Pest Control – Part 1

Keeping a well-maintained self storage facility involves assorted tasks, one of the least pleasant of which involves the eradication of pests that can make any storage experience unappealing. Rats, mice, pigeons, cockroaches, ants, termites, snakes and other pests will not only chase away storers, they will make a business distasteful to your employees who operate it.

Eliminating pests in your storage facility is different from confronting them in your own home. At home we have the luxury of deciding our particular comfort levels when it comes to pests. Some people see a couple of ants in the kitchen and shrug them off as a fact of life. Others see an ant crossing the driveway 10 metres from the house and call in the troops.

As business owners, you don’t share the same advantage. An inch-long cockroach standing guard at a customer’s roller door isn’t the best way to start a relationship with a potential client. While a complete pest-control report would be impossible in the scale of one article, the following will hopefully provide sound advice in some of the areas storage operators find most challenging.

Eliminating Rats and Mice
Rats often cause electrical fires in buildings by gnawing through plastic electrical junction boxes. Rats must constantly gnaw on hard objects to cut back their continually growing incisor teeth. They live in the most un-sanitary places, and are carriers of serious health risks to humans from their droppings and constant incontinence (they use urine trails to find their way in the dark).

There are two pest species of rats commonly found in commercial premises – the brown rat and the black rat. The identification of each species is essential to formulate an effective control program. Unless you consider simply accepting the presence of rodents at your self storage facility, which we advise that you don’t, there are a few basic steps to a rodent control program. To be effective, all steps must be taken in order to eradicate or control the problem.

1. Sanitation
Short of seeing a rat scurrying across your driveway or smelling a dead one, the most obvious sign of these non-rent-paying pests is their droppings. Other less obvious indications are gnaw marks in electrical or PVC conduits, rips or holes on the coverings to heating and cooling ducts, and open burrows filled with nesting materials. A pest-control professional may use a black light in a darkened area to detect the presence of urine trails or special powders to track little footprints.

Rats and mice live in drains, under concrete, in sub-floors and in garbage refuse areas, kitchens, roof voids and other areas where a potential food source and moisture source is available.

Rats and mice often become a serious problem in cold winter months when they seek food and warmth inside buildings. They may suddenly appear in large numbers when excavation work disturbs their in-ground nesting locations or their food source is changed. For example rats feeding in school premises may enter adjoining properties during school holidays.

2. Sanitation
Rodents thrive where food and water is readily available. This generally tends to be less of an issue in self storage facilities. No doubt you have rules as to what your tenants can and cannot store in their spaces. Obviously, food for human or animal consumption should be strictly prohibited. Storers should be required to dispose of unwanted items and rubbish off-site and the facility skip or rubbish bins should be secure and emptied daily.

Water and food bowls for any pets or otherwise should not be left out at night as this will encourage a rodent infestation in the building.

3. Exclusion
There is no more important issue in pest control than a tight building. As a preventative measure, all potential rodent entry points into the building should be sealed to physically exclude rats and mice from entering the building. In some cases this can be carried out by a handy man. In a more complicated storage environments, a pest controller can provide specifications and carry out rodent proofing of the premises. While it will not always be cost-effective to completely seal off the structure, and rodents are particularly persistent and adept at exploiting structural weaknesses, the harder you make them work, the better the chances they won’t get in.

Tips on rodent-proofing a building
– Trim any vegetation away from the facility. Never allow overhanging tree branches to make contact with the building or roof.
– Expanding foam is just a quick fix – always use heavy-gauge hardware cloth or flashing to cover holes and gaps.
– In any wooden structures, check for water damage or soft spots.
– Consider self- closing exterior doors wherever possible.
– Maintain screens on all windows that can be opened.

4. Elimination
Professional knowledge of the rodent’s habits is essential to eradicate the problem. For is essential to eradicate the problem. For example, rats avoid bait touched by human hand – they have an acute sense of smell hence the ‘cunning as a rat’ term. Pest control options may include the use of sticky traps, mechanical or snap traps and the selective use of latest generation rodent baits. Any baiting program should use safety dispensers placed in areas and is secure from access by children or pets – such as in a roof void and sealed sub-floor.

Ring the experts for any baiting program to obtain essential rapid control using the latest and safest technology. Some of the older style rat baits are ineffective as the rodents have built up immunity due to their widespread use during the past 30 years. According to those in the business, the best way to kill a rat is still a spring-loaded metal trap mounted on a piece of wood or snap trap.

OK, ‘best’ might not be the right word for those of us not apt towards handling dead rodents. However it remains the most effective method to quickly eliminate an established population. It also requires the least expertise and expense, but may not be the best ‘looking’ option for both your clients and your employees.

Another option is a sticky trap or glue board. Basically, it is a piece of plastic or cardboard coated with a glue like substance. This is placed much like snap traps. Sticky traps tend to be ineffective against larger rodents, as even professional grade stick stuff isn’t strong enough to bog any rat with some sense of self-preservation. Generally it will hold a mouse or you rat. If you lay and maintain these yourself, be prepared to deal with a very unhappy little camper if it’s still alive.

Just a quick word about electronic devices. Sometimes called ultrasonic or electromagnetic pest repellents, they tout high-frequency sound waves or electro magnetic pulses as a means of controlling rodents, insects and a variety of other unwanted wildlife. They all have one thing in common: according to professional pest controllers, they don’t work! Unfortunately the best way to control a rodent population is to eliminate as much of it as you can and then take preventative measures for future management.

This brings us to the subject of controlling pests with poison. There are a number of products available for use by the general public. Although, I can’t stress strongly enough that while poison baits and fumigants are a highly effective means of eliminating rodent populations, they should only be applied by a licensed, insured professional. The cost of obtaining professional rodent control will vary depending on the size of the facility and the severity of the infestation as several visits may be necessary to monitor and replenish the bait stations. Applicable service warranties may also vary depending on the circumstances.

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