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Minimising rodent risk from the outside-in

08 November 2016

Mark Williams, head of technical UKIE at Ecolab Pest Elimination, discusses the impact of rodent activity and the practical ways in which risk can be reduced in your facility

Rodents threaten all businesses, from the damage they can cause to buildings, stock and equipment from gnawing, to the loss of productivity due to employee distress or illness from rodent borne disease. And let’s not forget the reputational damage pests can cause. Considering these risks, and associated costs, pest prevention is a priority for business. 

The best way to manage risk is an integrated approach using various techniques and tools to achieve long-term control. Central to achieving a successful integrated pest management programme is minimising activity by tracing back to root cause. A proactive approach places emphasis on solving rodent problems outside buildings before they can progress inside – this is called an 'outside-in approach', involving three layers of protection: exterior, entry points and interior.

Know thy enemy

Understanding rodent biology and behaviour, especially when around humans, is important to prevent and manage pest activity. Rodent behaviour is complex; they adapt to find food, water and harbourage. However, despite this complexity, rodents can also display predictable patterns of behaviour and understanding this is vital. So let’s look at some rodent characteristics which give us insight into how they operate in ‘our’ world.

Vision is extremely important for rodents, but not in the same way as it is for humans - rodent eyes are designed for night vision, they possess poor daylight vision and rely on enhanced night vision to navigate through dark areas which provide protection. Rodents can’t focus on close-up objects and use touch, primarily their whiskers, to examine immediate environments - including traps. 

In new environments rodents ‘hide’ before finding permanent harbourage and seek dark areas from where they can explore whilst keeping a low profile. Once permanent harbourage is found they establish routines. You may think this would assist rodent control however this isn’t always the case. When new objects, such as traps, are placed in familiar environments rodents exhibit neophobia – a fear of new objects – which causes avoidance meaning it may take longer for new traps to become effective. 

The first line of defence

The exterior is the first line of defence against rodents. Creating an ‘unattractive’ environment for rodents outside your building to keep them as far away from your building as possible is essential – remove potential harbourage, as well as food and water sources. Identifying and reducing pest pressure externally is often an effective long-term solution for establishing and maintaining pest-free environments. 

Keep rodents out

Rodents at building entry points are evidence that the building has, or is at high risk, of being compromised. The outside-in approach dictates that potential entry points are monitored and modified to reduce risk. Common entry points include open doors, structural holes or damage, gaps in expansion joints or around pipes, unscreened vents, loading bays and uninspected deliveries.

Monitor and educate

An effective outside-in approach minimises the risk of interior rodent activity and focuses on monitoring. Rodents found inside indicate there has been a breach across the first two layers of protection. Measures should be in place inside your building to complement exterior activities. Educating staff about good food hygiene practices within the workplace is a good place to start and it is essential that strict cleaning procedures are in place to ensure potential food sources are removed.

Form a strong partnership

It’s evident rodents pose a serious threat to maintaining safe and clean environments. They are highly adapted to living with humans and easily find ways to use our buildings and other resources. Creating rodent-free environments in commercial structures requires a strong partnership with a professional pest control provider, who can identify conditions that may lead to rodent activity and use preventative measures and monitoring systems to ensure the risk is minimised. The outside-in approach plays a central part in any pest elimination programme and forms the framework for long-term protection against rodents.