As the nights grow longer and we approach the colder months, the likelihood of a pest infestation will soar. Rats and mice are a cause for concern all year round, but as they will be looking for warmer and drier nesting grounds, property and facilities managers need to be prepared; particularly as the new UK Rodenticide Stewardship Regime may prevent them from being able to implement an in-house solution, explains Guy Other, CEO of Orbis
While rats and mice are neophobic by nature they are also very inquisitive and opportunistic. If they see an opening, they’ll explore it. This means that as we approach winter, pests will take advantage of the longer nights to explore and ingress into properties, creating nests from soft materials. Additionally, their natural ability to squeeze their bodies into incredibly small spaces means they can exploit any entry point, from gaps under doors to cracks in piping.
Additionally, last year’s floods will have exacerbated the ingress of rats and mice, as they were forced from their previous nests in fields and made to find shelter indoors.
However, the biggest cause of an infestation is the availability of food. Pests search out food sources and make their nests nearby. While grain is their natural food source, rats can live on many other foods, including the fat residue caused from people pouring fats and oils down the drain. They also don’t need to worry about a drinking source as rats can take water directly from their food.
Pests are very resilient and an infestation can appear anywhere that offers them food and shelter. Restaurants and takeaways become targets for rats due to the high levels of food waste; however, the rodents could just as easily nest in the surrounding buildings and eat from the bins. Garages are big targets, not only because the large doors can have gaps in the bottoms, but because people often hoard clutter and don’t regularly inspect them.
Another target location for rats and mice are vacant buildings, next to or near occupied ones. The vacant building provides a safe nesting place, while the occupied one becomes a food source. Vacant buildings are also at risk due to their derelict state, people don’t actively look out for or notice damage caused by pest ingress and the property already looks damaged.
The good news is that rats, mice and other pests are generally not dangerous and will run from people. However, they do carry diseases and can have wide implications for a building and business. There is also an element of physical damage caused by rats; their teeth constantly grow and they need to gnaw things to wear them down. This causes serious damage to fixtures and furnishings, the building structure, and pipes and wiring, and incurs substantial repair costs.
There are also the longer term consequences caused from reputational damage and loss of productivity. In the workplace, whether it’s an office, restaurant or otherwise, the shock factor at finding a rat and the irritation they cause can have a serious effect on morale and the comfort levels of staff. This results in a drop of productivity and potential staff resignations as they don’t want to work in these environments.
Businesses, particularly eateries, are likely to lose customers if an infestation is discovered. And property owners and managers will struggle to find a tenant as an infested building is hugely unappealing. What’s worse is that once a business becomes associated with pest problems, it becomes difficult to break away from that stigma and rebuild brand confidence.
There are many signs of an infestation and none of them are particularly pleasant. Droppings are one of the first things many people notice that signals a pest problem, but a RSPH 2 qualified pest management operative will also be able to identify exactly what pest they are dealing with. Another equally unpleasant sign of a pest problem is the appearance of salt columns, created from salt rich urine, which are often smelt before they are seen.
Other signs include the appearance of smear marks and rat runs in flower beds and along skirting boards. These marks are created when a pest repeatedly uses the same route and can lead a pest management operative to their nest or burrow.
The key to preventing an infestation is to remove the opportunity. Gaps under doors can be covered with door brushes or kick plates and cracks and holes need to be repaired. Small entry points can be filled using an expanding foam, and wire wool or chicken wire in the foam will discourage rats and mice from gnawing through.
Of course, and this may seem obvious, an infestation can also be avoided through better cleaning habits. Cleaning spills and crumbs and not allowing waste food to build up will mean that pests have no food source and will have to go elsewhere to build their nests.
At Orbis, we offer an integrated service that removes the pests and prevents reinfection. Our operatives inspect the infested site to identify the pest, find any points of entry and locate the nest. They will then secure and repair the property against re-entry, and implement the most appropriate pest management method. Finally, the operative will remove any treated carcases to prevent secondary poisoning and make weekly visits to ensure the infestation has been properly dealt with.
Methods of dealing with rats and mice are fairly straight forward and can usually be humanely dispatched with a second generation rodenticide. However, in homes with children and pets, we would use traps instead, to avoid accidental secondary poisoning.