Manage & Minimize

by Katie Lee

How to reduce pesticide exposure risk in public settings through Integrated Pest Management.

By Nancy Troyano, Ph.D.

Pests, such as insects and rodents, can be a more serious problem than usual in public settings such as retail environments, movie theaters and entertainment centers.  Not only can pests contaminate food supplies and cause damage to facilities, they can also spread germs. Additionally, the cleanliness and safety of any retail establishment has an impact on a brand’s reputation, which makes paying attention to a meticulously kept facility of critical importance. For these reasons, every type of retail facility needs a pest management program to ensure a safe environment for all.  

While the traditional method to combat a pest problem is through pesticides, chemicals should not hold the only answer.  The ideal solution is to have an integrated pest management (IPM) program to manage pests.  IPM is an approach to pest management that minimizes reliance on chemical pesticides and, instead of trying to eradicate pests, focuses on all available options to prevent them.

An IPM plan takes a holistic approach to pest control that utilizes a combination of methods, including sanitation, exclusion, monitoring and documentation.  Addressing sanitation means a close examination of the facility to get rid of the food, water and harborage that attract pests.  Exclusion prevents pests from entering the facility in the first place, primarily by sealing off access points into the building, such as cracks in the foundation, openings around utility lines and gaps around doors and windows.  Monitoring consists of various traps strategically placed around the facility to keep track of the numbers and kinds of pests. Using the monitors will help to detect when a pest infestation has exceeded a predetermined threshold and determine when corrective action must be taken.  Documentation of the pest sightings can help to detect infestation trends in specific areas of the facility or during certain times of the year. Patterns of infestation will allow management to focus their attention to the areas that require the most assistance for pest prevention.

Before implementing such a program, however, it is important to identify which type of pests your facility may be at risk of harboring. Some of the most common pests include: 

• Flies are associated with more than 100 disease-causing pathogens, including E. coli, and several kinds of food poisoning, and contaminate food and clean surfaces when they land on them.

• Rodents transmit a variety of parasites, viruses and bacteria, contaminate food and cause fires or explosions when they gnaw through electrical wires and utility lines.

• Cockroaches contaminate surfaces and spread diseases by tracking in germs and filth from unsanitary places and can trigger asthma attacks in susceptible individuals.

• Stored product pests such as beetles or moths feed on — and multiply in — stored products such as cereals, seeds, spices and dried fruits.

The next step is to determine where these pests might call home. Popular places in every facility are the kitchen and dining rooms, food storage and waste areas. The outside of the building can also attract pests, particularly if you have an outdoor dining patio, areas where there is poor drainage, or places where trash is allowed to linger for any length of time.

Facility or pest control managers should first look for evidence of infestation, such as rodent droppings or actual pest sightings, and also for conditions that are conducive to pests. Likely places to find pests or pest-conducive conditions include areas around dumpsters, loading docks, anywhere moisture collects inside or outside the facility, around light fixtures or wherever food or food residues can accumulate.

Sealing the facility from pests as well as practicing good sanitation will go a long way toward preventing infestation and can reduce the need for pesticides, but it’s not a complete solution. When evidence of pests are found, it’s important to identify them — rodents, beetles, flies — in order to first determine the most effective way for your facility to eliminate them using a variety of pest management methods (i.e. a combination of traps, baits, increased sanitation, environmental modifications and the judicious use of pesticides if necessary). But equally as important as treating the infestation is to investigate how the pests are getting inside. This can be accomplished through the use of monitors and by analyzing past pest sighting data to determine when, how frequently and in which part of the facility you are finding those specifics pests. 

Once an IPM plan is developed, it must be implemented on a consistent basis. The pest control manager’s task is to ensure that recommendations for repairs to the building and surrounding property are implemented. Sanitation staff must be trained to thoroughly and regularly clean areas vulnerable to infestation by pests with the appropriate tools and diligence.

Finally, the effects of the IPM plan should be evaluated on a regular basis. It’s important to remember that even if one problem area is cleared of pests, infestations may recur — or evidence of pests may be found elsewhere in the facility. Although much can be done to eliminate pests, prevention is a better long term solution and requires continuing effort.

Summing Up

Every facility has its own unique environment. For that reason, there is no “one-size-fits-all” recipe for successful pest control, so it is important to tailor your program to your specific facility. However, it is good to be aware that, in general terms, an effective IPM plan includes these four steps:

1. Inspection of your building both inside and outside for ways pests might enter the building, as well as for food, water and harborage that may attract pests and allow them access into the facility.

2. Identification of any pests that exist and development of a specific plan to eliminate them using a variety of pest management methods (i.e. a combination of traps, baits, increased sanitation, environmental modifications and the judicious use of pesticides if necessary). Additionally, monitors should be utilized for tracking numbers and kinds of pests caught in each area of the facility as well as to determine when corrective action must be taken. Finally, a method should be developed for comparing those numbers over time to identify trends in pest activity.

3. Enlisting the support of facility management, as well as production workers, to implement the program. Train your sanitation staff to thoroughly clean problem areas according to a specific sanitation schedule.

4. Continuously monitor the program and record results. In this way, you can prove success and/or adjust the program if, when, and where necessary.

Many larger organizations have a full-time pest control staff, while smaller organizations may appoint a company officer or an employee to manage the operation. Additionally, a professional pest control company can also help set up and monitor an IPM program. No matter which direction your retail facility chooses to go, an investment in an effective IPM plan helps ensure a safe and quality experience for both visitors and staff.

— Nancy Troyano, Ph.D., is training manager/entomologist at Rentokil-North America, the world’s largest commercial pest control company, based in Reading, Pennsylvania. For more information, visit

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