Rats, Flies – Now Bed Bugs?

This quarantine has affected everyone and everything. We’ve missed birthdays, have had virtual graduations and proms, restaurants have created takeout and delivery where there may not have been, and we won’t know what kind of long-term effects this will have on mental health. Even pests are changing because of how we are changing. First, the rats start fighting amongst themselves and getting bolder in search of food. Next, the flies are swarming to wherever trash is accumulating causing infestations where they may not have been before. Now? The bed bugs are super hungry. What’s next? Wait – we don’t want to know.

But we did sit down with BCE entomologist, Shannon Sked, to discuss what is happening with pests during this quarantine. At least he knows what’s going on out there when it comes to pests. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: We already talked about what the quarantine is doing to rats. Are there any updates to that?

A: There was recently a great program by the NPMA (National Pest Management Association) on the impact the quarantine is having on rodents around the country. There are some new details being discovered, but the general idea is still consistent. Rodents are being starved in certain areas, causing them to move more to seek food. This, in combination with aggressive behavior between rodents in general and the lack of people out and about, is creating a situation where there are more rodent sightings and heavier pressure in areas where trash is more readily available (restaurant dumpsters, multi-family trash compactors, etc.).

One thing suspected by the experts in the industry, although we don’t know quite yet, is there’s a high chance that rodents have habituated areas that have been vacated. I would expect, of particular importance, buildings like hotels that have been relatively vacant will be found to have high levels of rodents taking up residency. This is because these areas, which used to be frequented by people are now quiet – creating a great location to take up refuge. If these low occupancy buildings are near food sources, the chances are even higher. This is extremely important for businesses looking to open back up soon. They will need to ensure any rodents that have taken up residence in their properties are eliminated before opening in order to protect their brands. Therefore, returning to routine pest control services, and some intensive services, is of utmost importance now.

Q: We also discussed the excessive number of flies associated with the accumulation of trash right now. Has anything more happened with that?

A: As we start experiencing warmer and warmer temperatures, we’ll likely see this continue and the issues increase. Flies, unlike rodents, are temperature-dependent animals. As we get into the heat of summer, their biological activities (breeding, etc.) increase. So again, it’s critical that pest control services return as soon as possible if they have been delayed. Without the service, the problem will persist and likely increase. Another important item to return to is increased sanitation services in order to make the environment less conducive for flies. Combined, these two actions will greatly help in preventing any poor health inspection report or social media posts related to fly problems.

Q: Now that we’ve gotten those updates, tell us what’s going on with bed bugs right now. We hear they are hungrier than usual.

A: Bed bugs are pretty incredible animals. There was a lab study that showed an adult female was able to live for well over a year in starved conditions. Subsequent field studies out of Rutgers, which was more in line with what happens in the real world, still showed bed bugs can easily survive for over 6 months without feeding. Considering this, and the fact we’ve been in lockdown for only a couple months, I would assume that the bed bugs did not go away. And they are likely to be quite hungry right now in places that had low occupancy. Therefore, it would be very wise for places like hotels to have a full inspection done prior to getting back to full openings. This can be done in a timely manner using well-trained canine teams like those we deploy at Western Pest Services. Additionally, this is a perfect time to have this done (prior to opening) as guests won’t be bothered by the teams. It will allow the Facilities Directors to identify exactly where bed bugs are and have those infestations treated BEFORE guests return in high numbers. It’s an opportune time to “reset the clock” so to speak and get the count down as close to zero before opening. This will certainly help to protect brands that are already struggling because of the quarantine.

Q: Well that was a lot of information – thanks for that. Are any other pest problems being made worse by this quarantine? If so, what can be done?

A: This is a great question. One thing I’ve always appreciated as a biologist is that in ecological systems (natural and otherwise) life finds a way. Populations will find new niches elsewhere when resources are limited where they once were plentiful. In short… somehow, someway, “Life” always finds a way! Just think of an abandoned building overtaken by weeds, then trees, etc.

Insects and other pests are quite the same. At a population level, they take advantage of opportunities as they arise and find new opportunities when resources such as food and harborage are limited. With what we’ve experienced recently, we are seeing more of a shift in pest pressures rather than an increase/decrease. In other words, where we find pests has certainly changed right now. But the principles are the same. Look for the resources or the conducive conditions, and you’ll likely find the pest. Where there is food (trash/sanitation issues) and harborage (quiet locations/abandoned facilities), we’ll find the pests. Our job is to mitigate those in order to reduce the impact of pests on peoples’ health, property, brands, and overall wellbeing.

Thanks to Shannon for taking time out of his incredibly busy scheduling to speak with us about all this. The best advice we can give you after digesting this information is to give Western Pest Services a call. We have Board Certified entomologists like Shannon on staff who can assess your pest situation – even if it’s abnormal pest behavior – and can create a solution. Contact us today.

Author: Western Pest Services