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It’s said that when inventors work their magic, all they’re really doing (not to speak ill of innovation!) is “building a better mousetrap.”  The stereotypical mousetrap — a piece of cheese set atop a trigger, which snaps when the mouse takes the cheese, seems like it’s been around for ages.  But it turns out that mice don’t actually like cheese.

In 2006, researchers from the UK’s Manchester Metropolitan University determined that mice prefer sweets over cheeses.

This is consistent with the preferred diet of mice (that is, the stuff they eat when cheese-baited traps aren’t around).  A typical mouse diet is heavy in grains and fruit, which are relatively high in sugar.   Cheese is not something which mice, in the wild, would come across, and is therefore looked at as foreign.The historic reason why traps were baited with cheese — it’s pungent odor, under the theory that a hungry mouse will detect the presence of food and be lured in — may actually be a deterrence.

A better option for bait?  Peanut butter.   Both odor and taste attract mice and are effective in mousetraps.

Bonus fact:  The children’s rhyme, “The Farmer in the Dell,” closes with “the mouse takes the cheese” and finally “the cheese stands alone,” suggesting that mice have been (incorrectly) believed to be fans of cheese since it’s authorship in 1820.   But in the United Kingdom, there’s no cheese — or mouse.   It closes with the dog, who, instead of chasing a cat, grabs a bone.  In Thailand, it’s a total departure from the American version.  The Thai lyrics, per Wikipedia, roughly translate to “Why does the frog have a stomach ache? Why does the frog have a stomach ache? Because he has been eating wet rice. Why is the rice wet? Why is the rice wet? Because it has been raining. Why has it been raining? Why has it been raining?, Because the frog has been croaking.”

From the Archives: Faux Meat Trap: Not a mouse trap, but an interesting trap nonetheless.

Related: An electronic mouse trap.  282 reviews, 4 stars, and only $19.99. Who needs cheese? (Or peanut butter?)

Originally published

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