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Hunting for a Dead Mouse: AirPlay Receiver to the Rescue

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Specifically, not the flesh-and-blood mouse that had died somewhere under the built-in counters in our laundry room and was starting to smell. It had been just a nagging whiff in the morning, but the smell had grown stronger by the time we arrived home from my parents’ house on Christmas Eve. A look through all the easily accessible nooks and crannies revealed nothing, and my nose was unable to pinpoint the location of the smell. We closed the laundry room door to keep the odor from spreading and went to bed.

The next day was Christmas out at my parents’ house again, so I put the problem out of my mind… until we got home late that night, by which time the smell had grown into a stench. Another, more thorough pass confirmed that I would have to pull the laundry room apart the next day, preferably before a high school friend and his wife arrived for brunch. Again, we shut the door on the smell and went to bed.

Bright and early on Boxing Day, my son Tristan and I removed the countertop that covers some shelves, laundry-sorting cubbies, and the washing machine (we were not happy when our previous washer died and we learned that all the replacement washers of a similar capacity had become 3 inches taller—the current one is significantly smaller just because of the countertop). Unfortunately, peering down into the space behind everything revealed nothing beyond odorless dust bunnies. Nor was there any evidence of a dead mouse underneath the washer itself. Our friends were due to arrive any minute, so we closed the door on the problem one more time and went off to make brunch.

Afterward, Tristan and I contemplated the problem anew. We were pretty sure there was a dead mouse under one of the shelves, but they were sealed from the front, and there was only about 3 inches of space behind them—far too little to see into the dark underside of the shelves from behind. I had a little mirror on an extendable handle for such situations, but it wasn’t nearly long enough, and getting light under there was going to be tricky. Without knowing more, we’d have to rip apart all the built-in shelves, which would be difficult and likely result in non-trivial damage to the walls, shelves, or both.

Then the solution squeaked into my brain. A week earlier, I had wanted to see what was going on with my running form while I was on a treadmill and could adjust based on what I was seeing. In a class long ago, the instructor had made that possible with a monitor the runner could see, wired to a camcorder behind the treadmill. I remembered that Apple had enabled Macs running macOS 12 Monterey or later to act as an AirPlay receiver for audio or video broadcast from an iPhone or iPad. When Josh Centers wrote about the feature for TidBITS last year, I felt our examples were somewhat lame, but I couldn’t think of better ones (see “How to AirPlay to Your Mac,” 15 August 2022). But this was the perfect use! I set up my iPhone 14 Pro on a tripod behind the treadmill, put my M1 MacBook Air on the treadmill’s shelf, and used the Screen Mirroring button in Control Center on my iPhone to send its video to the MacBook Air. It worked like a charm.

Luckily, a while back, I had purchased an inexpensive ATUMTEK selfie stick/tripod for a video project I was working on. It has a clever design that extends to 31 inches (0.8 m) and holds the iPhone securely. I opened the Camera app, switched to Video, swiped up on the image to reveal the controls, tapped the flash button, and locked the setting to Flash On to provide light.

Then I started screen mirroring to the MacBook Air and had Tristan watch while I craned over the disassembled counter and maneuvered the iPhone so its camera could see underneath the shelves. It worked perfectly, and I felt like a treasure hunter manipulating a remote-sensing device in an ancient catacomb.

The first two spots I checked were empty, but underneath the final set of shelves, I hit gold. Or, rather, what I was pretty sure was the tomb of the unknown mouse.

After a wee bit of jubilation—we had been striking out pretty completely up to this point—we set our minds to figuring out how to remove the mouse nest and carcass. After some unsuccessful disassembly of the shelves in question due to a hidden wall attachment point, I discovered that I could raise the shelf a tiny bit with a pry bar, though not enough to slide anything under to push the nest back to where we could reach it. Throwing subtlety to the winds, I brought in my shop vac, the motor of which detaches to become a leaf blower. A couple of short blasts into the raised front of the shelf had the desired effect (and then some—bleah!), after which we reassembled the shop vac to suck up everything we’d dislodged.

All’s well that ends well, but this odoriferous problem only worked out that way thanks to the application of significant amounts of Apple technology. The next time you need to see around corners and into dark spaces, consider the combination of an iPhone and Mac connected through AirPlay.

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Comments About Hunting for a Dead Mouse: AirPlay Receiver to the Rescue

Notable Replies

  1. You were lucky… we had a dead mouse under our floor. We had to combine guesstimation (multiple heating pipes in parallel near the ground zero of stench with sawing through our oak floor (aaaahhhh) once before we nailed the exact location. The nest was on the pipes, however just a bit closer to the wall than we had guessed. We had to go and replace all the air vents around the house with new metal ones, they had chewed through the cheap plastic ones our builder had used under the cover of our deck.

  2. Take off the light switch covers and may the plug covers. We had one in there.

  3. I’ve frequently used a yardstick to knock things out from under our refrigerator (cats love to knock things in there). I wonder if that would have worked in your case. They are very thin, so you can slip them under some pretty narrow gaps.

    But I’m glad you finally found a solution.

  4. Sorry for the extra advice. I did not read the article first. I have now, great use of the tech!

  5. Clearly we need Apple to add a smell sensor to the iPhone 15. :slight_smile:

    Not in this case, no, since I could only raise it a very slight amount. I have a metal straightedge that’s even a little thinner than a normal yardstick and it wouldn’t fit under there. I was super pleased that the leaf blower trick worked even through such a small crack.

  6. Your work is not done yet. You have to figure out how that mouse got in there and plug the hole or you will have more mice.

  7. If you know how to do this in iOS 15.7.1, please share the info. I thought sure I had forced the flash to ON (for a still photo, if that matters), but that was a few iOS upgrades ago and I certainly cannot find the setting now. Thanks.

  8. You could also do this with Camo, eh? Except Camo does not provide a way to turn on the flash. That might be a good feature request.

  9. When my daughter bought her house three years ago, I used that as a reason (excuse?) to by a few new tools (toys?) including a wireless endoscope. I have one from DEPSTECH (bought on Amazon) that has is a wifi hub to connect to iPhone/iPad/MacBook, anything that will run their app. Got the extra long cable. Helped me trouble shoot electrical and plumbing issues, find routes for cables and such. Really helpful, fits in small holes, and no chance of loosing my iPhone deep in the wall or other places.

  10. Oops. The paid version of Camo does provide a way to control the flash.

  11. Hi Adam, I’ve noticed that MS-Teams now allows my iPhone to act as the camera for videoconferencing, wirelessly.
    Say “Hi” to the gang!

  12. “I opened the Camera app, switched to Video, swiped up on the image to reveal the controls, tapped the flash button, and locked the setting to Flash On to provide light.”

    OK, this was worth this year’s TidBITS subscription. How did I not ever know about this feature that I have needed many times>??

  13. Good thinking. I’ve been using my iPhone as a camera in Zoom sessions. I use it to show students materials or show my family the dogs. I could set it up on a tripod or holder, but I use it handheld for a few minutes at a time. Means I don’t have to run the digital camera with the software that I’ve used in the past. Better image too.

  14. Am I the only one who saw this headline and wondered how you could possibly use AirPlay to find a Magic Mouse that had stopped working?

  15. Len

    For a few hundred dollars you can buy a camera scope (like the one the doctor sticks up your bum). I’ve used mine for this sort of thing. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a mouse retriever.

  16. The trick is to get the mouse to swallow the AirTag.

  17. If you don’t require medical quality, you can get much less expensive scopes. Look for ones meant for use by hobbyists or plumbers. For example:

    I even found one intended for use as a child’s toy (!):

  18. Thanks for all the useful information on searching for lost objects. If you have further problems with mice I recommend using a professional rodent control service, they can use poison blocks, not available to the public, that dispatch mice and cause them to dry up without an odour.

  19. Great tip on a practical use of AirPlay Receiver.

  20. The most likely scenario is our cat, Polly. :smiley_cat: She brings in a fair number of mice, chipmunks, and birds for us to catch—I’ve never figured out how she can be so good at catching them outside and then so utterly worthless at catching them again once they’re inside. I suspect that it was brought in rather than making its own way because I periodically leave a baited live trap out to catch the ones she brings in, and it’s quite effective. But if I leave it out when I don’t suspect anything is inside, it stays empty.

    It’s pretty similar. Switch into Video mode, tap the flash icon at the top left, and then tap On in the controls that come out to the right.

    Ooo, if I was a character in “Emily in Paris,” I could have live-streamed the entire thing! But I’m not nearly self-centered enough for that. :slight_smile:

    (To explain Terry’s final comment, he and I used to run together when he lived in Ithaca.)

    I hope not! :wink:

  21. One line from the product description made me chuckle, thinking back on the days when we had three very inquisitive and resourceful young ones in the house: “Explore places youve never seen with this cool new scope!” I think there were a few places in the house we’d prefer our children didn’t explore. :slight_smile:

  22. Polly probably wonders the same about you. After all, she did the hard part, and then graciously gifted you with the fruit of her efforts. I imagine she’s quite puzzled why you can’t even catch something in an enclosed space that she was able to catch in the wild. :rofl:

  23. Yeah, we figure that it’s her way of trying to train us to be better hunters. I’ve actually gotten pretty good at catching the chipmunks—the mice are harder because they so much smaller and I don’t want to hurt them with an errant grab. But the live traps are way easier.

  24. In case you missed it, be glad you weren’t in this situation:

    On routine house call, pest control finds 700 pounds of acorns in the walls

    Isn’t nature fun?

  25. Sorry for problems in advance, on my iPhone 14 pro max.

    1. they have made for years iPhone sized screens with a fiber cable attached to snake around auto engines for viewing hard to see places, they include illumination through the fiber end. When Pep Boys were closing they had great sales and I was VERY close to getting one.

    2. when I was young we had a mouse in the house. We brought in the mother cat and she spotted the mouse immediately. It climbed the curtains behind my dad’s desk and got on the curtain rail peering over the top of the curtains to see what was going on. The mother cat jumped on to the desk then leaped the three to four feet, took both front paws reached over the top of the top of the curtains, grabbed the mouse with hang time that would make Micheal Jordon jealous, and came back down with it. Now with live mouse in mouth asked to go back outside to take the mouse to her kittens.

    3. we had porch umbrella against the house outside, the post came apart so canapé was close to the ground. The dogs were quite interested in it for some reason. So to show nothing was amiss I picked it up and shaked it. A mouse dropped out, and started to climb the stucco wall. The old English Sheep dog instantly bit the mouse, we tried to get it out of the dog’s mouth, but he had already swallowed it.

    4. similar situation back in Newtown Ct we had an old farm house. Under the kitchen sink a mouse was into the wall and on top of the sill plate, dead. Luckily we had a basement and from there it was easy to reach the dead rodent.

    5. in college I was in a house with two house mates. My 6+ foot boa constrictor had gotten out of her? cage. Couple weeks later we started to have all sort of flies. Took a while to find source, but finally removed the panel below the built in oven door to reveal one dead snake with maggots galore.

      Did get another boa. Soon after we were married, in the wee hours of the morning there was considerable noise in the kitchen, my new bride went out to investigate, came back and quite sternly demanded “come get your snake out of my cub boards!” Luckily she, again?, had just knocked out Tupperware, so no broken dishes to sweep up.

    6. My son just bought a house last spring. That summer he had quite a flow of yellow liquid flowing from the beams coming out from above the ceiling. Seemed he had a huge bee hive in the space between the ceiling and roof. Took some time to remove the hive. Unfortunately he was advised not to eat/use the couple gallons of honey he had collected due the fiber glass insulation in it.

    As Jimmy Buffett said at the end of “God’s own Drunk”. that’s a take

  26. My son-in-law is a cabinet maker (talk about skills - I’m so jealous!) and when he would install bookshelves and cabinet he needed to examine wiring and other items behind the walls. I bought both he and myself the DEPSTECH Wireless Endoscope (IP67 Waterproof WiFi Borescope Inspection 2.0 Megapixels HD Snake Camera for Android and iOS Smartphone, iPhone, iPad, Samsung -Black(11.5FT)) through Amazon and found it amazing. It comes with a long flexible viewing cord that connects into a unit which connects to the iPhone via an app on the phone. It comes with multiple light/mirrors so you can see with ease. I’ve used it a lot of times searching for things that have fallen behind something. I highly recommend such a device. I saw in an earlier post a similar suggestion.

    Love the ingenuity using the phone. Mice are really nasty. When the church I was serving was struck by lightning - not once but twice several months apart (the Good Lord doesn’t have such a good aim my congregation decided - my house was just across the street!). The second time it did lots of damage and knocked out lots of our wiring and devices. When the crew came in to fix things up they had to replace the elevator’s electronics and discovered the mice had almost chewed all the way through the wiring and we were just a zap away from a very nasty fire. So, moral to the story: church mice DO have a purpose. . .

  27. dead mouse

    actually not much fun. as an art student, renting in a tatty victorian mansion that had been converted into single room flats, had a squirrel perish somewhere under the floor. the landlord couldn’t be arsed. just poured some nasty cloying stuff to mask the corpse stench.

    same place had its power fail in the midst of a deep freeze. the pipes burst in the basement. no heat or water for several weeks.

    the joys of student accommodation.

  28. I once was offered, as a student, a one room apartment, a bedsit as they call them here. It was orange, bright orange, with no windows. As I stood there in disbelief that anyone would consider such a thing, a slow stench arose, next door had flushed.

    No, no thanks.

  29. Ah, the stories of college student life crun henry and Tommy!

  30. I just got this, it will supposedly work with an iPhone. Its just the camera with a long optic fiber portion, use your iPhone for display via USB. It will go under water!

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