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Unexpected Hot Spots: How to Manage Pests in Forgotten or Unused Spaces

By Jennifer Brumfield, Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services

As a property manager, pest management is a critical aspect of day-to-day business. And while pest management is often thought of in terms of resident satisfaction or online reputation, these high-priority threats may be hiding out in low-priority spaces. Residential properties have several spots that can be classified as unused or forgotten space. Because these areas are often dark, damp, or rarely frequented, they provide the perfect harborage for pests such as rodents and cockroaches. Property managers need to be aware of these additional pest hot spots to ensure the pest management programs they are enforcing in more common areas are not being performed in vain.

Maintenance Storage Rooms
Apartment properties have several storage areas, whether for pool equipment, maintenance tools, or janitorial supplies. For these rooms, it is important to keep storage racks 18 inches away from the wall to allow for thorough inspection behind them. Additionally, keep clutter to a minimum, as it provides the perfect hiding spot for pests. Maintenance staff should inspect ladders, tools, and other equipment for pest activity before storing them inside. All standing water should be cleaned up quickly to avoid attracting pests that prefer damp environments, such as cockroaches. Pests can also use wet mop heads as breeding grounds, so staff should be trained to wash and let mops completely dry before storing.

Package Rooms
The package room may not be an unused space, but it is often forgotten when it comes to pest control. These rooms are visited several times throughout the day, allowing pests to enter while residents and delivery personnel come and go. To help prevent pests, add weather stripping and door sweeps to entryways. Ensure vegetation around the package room entrance is well-maintained and is a minimum of two feet away from the walls of the building. The myriad of cardboard boxes inside package rooms provides harborage for pests like cockroaches and silverfish, so property managers should encourage residents to pick up packages swiftly or consider installing tightly-sealed package lockers. Take special care with meal preparation packages, which are becoming a bigger issue for property managers as deliveries from HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef, and others increase in popularity across the country. These deliveries hold fresh ingredients, and although they are often delivered in temperature-controlled packaging, they become a major pest threat if residents leave them to sit for more than a day.

Fitness Centers
Fitness centers within apartment complexes are fabulous amenities for residents, but they can also be an unexpected haven for pests. If providing gym locker rooms or bathrooms, ensure sanitation practices are in effect and that janitorial staff are regularly upkeeping the space. Fix any malfunctioning faucets and seal cracks around plumbing to help prevent leaks. Be mindful of floor drains, as blocked up drains can cause odors and small fly issues. Consider using bio-enzymatic cleaning solutions to break down floor grime around drains — these are non-toxic and can reduce odors by breaking down organic matter.

The Apartments
Bed bugs are pests that many property managers overlook in a gym setting. These pests are avid hitchhikers and can quickly find themselves taking a ride on personal belongs, such as purses and gym bags. Additionally, according to the University of Sheffield, bed bugs are more attracted to dirty laundry and human odor than recently washed items. So be sure to regularly inspect gym lockers, furniture, and any laundry baskets for bed bug activity. While pest activity in overlooked spaces around properties may not be impacting resident life or business reputation currently, they could be hiding signs of a growing infestation that will soon be popular knowledge. Because of this, it is imperative to identify these areas with a pest management provider. He or she will be able to develop a comprehensive plan for identifying issues, apply tailored treatments for any existing pest problems, and provide techniques for improving conditions and reducing attractants. By combining exclusion and sanitation techniques with a strong pest management partnership, property managers can be confident that their pest issues are not just “out of sight, out of mind.”

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