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Two Persistent Pests to Keep off the Menu This Summer

By Jennifer Brumfield, Training and Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services

For many restaurants, summer is the busiest time of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also prime pest season. As temperatures increase so do the number of pests, which means restaurants should be prepared for an onslaught of pest pressures. Two pests in particular that can give grief to restaurants during the warm summer months are flies and ants. Here’s a look at both pests and a few tricks you can use to help keep them away.

Filth Flies

Flies are more than just a nuisance. These pests should be a top pest control concern for your restaurant—bottom line. Here’s just a few reasons why:

Flies are among the filthiest of all pests. Though small, flies are capable of carrying and transmitting numerous diseases, including typhoid, cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, salmonella and anthrax. They carry diseases on their legs and hairs, and every time they land they can defecate, regurgitate and deposit thousands of bacteria in only seconds.

The fly earned its filthy reputation because of its diet. This pest feeds on decaying and putrefying organic materials including garbage, animal feces, carcasses and food waste, and as a result, spends much of its time hanging out in sewers and dumpsters.

Flies are rapid breeders. Female houseflies can produce 1,000 eggs in the span of a month. Under ideal conditions, those eggs can hatch within 24 hours and larvae can develop into adults in as little as a week. This is significant because it means without proper prevention and ongoing treatment, an infestation can occur and become out of control quickly.

Flies can negatively affect your reputation. Your diners expect good service, good food and a cleanly, pleasant environment in which to eat – swatting or shooing a fly away doesn’t fit that picture. For some people, even one fly is one too many and a sighting alone can turn them away from your restaurant for good.

But it’s not just fly sightings that are troublesome; flies can damage your reputation without being seen, too. If someone dines at your restaurant and doesn’t feel well the next day—remember, foodborne illness can be spread by flies—they may intuitively associate how they feel with what they ate and be less likely to revisit your establishment.

Fly problems often indicate bigger issues. If the other four reasons weren’t enough for you, consider this: flies tend to thrive in areas of uncleanliness, so persistent fly problems can be a sign that you have significant gaps in your sanitation routine. And if you are attracting flies, chances are you’re attracting other pests as well, such as rodents and cockroaches.

If not dealt with properly, flies can become a recurring problem that is both unsightly and unsanitary. So it’s important to maintain fly control throughout the year with the help of a pest control professional.

Here are a few measures you can take to help prevent fly issues:


Ants differ from flies in that they don’t transmit dangerous bacteria, nor do they elicit the same ick-factor – usually – but don’t count them out. While some ant problems can be relatively benign, others can be a major nuisance, cause food spoilage and contamination, and a poor customer perception.

As the weather warms up, ants can appear in multitudes, drawn inside looking for food, water, and shelter. They can enter restaurants through even the smallest cracks and crevices. Ants are social pests, so if you see one, there’s likely more. Plus, when an ant finds a food or water source, it can leave a pheromone trail for the rest of the colony to follow, thus the infamous ant trail.

Ants are tireless, versatile invaders with strong survival skills, so their colonies can be difficult to control. In fact, an established colony can take weeks to treat.

There are a few key issues that usually lead to ant problems: maintenance and sanitation gaps, plentiful and accessible food and water sources, and easy entry points. Here are some measures you can take to address these issues and help prevent ants from antagonizing you and your diners this summer:

All of these ant and fly prevention tips should be implemented as part of an ongoing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. IPM is a proactive approach to pest control that uses sanitation, exclusion and mechanical controls to help eliminate the things that attract pests to your restaurant in the first place. A pest management professional can inspect your property and work with you to develop an IPM program tailored to your restaurant’s specific needs and characteristics.

Another factor that can contribute to the success of your pest control program is getting your employees involved. Inform your employees about your IPM program and the threat pests can pose. Encourage them to do their part in keeping the restaurant pest-free. If a pest or pest-conducive condition is sighted, make sure they know who to report the problem to. Ask your pest management provider if they can conduct employee training or provide educational resources to help your team understand their role.

Keep flies and ants off the menu this summer. Work with a pest management professional to regularly inspect and monitor for signs of fly and ant activity and determine the best control techniques for your establishment.

Jennifer Brumfield is a Training and Technical Specialist and Board-Certified Entomologist for Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets.

Originally featured at Restaurant Hospitality.