CRITTERS UNDER CONTROL
27 January 2012
A recent Rentokil survey found that 13% of small and medium businesses have encountered a pest problem in the last year. It also found that 79% of SMEs believe a lack of effective cleaning and maintenance is key to preventing a pest problem, but despite this just 40% have invested in a pest control strategy. In this article Savvas Othon describes the pests which facilities managers may encounter throughout the year and preventative measures to put in place.
The most common pests associated with facilities are mice, rats, fleas, cockroaches, flies and pest birds, but different pests pose problems at different times of the year so preventative pest measures should be in place throughout.
Spring is a particularly common time to encounter a bird problem. Birds roosting in the roof can be a menace but they can also bring a host of problems with them depending on the type. While pigeons are quick breeders and carry a wide range of diseases such as Ornithosis and Salmonella, it is a gulls’ aggressive behaviour that can be most threatening.
For businesses, birds pose significant threats such as noise pollution, danger from swooping birds, and fouling. Pigeon excretion is also highly acidic and damage to buildings and vehicles can add unnecessary costs to a business, as well as expensive maintenance and cleaning.
With bird control, prevention really is better than cure, yet businesses with a bird pest problem need to be mindful of strict bird control laws before looking to restrict their movement. If your building is targeted by birds, then pest control companies can help prevent nesting with proofing or by using birds of prey or fake scarers.
However, simple measures can prevent birds from becoming a nuisance:
Remove any food sources from the immediate environment and ensure food is disposed of effectively
Businesses shouldn’t wait for a population to grow as settled populations are harder to combat. If birds have become a problem for your business, a site survey from a specialist consultant, can help you keep your premise nuisance-free
Some pests can also pose a problem inside premises during spring time. If food waste is left around an office or inside waste bins, an infestation of small flies, such as fruit flies can occur. These are common office pests and the health risks associated with them are minimal, but they are likely to distract and irritate staff. Not leaving food out will discourage the flies from thriving, and it’s also as well to keep surfaces dry and not over-water plants.
Sixteen percent of small and medium businesses have experienced a wasp problem in the past year (according to Rentokil research, October 2011) and they are an unwelcome guest throughout the summer months. These buzzing pests not only cause a sting to the skin, they can also leave a nasty mark on your business’ finances too. This is because wasps can cause customer and employee issues, as both are wary of entering a premises through fear of being stung. For employers, this can lead to absence and lower productivity among staff as well as a loss of trade.
The earlier a wasps’ nest is spotted, the better, as a single wasps nest can grow to hold thousands of wasps. If you should encounter a constant buzzing or humming, collective wasp activity or a stream of wasps heading in the same direction, there is a strong chance that there is a wasp nest on your premise. Wasps’ nests are made from chewed wood pulp and saliva, giving them distinctive paper like walls. The Queen wasp searches for a sheltered spot with easy access to the outdoors to build a nest, making use of lofts, wall cavities, roof spaces, out-buildings, store rooms and under the eaves of buildings.
There are steps businesses can take to minimise the risks of a wasp problem and avoid potential disruption to their business. These include:
Educating staff about insect behaviour and how to identify a nest
Encouraging staff to:
o avoid leaving food and drinks exposed
o clear up spillages
Advising staff not to swat wasps as this could excite the insect and increase the likelihood of being stung; the best option is to walk calmly and slowly away
Using window screens and door curtains to prevent wasps getting into your premises
Businesses with outdoor premises may want to consider outdoor wasp traps that attract the insects away from customers and staff.
We always advise customers to seek professional help when endeavouring to treat wasps’ nests, particularly for mature nests or those in hard-to-access locations.
Visits from unwelcome six legged pests are also a common occurrence during summer months as ants enter premises looking for food. Sure signs of an ant problem include live insects, ant pathways in and out of the premises, and small heaps of earth or dirt indicating nest sites. It is important to proof access points to prevent ants getting in as well as setting up regular ant control inspection visits. Call the experts at the first sign of large or multiple infestations to minimise the damage which an infestation can cause.
Autumn and Winter
The research shows rodents as the key pest in the business environment, with 75% of those small and medium sized businesses surveyed who reported a pest problem citing mice (39%) and rats (36%) as the problem. Rodents can remain undetected and contaminate environments through their urine, droppings and hairs, so it is essential that managers have a strategy in place to protect against rodent infestations. Whilst rodent problems can occur throughout the year, they are most common in the winter when rats and mice are looking for warm, sheltered places to live and hence often enter buildings.
Rodents can enter buildings through large air vents, common to older buildings, and under doorways, where they live under false floors and in wall cavities. In fact, mice only need a hole that is 6mm wide (the size of the top of a biro) to enter. From here they use the network of computer trunking and pipe ducting to travel from floor to floor. While there is little that can be done to alter the structure of the building, these pests will only thrive if there is sustenance for them and this is a matter that can be taken in hand.
As facilities managers are already aware, leftover food in work spaces - desk drawers, counters or in wastepaper bins - must be monitored. The root cause of many office-based pest outbreaks is food debris that has been left around desks or communal areas and dropped onto carpets, providing an ideal food source for all manner of pests. Fifty six percent of SMEs surveyed in the research believe a communal kitchen contributes to pests, with 54% saying staff eating at desks can attract unwelcome guests in the workplace. Bins should contain bin liners and be emptied daily (64% of businesses citing this as a reason contributing to a pest problem). Staff eating at their desks may also mean a business is more likely to experience a problem, thus employees must be aware of their responsibility to keep the office clean and hence help keep pests away.
There are simple measures which can be taken to help prevent a rodent infestation. For example, stacking crates and boxes away from the wall ensures you can check what’s behind them. Also important are sealing holes in walls, ensuring refuse on site is kept in closed bins, and looking after and cleaning pipes and drains regularly. Thermal imaging can now be used to deliver more effective identification of pest control problems. This will give management access to pest-related information they would otherwise be unable to see, such as rodent’s harbourages in wall cavities and burrows.
All Year Pest Issues
Not all pests are seasonal and many can be a problem all year round. A pest which thrives whatever the temperature is the cockroach. These high-risk pests can pose widespread health risks for any type of premise. There are three common variants in the UK: the German cockroach (the most prevalent species within the UK); the Oriental cockroach (which prefers humid environments such as a kitchens or boiler rooms, but can also thrive outside) and the American cockroach (which thrives in dark and damp environments).
Through their nocturnal feeding habits, cockroaches represent a serious potential health problem, contaminating foodstuffs and spreading a number of diseases. They will feed on almost anything including faecal matter and food for human consumption. Cockroaches are known to carry bacteria and viruses on their legs and bodies, which can cause food poisoning and Gastro-enteritis. Key warning signs of a cockroach infestation to look out for are live adults or nymphs, faecal marks which are black/dark brown in colour and cylindrical in shape resembling a smudged pin head, egg cases or cast skins and a distinct musty smell.
Cockroaches are complex, and although there are a range of DIY treatments available, they can be difficult to treat. Professional treatments include:
Entotherm - a chemical-free treatment, delivering heat to any contained area infested with insect pests
Insecticides - a wide range of insecticides developed specifically to treat cockroaches. Suitable for the business or domestic environment, the treatment is available in dusts, sprays, lacquers, smokes, fogs and baits
Pygo - this off-white liquid is highly targeted and is suitable for dark areas and crevices where cockroaches hide
Desiccant - This insect dust aims to dry out the cockroach. It is non toxic and can be used both indoors and outdoors
By calling in a pest control technician as soon as any pest problem is suspected, facilities managers can eliminate infestations in the fastest and most effective way. However, prevention is better than cure with all pests, and using expert pest controllers is good proactive pest management.
Savvas Othon is Technical Director, Rentokil
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