QUESTION: Dan, I am having a rat problem in a commercial account I have had for a while, but rats were never a problem before. How do I find out what I am missing?
—Roiling At The Situation
ANSWER: Well, RATS, rodents have the same basic needs we do, and some of the psychological needs, too. Animals need food, water, warmth and shelter. They also have a sense of belonging in their community. They explore their environments to satisfy basic needs and interact with the world around them. When you’re trying to solve the issue, then, ask yourself, “If I were a fur-covered, 1-pound animal, hungry and cold, what would I do, and where would I go?”
First, look at how the rats are getting into the building. There are three basic possibilities:
1. PERIMETER GAPS
A patient, thorough inspection usually can find the holes and gaps in the facility, with rub marks and chewed edges often pointing the way. Whenever possible, try to eliminate the conditions that are drawing the rodents close to the building, whether that is food debris, or a harborage/passageway.
My experience has been that trapping and exclusion during the same visit works well. It actually tends to lessen the impact of neophobia, because everything is new, not just your traps.
2. HIDDEN ACCESS POINTS
Think connected structures, or underground utility penetrations. Be prepared to invest your time into sleuthing around. Go to and look at everything you can safely explore. In cooperation with your client, open doors, look in ceiling voids and utility closets, and, if you are confident the rodents are traveling inside the walls, work closely with the client to open walls and other hidden areas for inspection, corrective actions, eradication and exclusion as necessary.
3. CULTURAL CONTROLS
This category is the most challenging from a client-relationship perspective. Clients are looking to you, the pest management professional, to solve their problems. They do not want to hear “it’s not my fault, it’s yours, or your supplier’s problem,” even though it’s the truth. From asking them to close doors to training them on how to inspect incoming goods, tread lightly, show compassion and concern, and move forward in partnership with your clients to resolve issues. Never let them feel abandoned.
In all cases, though, remember the core function we serve: We help maintain a pest-free environment for our clients. Help does not mean we can (or should) do everything for them, because we can’t.
IN OTHER WORDS…
- Know how to identify the pests you are likely to encounter, and other potentially problematic pests that may be found in your area. This is especially important if you move into a new service area. Rodent species aren’t uniform throughout the country, and rodent pressure can vary greatly from town to town, even neighborhood to neighborhood.
- Exercise your intellectual curiosity and look for all the places the pest may gain entry, hide and travel. If you don’t find the entry points, harborage, or food source easily, keep looking until you do. Place monitors with non-toxic tracking baits in appropriate locations, or use other “site-appropriate” materials to learn where the rodents are traveling.
- Find, document and communicate any conducive conditions that must be addressed.
- Keep following up, on a schedule that makes sense for the level of the problem and the setting.
Email your questions about insect identification and pest management technologies to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your questions most likely will be printed and answered in one of Pest Management Professional’s upcoming columns.
BALDWIN is director of technical, training and regulatory services for Terminix Commercial. He may be reached at email@example.com.