Well, so far 2020 has definitely been the year of the rat. Firstly, flooding and heavy rainfall in January and February created an environment which displaced rats from their normal harbourages of sewers and burrows. This meant a corresponding increase in activity in businesses across the country. Then in March thousands of businesses closed, refuse collections were disrupted, and the food sources so commonly found in cities reduced significantly as people stopped commuting to their workplaces.

These changes created behaviour changes in rodents and the pest control industry started to see an increase in activity as rats were forced to forage further afield for food. We saw premises with no history of rat activity suddenly start recording activity.

The British Pest Control Association is the lead body for the UK Public Health Pest Control Industry, representing 700 companies who employ 7500 pest controllers in the UK. A recent survey they conducted (see graph) showed that just 3% of pest controllers had seen a reduction in rat activity with 51% reporting more or much more activity.

As lockdown progressed customers started to cancel pest control contracts at a time when they were probably needed most. To give you an idea of scale let’s consider the breeding cycle of rats.

“As lockdown progressed

customers started to cancel pest control contracts at a time when they were probably needed most.”

One breeding pair of rats (male and female) usually have around eight in a litter on average. They could have two litters in two months, so 16 young, if environmental conditions are favourable.

These young take a good nine to 12 weeks to become sexually mature, so an initial infestation will take a little longer to establish but, once those young are sexually mature, the population will grow quickly.

Within a year you’re looking at approximately 1,250 rats, in and around your business, ruining stock, contaminating food and putting your staff and clients at risk.

Mice are even more proficient in breeding. One breeding pair of mice could have two litters in two months.

On average, there are usually six in the litter, so 12 young in two months with the original breeding pair. Those first six young will take a while to become sexually mature, on average six weeks. They could all then have a litter themselves, then the numbers really start racking up. One female can have five to 10 litters per year.

By the end of a year, you can easily end up with 2,000 mice, all scurrying around carrying dirt and bacteria

with them, transferring it to your desks, cabinets, kitchens and anywhere else they travel. The last thing you need as a facilities manager are buildings which resemble Banksy’s bathroom.

So what should you be considering? Access - Continue giving your pest controller access to premises so they can carry out a thorough inspection. You may need to temporarily increase visits if your premises is in a high risk location or has had a previous history or rodent activity.

Working safely – BPCA member companies are being supported by the BPCA with guidance over and above the Government advice so that they are working safely at all times. Pest controllers will have access to suitable PPE as a normal part of their jobs. They should also be able to work in accordance with social distancing rules as the majority of their work will be in areas which are less used by staff members, such as riser cupboards, basements etc.

Drain surveys – A rat issue quite often means a drain issue. If you are having a drain survey done, use a drain company which understand rat behaviour. Rats can enter through very small breaks in drainage systems or maybe an interceptor cap or one-way valve has broken or become dislodged.

Behaviour - Rats are neophobic which means that they take a while to get used to new bait stations. This can delay resolving the problem and needs to be factored into the overall plan.

Food/water sources – Rats need both water and food sources whereas mice only need a food source. Is there standing water anywhere?

Harbourage – Rats will use overgrown bushes or foliage as harbourage. This needs to be removed or kept in a reasonable condition if unable to be removed.

Proofing – Ask your pest controller to recommend and carry out the proofing. The reason for this is that your pest controllers will not only block holes but use specialist materials that help to prevent pests. TOMORROW’S FM | 25

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