A proactive pest prevention plan will guard against unforecasted spend, reputational damage and operational downtime, says Mark Williams of Ecolab. Here, he outlines seasonal trends in pest activity.
10 July 2017 | Mark Wiliams
Looking for a cosy winter home
During cold winters many pests will look for food and shelter, and business premises offer an enticing environment. The main problem is rodents, and the colder the winter, the higher the risk. Rodents are excellent climbers; mice can squeeze through a gap the width of a pencil. They may not be immediately noticeable because they are nocturnal. Indications of their presence include gnawing, droppings, nests, scratching and smell.
- Repair structural damage - internal and external.
- Seal gaps in building structure, including around pipes and around doors.
Spring into action
Wasps come out of hibernation to nest in spring. It's commonly thought that a cold winter will kill many hibernating pests and cut the potential risk later in the year. With wasps, it's the opposite; a warm winter encourages queen wasps to exit hibernation early and, with few nectar sources, they are likely to starve, reducing the population.
Birds can be a nuisance the year round, causing building damage, creating an unsanitary and hazardous mess - and carrying diseases. Pigeons breed in early spring, congregating in large numbers. Gulls are more problematic in late spring and summer when they are defending their young.
- Early sighting and treatment can stop large infestations later in the year.
- Strict management of waste.
- Use measures to stop birds nesting and landing on roofs and ledges.
- Bird fouling can be hazardous - including slip hazard - get cleaning services to remove it.
The summer buzz
Fly and wasp colonies will be fully developed - this can be a cause for concern. Wasps are a threat from mid-summer as they switch from eating protein to sugar, getting 'drunk' on fermenting fruit.
For food businesses, ant infestations can lead to contamination. Flying ants are young queens and males that engage in a nuptial flight in the mating season. This occurs in many colonies simultaneously when the weather is right, but usually only happens once
Bed bugs can appear at any time, but it's worse in summer with heightened risk from greater guest traffic in hotels. It is impossible to stop bed bug entry as they come in on luggage. Female bed bugs produce up to eight eggs a day - just one bed bug can quickly lead to an infestation.
- Operate strict food and drink hygiene, even when outside.
- Ensure thorough cleaning procedures are in place.
- Keep windows and doors closed or screened.
- Strict waste management and proofing can help prevent ant infestations.
- Train staff to spot bed bugs.
Autumn sees the spider breeding season. Males come inside in search of a mate. Generally spiders do not cause damage, but they can frighten people. Certain species can bite so look out for webs and egg sacs to ensure early treatment. There is also an emerging concern following sightings of false widow spiders, suggesting that they are now moving north owing to milder conditions.
Pests for all seasons
In warm commercial premises cockroaches and stored product pests pose a health risk all year. These insects are commonly associated with unsanitary conditions, so thorough, regular cleaning is the best defence. Increasing average temperatures enhance the spread of pests. The big concern is that the South may become warm enough to support disease-spreading mosquitoes. Forewarned is forearmed; seek out pest elimination experts to gain the best advice.