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How to: Rodent Proof Your Restaurant This Winter

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

A quick Google search of restaurant closings in New York is all the evidence you need – rodents are a major issue for the metro New York area. In fact, Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a $32 million plan to reduce New York City’s rat population.

Rats and mice are a year-round problem, but they become particularly troublesome to foodservice establishments as cooler weather sets in. When temperatures drop, rodents are driven indoors in search of food and shelter. Unlike other pests that come indoors during winter and emerge in spring, rodents may never leave once inside. As long as they have food, water and a comfy nesting place, rodents may become permanent restaurant patrons.

Rodents are bad for business. In addition to alarming customers and tarnishing your reputation, they present major health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rodents are known to spread more than 35 diseases worldwide, which can be passed on to humans directly through contact with feces, urine, or saliva, or indirectly by the ticks, mites, and fleas that feed on rodents. A contaminated food product could spread such diseases as Salmonella, tape worms, jaundice and hantavirus.

Rodents can also damage property. Rodents love to gnaw — the word rodent is actually derived from the Latin word for “gnaw” and gnaw they do. They’ll chew on just about anything they can sink their teeth into, including wood, paper, and dry wall. They also chew on electrical wires because they resemble roots — their natural food source. This can be a major fire hazard.

To protect your restaurant from the risks associated with rodents, work with a pest management professional to implement the following Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tactics.

Start with Exclusion

Exclusion is a pillar of IPM and it goes hand in hand with rodent control. Rodents are skilled climbers, can run horizontally along pipes and wires, and jump distances of eight feet, which means there are multiple ways for them to gain access to your restaurant. Mice and juvenile rats also have slight bodies, which allow them to pass through holes as small as a dime, while adults rats can squeeze through holes the size of a quarter. All of that said, eliminating entry points should be a priority.

Monitor for Signs of Rodents

After you’ve taken the steps to keep rodents out, be sure to maintain a strict sanitation routine to ensure you don’t give rodents a reason to stick around if they do get inside, and keep an eye out for signs of rodents. If you suspect rodent activity, the sooner you act to identify the problem and resolve it, the better. Rodents are prolific breeders – particularly mice. One pair of mice can produce 200 offspring in just four months, so it’s easy for an introduction to spiral into a full-blown infestation if it’s not addressed.

Consider placing tamper-resistant bait stations around the exterior of the building. These stations can be used to monitor rodent activity. Work with your pest management professional to determine what type of placements are needed.

Also, train your employees to recognize the signs of rodents, including:

Take these steps now, before the weather gets cold, to help make sure your restaurant isn’t attracting rodents this winter.

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 Total Food Service.