Getting Rid of Rodents

— By Chad Gore —

 

Proactive steps to prevent rodent infestations in your facilities this winter.

 

 

As retail and restaurant facilities prepare for increased foot traffic over the holiday season, it is imperative for store operators to familiarize themselves with the signs of rodent infestations. If not properly monitored, rats and mice seeking shelter from cold temperatures can lead to costly structural damage, health and safety hazards, product contamination and a negative brand reputation. Facility managers can use these essential tips to understand the facts, anticipate the signs and identify proactive steps to prevent a rodent infestation this season.

Step 1: Understand the Facts

Chad Gore, Rentokil North America

Large retail spaces and restaurants with stored products and food are at an increased risk of experiencing rodent infestations. If left unchecked, mouse and rat populations can quickly expand. Rodents can multiply from one to hundreds in just a few months. To stay ahead of a potential infestation, retail and restaurant managers should understand a few basic facts about rodents.

Rats are neophobic, meaning they do not like new things in their environment. Mice and rats often travel the same paths and pick natural trails to follow, such as girders, heating and electrical lines and utility runs. They will change their movement patterns if something new, such as a trap, is introduced, making them hard to capture.

These small creatures are often seen scurrying across a floor, but rodents are also excellent climbers and can quickly and easily travel across elevated spaces. Rodents prefer quiet, undisturbed areas, such as closets, storage areas, wall voids and sheds. Other common hiding spots in these facilities include:

  • Receiving areas
  • Storage rooms
  • Drop ceilings
  • Kitchens
  • Booth seating
  • Spaces above and behind walk-in coolers
  • Dumpsters

As nocturnal creatures, rodents are most active between dusk and dawn and usually hide from humans during the day. Although they may be experts at hiding, there are additional ways to uncover a potential rodent problem.

Step 2: Anticipate the Signs

One effective way to stop a potential rodent infestation from spreading is to train floor staff on what to look for. Retail and restaurant employees can look for these additional signs to help identify potential rodent problems:

  • Droppings: Color, shape and size will vary by species; mouse droppings typically resemble a large grain of rice. Droppings are usually found in large concentrations, as mice and rats can produce up to 40 droppings per night.

 

  • Scratching noises: Rodents can be agile climbers and can easily gain access into loft spaces and upper floors of buildings. Hearing scratching noises at night from above may suggest their presence. Other less adept climbers may be heard scurrying under decking, sheds and floorboards.

 

  • Footprints (running tracks): Rodents leave foot and tail marks in dusty, less-used areas of buildings. Shining a bright flashlight at a low angle should reveal tracks clearly. To determine if an infestation is active, sprinkle fine flour or talc along a small stretch of floor near the footprints and check for fresh tracks the next day.

 

  • Rub marks: Rodents are known for having poor eyesight, which is why they often establish routes along baseboards and walls. Grease and dirt on their bodies leave smudges and dark marks on surfaces against which they repeatedly brush. These marks may indicate rodent activity, but smears may remain for a long period of time. Therefore, they do not necessarily signify an active infestation.

 

  • Damage: Rats’ teeth grow continuously, and in order to keep them from getting too long, rats will gnaw on just about anything. Facility managers and employees should inspect food packaging, cables, supplies, boxes and other stored products for visible teeth marks about 4 mm wide.

 

  • Nests: Many rodents will build nests in warm, hidden places using shredded materials like newspaper and fabrics. Common indoor nest locations are underneath appliances, on overhead beams, and inside walls or ceilings. Outdoors, rodents tend to build nests in wood piles, overgrown vegetation and within the top levels of storage boxes. They may also create burrows, sometimes well hidden, in the ground where nesting occurs.

Step 3: Identify Proactive Steps

Acting at the first sign of a suspected problem can help to drastically reduce the health risks posed by mice and rats and the length of time needed to effectively control an infestation. In order to prevent potentially dangerous health, safety and brand image risks retail and restaurant operators can use these proactive steps to stay one step ahead:

  • Practice the First In, First Out (FIFO) rotation for stock to avoid having long periods of undisturbed product.

 

  • Develop and maintain an inspection process for incoming goods, particularly in warehouse environments.

 

  • Install door sweeps on all exterior doors that do not seal flush with the floor, including mechanical and storage rooms, to keep rats from entering.

 

  • Keep outdoor garbage receptacles and dumpsters tightly covered and at a distance from the building. Remove trash regularly.

 

  • Seal all holes along the exterior, on the roof and in food areas, paying particular attention to gaps and holes around pipes, plumbing, doors, windows, wiring and electrical spaces, walls and ceilings. Since rodents can gnaw through many common proofing materials, use metal materials such as hardware cloth, aluminum flashing, aluminum screening or concrete.

Store operators should also pay attention to the environment, neighboring properties, potential changes in the areas around a facility and be in communication with a trusted pest management provider. This knowledge can help the provider implement the best preventative measures. With increased vigilance and a scheduled preventative maintenance plan, any facility can prepare now against an onslaught of rodents this winter.

 

 

 

— Chad Gore, PhD is a certified entomologist and market technical director at Rentokil North America, which provides commercial and residential pest control to customers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. For more information, visit www.rentokil.com/us.

 

 

 

 

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