By Dr. Jim Fredericks
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, most humans are engaging in social distancing behaviors, resulting in extreme changes to everyday life. Many businesses have been closed or working with smaller crews to abide by local, state and nationwide mandates in an effort to “flatten the curve.” However, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has found that these changes have given pests an increased opportunity to roam unfettered, gaining access to new environments, and in turn creating additional challenges for businesses.
Pest control professionals are finding that pests no longer have daily foot traffic deterring them from staying out of sight. They are seeing this specifically in rodents around the U.S. whose usual food supply, like restaurant dumpsters, are now empty. In New Orleans, rodents are desperately searching for alternate sources of food and water in public areas they would typically avoid. NPMA expects to see similar issues in other major metropolitan areas including New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Chicago and more.
While considering these changes in rodent behavior, it is imperative for facility management to continue regular pest control practices during this time. Rodents contaminate or consume about 20% of the world’s food supply and spread diseases such as salmonellosis, hantavirus, and the plague. With businesses less occupied and rodents desperate for alternative sources of food, this is an opportunity to get a handle on existing pest issues. As pests like rodents become more desperate for food, they are more likely to feed on bait or traps. This can help businesses reduce pest populations ahead of the time to resume normal operations.
NPMA is sharing the top five tips for facility management teams to prevent rodent infestations while facilities are less occupied. These tips can help prevent an infestation before it starts by deterring rodents who may be looking for an alternate source of food or shelter.
1. Perform regular rodent inspections
Knowing where to look and what to look for can help solve a rodent issue before it gets worse. The top sign of a rodent issue is seeing a live or dead rodent. Luckily, while practicing social distancing, rodents are becoming bolder, making it easier for you to spot a problem. Some other common signs of a rodent infestation are droppings, gnaw marks, nests, urine stains, and tracks or rub marks. It is also important to inspect any packages for pests before bringing them inside your facility.
2. Remove any potential food sources regularly
Rodents are attracted to food which allows their populations to survive and thrive and with their food sources becoming more and more scarce due to social distancing they are becoming desperate. Removing garbage in and outside your building regularly, cleaning high traffic areas, and storing any food products in sealed containers can keep rodents out by eliminating food sources that may attract them.
3. Eliminate potential rodent harborage areas
Along with food, rodents also need shelter and they can find it in some obscure places including stairwells, shelves, lockers, worktables and machinery. Storage areas make the ideal home for a rodent as they are attracted to moist, dark places. Ensure that materials are not stored packed together, easily providing cover to pests. Outside your facility, overgrown lawns and other vegetation can also become potential home for rodents, so regular landscaping is extremely important.
4. Reduce possible entryways
The best way to prevent a rodent infestation is to stop them from getting inside. Rodents, however, are difficult to completely exclude as mice can fit through holes the size of a dime and rats a hole as small as a quarter. Help prevent access by ensuring areas where utility lines enter are sealed, sealing any cracks or holes in the outside of buildings, screening vents and windows, repairing any broken doors or windows, and installing door sweeps.
5. Work with a licensed pest control professional
NPMA recommends that businesses work with a licensed pest control professional to handle any pest issues. Professional pest control is deemed an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic by the United States Department of Homeland Security and multiple states enabling many pest control companies to continue their vital work. They can assist in implementing an integrated pest management plan (IPM), a pest control practice that focuses on eliminating pests’ needs like food, water and shelter, to ensure pests are managed properly as they quickly adapt to the current changes in their living environment. Partnering with a pest control professional during these times will help to protect our food supply and our critical national infrastructure, while also continuing to decrease the threat of pest-borne disease.
New pest threats are difficult handle, but they are especially challenging during uncharted time like those we are living in now. Following these tips and working with a trained pest professional can protect your business.
Dr. Fredericks is the chief entomologist and vice president of technical and regulatory affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), a nonprofit with more than 5,500 members. NPMA was established in 1933 to support the pest-management industry’s commitment to the protection of public health, food, and property. For more information on pests and pest-related topics or to find a pest professional, visit www.pestworld.org.
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