By W. Douglas Webb
When facility managers consider their pest management responsibilities, they often think exclusively about work needed inside the building to keep rodents, insects, and other unwanted visitors away from employees, guests, and customers. However, much of the work in the fight against pests occurs outside the building envelope.
Which building features are most important for pest management professionals outside of the building envelope? Examining architectural components including roofing, windows, and siding is critical in keeping pests out. There are also features that facility managers might not always think about, such as landscaping. Pest management service professionals must fully understand the way that a building is constructed, identify any maintenance issues that might be conducive to an infestation, and partner with facility management to prevent and address these issues.
How might something like landscaping affect pest presence in facilities? Pests are creatures of opportunity, and they instinctively seek to gain access to facilities in hopes of finding food and shelter. Exterior features such as landscaping can often create just the opportunities pests need to enter a building. For example, a tall bush near a window could easily become a ladder for pests such as Boxelder bugs to climb up to enter a facility where maintenance professionals least expect to find them.
With the summer months approaching, it is also important to consider how landscaping features might provide potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Any standing water, such as that found in planters, birdbaths, or gutters, can present an ideal environment for female mosquitos to lay eggs and bring about the next generation.
What are other common exterior issues that can lead to pest management challenges for buildings? Small holes or gaps in the building envelope, such as those that may be found near vents, are commonly discovered and are often large enough for a mouse or other rodent to penetrate. Another major challenge, especially with spring weather in full swing, may be caused by employees who leave exterior doors open. Pests may scurry inside when nobody is looking. When a pest management professional comes to service a facility, they will inspect and evaluate the building for entry points and advise facility managers on how they can best address issues before they become more serious.
What seasonal pests will present challenges for facility managers in the coming months? As spring and warmer temperatures approach, facility management should be mindful of the risk of termites. Termites are active all year long, but in the springtime, some of their colony members develop wings and swarm from the nest to try to start new colonies. They may only swarm for a few days and most of them do not survive, but the swarming termites indicate that there is a breach in the site’s termite treatment. It’s important to understand the serious damage that can be caused by an unaddressed termite infestation, and any exterior building or landscape features that might benefit a termite colony should receive increased attention.
Pigeons, sparrows, and starlings are non-migratory birds that find a place they like and tend to stay there. They are the most common species of birds that are considered to be pests and can cause serious damage to buildings with their nesting and roosting habits. They can also create a hazard if the nest is constructed near vents and can even cause water damage if the nest blocks a drain, gutter, or downspout. These birds commonly leave droppings and other unwanted signs of their presence that can be a nuisance to employees and leave visitors with a poor impression of the facility. A qualified pest management professional can assist with installing deterrents and controls for these unwanted guests.
How else can pest management professionals and facility managers partner in their work? Most people think of pest problems as an indoor issue, because that is where pests are most often seen, but the real work of controlling pests is performed outside of the building envelope, where pests live and find entryways. A sound pest management strategy is grounded in securing the building envelope.
This strategy offers other significant benefits beyond a pest-free environment. Pest management exclusion improvements can significantly help in increasing a building’s energy efficiency and decreasing heating and cooling costs, which can help protect a business’s bottom line and advance the facility manager’s goals.
Webb is technical services manager, Entomology and Regulatory Services, with Terminix International. He obtained his Master of Science degree in Wood Science and Technology from Mississippi State University, having specialized in Wood Destroying Insects and Wood Deterioration. He has served Terminix customers across the United States for over 34 years.