23 April 2014
Many of the pests that professional control operatives deal with are termed "public health" pests.
They have the potential to spread infection and disease, either because of the unsavoury conditions they live in or because they carry pathogens.
Pests such as rodents can also damage property by gnawing, and copious amounts of foodstuffs can be consumed and contaminated by both rodents and insects. Because of these risks it is inevitable that controlling pests will at times require the use of toxic rodenticides and insecticides.
But the use of pesticides carries associated risks. The pest control operator, site staff, members of the public, non-target animals and the environment in general can be put at risk when pesticides are applied, especially by an unskilled and untrained operator. The skilled and trained pest controller must balance the use of toxic controls with the safety of all other parties who may be affected and manage any risk.
So is there another way to control pests that does not involve the use of toxins? The short answer is, potentially, yes. However, the long answer is that pest control is a complicated discipline that brings a number of factors into play, and you may find that non-toxic controls complement toxic control methods rather than replace them.
Prevention is better than cure and in many cases we can prevent pest activity by taking some simple steps. For example, any obvious gaps in the fabric of a building should be adequately sealed to stop the easy intrusion of pests. Your BPCA pest control contractor can advise you about what "adequately sealed" means - rodents can chew through wood, cement and brickwork, so any fabric repair must be capable of resisting this kind of attack.
Human beings need access to adequate food and water to survive, and pests are no different. They are just better at making use of items that we may term as waste. Every organisation representative has a duty to encourage a pest-free environment by acting responsibly with rubbish. The better the controls, such as the secure storage and regular removal of waste, the better the chance that you will discourage pest intrusions without needing to use pesticide.
Pests will also hide in clutter and foliage around sites and properties. The closer the foliage and stored items are to the building, the more likely it is that pests will gain access to properties; we are effectively offering pests stepping stones into our sites. So be sensible and honest about these things on the building's perimeter - if you don't need it get rid of it, or if you can cut it back do so to avoid attracting pests.
Even with the best precautions in the world we have to accept that pests may still enter our sites - brought in with stock, with raw materials, with packaging and machinery. They can also walk or fly through open doors and windows. When such instances occur it is possible to control certain levels of infestation through non-toxic means. For example, small numbers of rodents may be controlled using traps, but larger infestations may be more difficult to control as rodents learn to avoid the traps. Insects may be controlled by variations in temperature; hot or cold conditions can be used to kill off the insects, but again, this may not be appropriate for every infestation.
Non-toxic control measures such as the sealing gaps and removing food source have an essential role to play when the use of a pesticide is required. Ideally, when a professional pest controller undertakes a treatment using a toxic product he would prefer the treatment to be a quick and efficient process using minimal amount of pesticide. This is ultimately safer for the pest controller, site employees, the general public and the environment.
Selective and controlled use of pesticide also helps to increase the life of the pesticide by preventing resistance developing in the target species. But efficient use of the product requires the support of the customer to work with the pest control contractor to remove pest-breeding sites and allow access to all key areas for inspection and treatment.
The partnership between pest control contractor and the customer is part of an integrated approach that can be used to maximise the effectiveness of the pest control professional before damage is done to the customer's site, product and reputation.
A vital part of "Integrated Pest Management" is maintaining control. This is achieved by regular monitoring of sites by a pest control company. Routine monitoring in the form of regular planned inspections offers customers an early warning system to protect their sites, products and staff from pest damage. Monitoring may be carried out with non-toxic baits and insect monitors that can be replaced with pesticides where required to eradicate pest infestations.
Customers should seriously consider the use of a reputable pest control contractor to monitor and protect their interests. When you use a reputable contractor, such as those available through the British Pest Control Association, you are not simply "buying in" access to large amounts of professional use pesticides - you are buying into the knowledge, experience, training and insurance of the pest company which is dedicated to keeping your working environment pest-free.
If you would like further information on reputable pest control providers, pest prevention, model contracts or membership, please contact the BPCA on 01332 294288, or visit our website at www.bpca.org.uk
Richrd Moseley, technical manager at the British Pest Control Association