Mouse plagues in Australia

Mouse plagues have occurred several times throughout parts of Australia since wild house mice (Mus musculus) were introduced by European colonists along with the First Fleet in 1788.[1] Australia and China are the two countries in the world where plagues of mice are known to occur.[2]

House mice in the Darling Downs 2004
Mouse plague 2007

Mouse plagues occur in southern and eastern Australia, usually in the grain-growing regions, around every four years. Aggregating around food sources during plagues, mice can reach a density of up to 3,000 per hectare (1,200/acre).[2]

HistoryEdit

Early mice plaguesEdit

Mice probably arrived in Australia as stowaways on board the First Fleet of British colonists in 1788.[3] An early localised plague of mice occurred around Walgett in New South Wales in 1871.[4] In 1872 another plague was recorded near Saddleworth in South Australia with farmers ploughing the soil to destroy mice nests.[5]

1880s and 1890sEdit

In 1880 a plague of mice was noted along an area of the Goulburn River.[6]

South Australia experienced another plague in 1890 in the Mid North region in areas around Oladdie,[7] Mundoora[8] and Georgetown.[9]

1900s and 1910sEdit

In 1904, further plagues occurred in parts of New South Wales including Condobolin and other parts of the Lachlan River[10] and around Moree, New South Wales[11] extending all the way to coastal areas.[12]


The plague of 1917 was one of the largest mouse plagues in Australia that occurred on and around the Darling Downs area of Queensland,[13] areas around Beulah,[14] Campbells Creek[15] and Willenabrina[16] in Victoria and parts of South Australia including Balaklava.[17] Eventually mice reached the Goldfields-Esperance[18] and Wheatbelt[19] regions of Western Australia.

Plagues of mice have been occurring ever since with increasing frequency.[13]

More incidences of plagues occurred in 1918 in parts of Victoria[20] and New South Wales.[21]

1920s and 1930sEdit

In 1922 areas around Dubbo, New South Wales[22] and Tamworth[23] in New South Wales were hit again followed by more plagues through the Riverina in 1925.[24]

Mice struck again in 1928 in parts of Queensland around Warwick.[25]

Further plagues occurred around Wimmera[26] in Victoria, Loxton[27] in South Australia and Winton[28] in Queensland in 1931 and more were recorded in parts of New South Wales in 1932 including Culgoa[29] and Parkes.[30] The next plague hit areas around Warracknabeal and Hopetoun in Victoria but was less intense than the 1932 plagues.[31]

1950s and 1960sEdit

In 1952, parts of Victoria and South Australia were struck by mouse plagues.[32][33]

Areas in New South Wales[34] and Queensland were hit by mouse plagues in 1955.[35] In 1956 parts of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia experienced the worst mouse plague the area had known.[36]

Parts of outback New South Wales around Bourke were hit by plagues of mice in 1967.[37]

1970s and 1980sEdit

In 1972, parts of Queensland were hit by mouse plagues[38] as were parts of Victoria and New South Wales in 1975.[39]

A plague in Victoria in 1979 cost farmers A$15 million in lost crops and damaged machinery.[40] The plagues continued into 1980.[41]

1990s and 2000sEdit

Another plague occurred in 1994 affecting parts of New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory,[42] South Australia and northern Victoria.[43]

Australia's worst ever mouse plague occurred in 1993 and caused an estimated A$96 million worth of damage to crops and attacked livestock in piggeries and poultry farms. They also destroyed rubber and electrical insulation, damaged farm vehicles, and ruined cars and buildings.[44][2]

2000s till todayEdit

Mouse numbers built to plague numbers in early 2011 in southern Queensland, through New South Wales, western Victoria and South Australia[45] spreading to the Nullarbor Plain region of Western Australia in late 2011.[46]

A mouse plague affecting parts of Queensland and New South Wales began in mid-2020 and continued into 2021.[47] Co-occurring with the COVID-19 pandemic, mice were initially not susceptible but researchers showed that a type of mutation called aromatic substitution in position 501 or position 498 (but not both) in the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein would adapt the novel Coronavirus to mice.[48]

In January 2021, the mice continued to cause problems, and raised concerns for crops in areas of New South Wales and Queensland.[49] In March 2021, mice were stripping food and other items from the shelves of a supermarket in Gulargambone (382 km (237 mi) north west of Sydney).[50] Health concerns for people were raised when mice killed by baits were found in drinking water tanks.[51] Trundle and Tottenham have also been affected.[52] In May 2021, the Central West town of Canowindra and residents were featured in a CNN report on the phenomena.[53] In the meantime, mice were chewing through walls and ceilings, and were estimated to have caused $100 million in damage to crops and grain stores. Homeowners setting traps were reporting catching 500 to 600 mice per night.[54] The plague caused the complete evacuation (420 inmates and 200 staff) of the Wellington Correctional Centre in June 2021 as dead mice and damage to infrastructure led to concerns for health and safety of inmates and staff.[55]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Sofia I. Gabriel; Mark I. Stevens; Maria da Luz Mathias; Jeremy B. Searle (12 December 2011). "Of Mice and 'Convicts': Origin of the Australian House Mouse, Mus musculus". PLOS ONE. PLOS. 6 (12): e28622. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028622. PMC 3236204. PMID 22174847.
  2. ^ a b c "The bizarre history of Aussie mouse plagues". National Geographic Australia. 1 November 2015. Archived from the original on 2017-11-08. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  3. ^ Tess Joose, "Australia's plague of mice is devastatingand could get a lot worse", Scientific American, 21 June 2021.
  4. ^ "Colonial Extracts". Queanbeyan Age. New South Wales, Australia. 15 June 1871. p. 2. Retrieved 18 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "The week's news". Adelaide Observer. Vol. XXIX, no. 1595. 27 April 1872. p. 7. Retrieved 18 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "Goulburn River". The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser. Vol. XXIX, no. 1034. 1 May 1880. p. 830. Retrieved 18 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Oladdie May 17". South Australian Chronicle. Vol. XXXII, no. 1, 657. 24 May 1890. p. 13. Retrieved 18 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Thoe mouse plague in the north". The Pictorial Australian. Vol. XVI, no. 6. South Australia. 1 June 1890. p. 74. Retrieved 18 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "Mount Gambier voluntary company". The Border Watch. Vol. XXX, no. 2769. South Australia. 11 June 1890. p. 3. Retrieved 18 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Gleanings". Lachlander and Condobolin and Western Districts Recorder. Vol. VIII, no. 459. New South Wales. 1 June 1904. p. 1. Retrieved 19 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Berrigal, Terry-Hie-Hie". The Maitland Weekly Mercury. Vol. 7128, no. 543. New South Wales. 28 May 1904. p. 6. Retrieved 19 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "A Mouse Killer". The St. George Standard and Balonne Advertiser. Vol. XXVII, no. 28. Queensland. 8 July 1904. p. 2. Retrieved 19 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ a b "House mouse". PestSmart Connect. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  14. ^ "The mouse plague". Port Fairy Gazette. No. 7209. Victoria. 22 February 1917. p. 2. Retrieved 18 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  15. ^ "Campbell's Creek". Mount Alexander Mail. No. 17, 956. Victoria. 6 March 1917. p. 4. Retrieved 18 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ "Willenabrina". Warracknabeal Herald. No. 8472. Victoria, Australia. 27 February 1917. p. 2. Retrieved 18 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ "Mice plague spreading". The Register. Vol. LXXXII, no. 21, 941. Adelaide. 6 March 1917. p. 4. Retrieved 18 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  18. ^ "Rural Topics". Sunday Times. No. 1014. Perth. 10 June 1917. p. 2 (Second Section). Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  19. ^ "Losses due to mice". Goomalling-Dowerin Mail. Vol. VI, no. 731. Western Australia. 8 June 1917. p. 7. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  20. ^ "Mouse plague again". The Argus. No. 22, 336. Melbourne. 1 March 1918. p. 4. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  21. ^ "New South Wales. Recurrence of the mouse plague". The Barrier Miner. Vol. XXXI, no. 9220. New South Wales. 18 March 1918. p. 2. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  22. ^ "District items". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 26, 304. 26 April 1922. p. 9. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  23. ^ "Mouse Invasion". The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express. New South Wales. 28 April 1922. p. 33. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  24. ^ "News of the day". Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate. No. 15, 099. New South Wales. 6 March 1925. p. 8. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  25. ^ "Mouse plague". The Brisbane Courier. No. 21, 949. 1 June 1928. p. 18. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  26. ^ "The Days's news". The Age. No. 23757. Victoria. 2 June 1931. p. 1. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  27. ^ "The mouse plague". Riverine Herald. No. 17, 863. New South Wales. 5 June 1931. p. 2. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  28. ^ "Building activities in Roma". The Charleville Times. Queensland. 28 August 1931. p. 9. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  29. ^ "Exterminating mice". Singleton Argus. New South Wales. 11 April 1932. p. 1. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  30. ^ "Items of interest". The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser. New South Wales. 22 April 1932. p. 6. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  31. ^ "Mice Plague In Victoria". The News. Vol. XXX, no. 4, 617. Adelaide. 12 May 1938. p. 6. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  32. ^ "Mouse Plague". The Pioneer. Vol. 54, no. 2786. South Australia. 13 June 1952. p. 7. Retrieved 26 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  33. ^ "Mouse plague in Victoria". The Examiner. Vol. CXI, no. 76. Tasmania. 9 June 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 26 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  34. ^ "Australiana Reward for service". The World's News. No. 2780. New South Wales. 2 April 1955. p. 23. Retrieved 26 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  35. ^ "Australiana The thing". The World's News. No. 2804. New South Wales. 17 September 1955. p. 22. Retrieved 26 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  36. ^ "Mice kill the cats". The Argus. Melbourne. 2 July 1956. p. 12. Retrieved 26 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  37. ^ "Happenings Around Our Town". Western Herald. New South Wales. 16 June 1967. p. 1. Retrieved 26 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  38. ^ "Mice in, on, and over everything, layers deep... an army on the march!". The Australian Women's Weekly. Vol. 40, no. 25. 22 November 1972. p. 126. Retrieved 23 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  39. ^ "Mouse plague". The Canberra Times. Vol. 49, no. 14, 063. 12 May 1975. p. 3. Retrieved 23 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  40. ^ "In brief". The Canberra Times. Vol. 55, no. 16, 436. 25 September 1980. p. 3. Retrieved 23 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  41. ^ "The great mouse plague!". The Australian Women's Weekly. Vol. 48, no. 3. 18 June 1980. p. 53. Retrieved 23 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  42. ^ "Rain a threat to crops about to be harvested". The Canberra Times. Vol. 71, no. 22, 119. 8 November 1995. p. 4. Retrieved 23 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  43. ^ "Mice a cause of huge dust cloud". The Canberra Times. Vol. 69, no. 21, 591. 28 May 1994. p. 6. Retrieved 23 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  44. ^ "Tracking Australia's mice". CSIRO. Archived from the original on 2021-06-01. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  45. ^ Sarina Locke, Sally Bryant and Renee du Pree (23 March 2011). "Mouse plague 2011: the Spring threat". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  46. ^ Tara De Landgrafft (22 December 2011). "Mice rampant on the Nullarbor". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  47. ^ McCosker, Maddelin; Thompson, Vicki (2021-01-23). "'They're having an absolute field day': Mouse plague extends across parts of Qld, NSW". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2021-03-16. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  48. ^ Kuiper, Michael J.; Wilson, Laurence OW; Mangalaganesh, Shruthi; Lee, Carol; Reti, Daniel; Vasan, Seshadri S. (2021). "'But Mouse, you are not alone: On some severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 variants infecting mice'". ILAR Journal. doi:10.1093/ilar/ilab031.
  49. ^ Wakatama, Giselle; Johnson, Keely (22 January 2021). "Mouse plague wreaks havoc across parts of NSW, farmers fear for crops". ABC Newcastle. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  50. ^ Thackray, Lucy; McCutcheon, Jen (19 March 2021). "Mice strip shelves bare at Gulargambone supermarket as plague takes over western NSW". ABC Western Plains. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  51. ^ Thackray, Lucy (16 March 2021). "Worsening mouse plague sees 'thirsty' rodents dying in water tanks sparking health fears". ABC Western Plains. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 March 2021. ... Louise Hennessy, from Elong Elong ... issued a warning to other rural residents about potential health implications for humans and animals after finding baited mice in her drinking supply.
  52. ^ Mice plague worsens in New South Wales, retrieved 2021-05-18
  53. ^ "Millions of mice are swarming Australian towns. Now there's a plan to end the plague with poison". CNN. 20 May 2021.
  54. ^ "Locals across Australia say 'it's raining mice' as plague spreads". 9News. 22 May 2021.
  55. ^ Gregory, Xanthe; Lowther, Nick (22 June 2021). "Mice plague 'invades' Wellington prison, forcing hundreds of prisoners and staff to evacuate". ABC Central West. ABC News. Retrieved 22 June 2021.