Fruit trees can attract rodents including rats and mice which can live in the leaf litter around the tree. They will feed on barely ripe fruit on the tree as well as old and rotten fruit that has fallen on the ground. To keep rodents away from your fruit tree use bird netting over the tree to protect ripe fruit.
Pick up overripe fruit that has dropped to the ground to avoid providing an easy snack for rats and mice.
This article will explore more about why fruit trees attract rodents as well as easy ways to prevent it.
Why fruit trees attract rodents
Fruit trees are highly attractive to rodents. They provide food and shelter and make an easy meal if old fruit is left on the ground. Here are the top reasons why fruit trees attract rodents.
Rodents eat ripening fruit on the tree
Fruit that has just started to ripen makes and easy snack for rodents. Rats and mice will climb up the tree during the night and will feed on the fruit that has just started to ripen. This includes apples, pears, cherries, plums, apricots and peaches.
Rodents will also chew on barely ripe citrus such as oranges, lemons, mandarins and blood oranges. As soon as the skin start to change color, soften and the fruit develops sugars rodents can move in and chew on the skin and flesh.
They will rarely eat the whole fruit, instead chewing a small amount on each of the fruit. This ruins the fruit and stops it ripening. It means that the fruit with chew marks can’t be eaten by us and has to be removed.
Fruit trees provide rodents shelter and protection
Rodents are attracted to fruit trees as they provide great shelter and protection. Mice and rats will live in the ground, building nests and finding protection from the weather around the root zone of the trees.
Leaf litter that falls on the ground from the tree can also provide protection and bedding for the rodents. Mulch can also protect mice if it is light. Fall leaves or straw become a cozy home for a family of mice.
Rodents will feed on fallen fruit
Overripe fruit that falls on the ground is a tasty treat for mice. The sugars will be fully developed in the fruit making it a tasty treat.
Fruit that often falls as it ripens include stone fruit like apricots, peaches. Pears and apples will also fall to the ground if they become damaged or overripe.
Even citrus fruit will find its way to the ground if it is left on the tree long enough. Large established trees that are producing hundreds of oranges or lemons can be hard to keep up with. When this fruit falls to the ground it makes an amazing treat for a passing rodent.
How to keep rodents away from your fruit trees
Here are my easy tips to keep rodents away from your fruit trees. These natural methods will not harm other wildlife or your trees.
1. Pick fruit as soon as it ripens
It is important to harvest fruit on your fruit trees as soon as it ripens. This will be less attractive for mice and rats to climb their way up and feed on the fruit. Some fruit can be picked early and will continue to ripen indoors. This includes bananas and mangoes.
For citrus fruit it is best to let it ripen to the point you like it eat them as they won’t ripen once picked. I like to pick my citrus fruit early as I like them to be slightly sour. Wait until oranges, limes and lemons feel heavy and they will be full of juice and ready to pick.
2. Remove old fruit from the ground
Remove any old fruit that has dropped from your tree to the ground. This sweet fruit will make a tasty snack for passing rodents and will attract them to your tree. Rodents can also chew on the bark of your tree causing damage.
3. Rake up old leaves
Remove any excess leaf litter from around your tree if mice are a problem. Leaves that have fallen from deciduous fruit trees like apples, pears and peaches make the perfect home for mice. They can dig small burrows under the leaf litter and will be protected from the elements.
4. Keep the trees well watered
Keeping your fruit trees well watered is a great way to keep rodents away. They don’t like to burrow or hide in wet soil and mulch so regular water will keep your trees happy and rodents away.
Mice like to dig and hide in sandy soil which is soft and dry. Cover the soil with a heavy bark mulch and water the root zone of trees well.
5. Plant fruit trees away from your house
If you are concerned about rodents, it is best to plant fruit trees away from your house. This will make it less likely that rats and mice will travel from your fruit tree indoors when the weather gets cold. Mice will always aim to find shelter from the rain and cold weather in winter.
They can move from the protection of your fruit tree to your home or garage when they get desperate. Because of this, planting fruit trees as far away from your home as possible is best.
6. Protect the fruit with bird netting
Bird netting will help to protect your ripening fruit from being eaten by rodents. Look out for bird netting with small holes so the mice cannot find their way through.
This will allow your fruit to ripen without getting rodent chew marks. Netting will also help to protect your trees from possums and passing wild turkeys.
7. Set up live traps
If you notice rodents around your fruit trees you might need to set up live traps to deal with the problem. These traps will capture the mice or rats and allow you to relocate them without harm.
Avoid poisoning rats and mice as they can be eaten by native birds of prey which can die when the consume the poisoned rodent.
Do Fruit Trees Attract Rodents? | Summary
Fruit trees can attract rodents if there is ripe fruit left on the tree or ground or if lots of leaf litter is left under the tree. Keeping the area clear of old leaves, watering the tree well, cleaning up old fruit and picking fruit when it is ripe is a great way to keep rodents away.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.