David Cross, head of technical training academy at Rentokil Pest Control, explains how to keep a rodent infestation at bay.
Rats and mice are always in search of warm, dry harbourages and new food sources. Particularly during periods of inclement weather.
Garden centres offer the perfect place for rodents to hide, thanks to the many areas of shelter and food sources they provide.
Given centres’ open layouts, many managers may find keeping pests out a real challenge. Mice are capable of squeezing through tiny gaps, and, like rats, are good climbers.
A rodent infestation can represent a major health and safety risk. Rodents are carriers of diseases, and can damage the reputation and bottom line of any business.
It is vital that garden centre owners and employees are clued up on how to spot and deal with a rodent infestation.
It’s also useful to know how to prevent the pests from returning in the future.
Spotting the signs
Rodents are nocturnal, so they can be difficult to catch sight of during business hours. But, tell-tale signs can show an infestation. These include:
Smell and sound. Rats and mice have a very strong ammonia smell. They’re also often very noisy, making audible scrabbling noises as they move around.
Droppings. Rats excrete about 40 dark, pellet-shaped droppings per day, which are up to 14mm long. Mice can produce 80 oval-shaped droppings, which are 5mm long. These are usually near any harbourages or entry points.
Smears. Rodents use established routes along walls, due to their poor eyesight. You may notice grease marks where rodents brush up against walls and surfaces.
Footprints: Rats can leave foot and tail marks in dusty, less-used areas. Shining a strong torch at a low angle should reveal tracks. To establish whether an infestation is active, sprinkle fine flour along a small stretch of floor near the footprints. Check for fresh tracks the next day.
Damage. Rodents can chew through electric cables. Gnaw marks, shredded paper and damage to storage containers are also common signs.
You might not think that one mouse sighting warrants immediate attention. But a problem can escalate into something more serious if it’s left untreated.
Mice like to stay hidden out of sight, as it helps them feel safe, so one mouse could still be a sign of a larger problem. They also have a quick reproduction cycle. Failing to act could allow an isolated issue to become a full infestation.
If you do identify a rodent problem, there are many simple steps that can be taken.
Seal any gaps. Mice are capable of squeezing through gaps the width of a biro pen. So seal holes in the exterior of the premises with wire wool, caulk, metal kick plates or cement. Rats are also known to enter premises through damaged drains. It’s important to make sure that these are well maintained and checked.
If you’re unsure how rodents could be entering your garden centre, don’t hesitate to ask pest control experts to analyse.
Declutter and clean. Keep clutter to a minimum. Move objects away from walls to ensure you can check what’s hiding behind them. Less clutter means less hiding places. Ensure that refuse on site is kept in closed bins, and clean pipes and drains.
Quick detection. Non-toxic monitoring blocks are another way to detect rodent activity. Some of these blocks contain fluorescent materials that reflect UV light. They highlight rodents’ droppings and making it easier to identify their presence.
Rats and mice can pose a significant risk to the health and safety of customers and staff. They are carriers of diseases such as hantavirus, salmonellosis and Weil’s disease.
Mice are also hardwired to gnaw hard objects to help keep their teeth at a manageable size. So they chew on anything they can sink their teeth into. This can result in damaged stock or electrical equipment, and an increased fire risk.
Prevention is always better than a cure when it comes to rodents. Therefore adopting a proactive pest management strategy is vital to safety.
Whether you’re dealing with a pest problem or are looking to prevent one, it’s important you know who to contact. It’s the role of external contractors to be up to date on the latest legislation changes in their area of expertise.
Pest controllers are no different. If you’re in unsure of best way to prevent rodents in your centre, then it’s always best to check with the experts.
David Cross is the head of the technical training academy at Rentokil Pest Control. For more information visit www.rentokil.co.uk or call 0808 278 8192.