry and had always presumed mice like cheese. This is a new learning for me. Surprising though.


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