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I've used a 5-gallon bucket trap for mice in my basement for several years, and it seems to work fine.

But it looks like I could use some fine-tuning for it, as I often see that the suspended can has the peanut butter licked off of it, but no "catches."

Some of my questions:

Can suspended parallel to ramp, or perpendicular? Most of the time, I've had the ramp going up the bucket perpendicular to the suspended can - that is, the ramp and the can form a letter T. For a while, I switched to parallel - the ramp led straight to the wire the can was suspended from, so that an agile mouse could "tightrope walk" from the ramp across the wire, to the can. But this seemed to result in more bait disappearance, with less mice-catching, than the perpendicular way. So what's the "optimal" orientation of ramp and wire?

Wire, or string? My first cut at the trap was a string, tied to the ends of the handle, strung across the bucket, with the can in the middle. This seemed to catch a lot of mice (probably because I could never make the string perfectly taut, so it would sway more and dump the mice), but the string would often break - not sure if from fraying or mice actually chewing it. So I switched to the more traditional wire (coat hanger) and my catches dropped and stolen bait increased. Guessing that the stability of the hanger aids the mice in accessing the can. I've since bent the hanger, so the wire droops a couple inches below the bucket rim, and results have improved - mice are probably slipping down the sloped wire. But any comments on wire vs. string, and an optimal positioning of either?

Hanging the can? I assume centering the can along the wire is best - otherwise mice could get the bait from the bucket edge. Right? I'm using an orange juice can, with both ends removed. So the can is NOT centered along its own axis. 99% of the can is below the wire, versus 50% of the can if I used the "keep the ends on the can and drill a centered hole in both ends" approach. Does anyone else use this method? I can't figure out how to empty a can, while retaining the end pieces.

A little bait, or a lot? I used to smear peanut butter edge-to-edge, 360 degrees, around the can. But this appeared to make it too easy for mice to feed without putting themselves at high risk. So now I just smear a narrow band around the can's center perimeter. But it seems like I catch fewer mice this way. Not sure if it's true, or if I'm just overthinking. What's the best approach to bait?

Anything else? As if I haven't already thought too much about too many things, what else can be recommended, to turn a good implementation of a good idea into a KILLER implementation?
 

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pest control operator
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There are some mouse lures sold that are used for trapping. They are basically macadamia nut oil/lure/scent. If you can buy some, or replicate that odor it may be better than peanut butter. Could some crushed nuts in a cheesecloth sack be placed as a lure?

I’ve never made or used a 5 gallon trap so I can’t comment on the mechanics/physics of it. Sounds like you’re on top of that aspect.
 

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Maybe ants have raided the trap, taking all of the peanut butter away.
 
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