How to

28 November 2016

Plug Up Holes or Suffer a Rat Infestation This Winter

A polar vortex is expected to bring bitter weather within the next couple weeks, say forecasters, experts in reading the tides of the world stage. Unfortunately, aside from cold temperature, the human race must also prepare for a rodent invasion. Largely due to the impending shift in ambient temperature, you may find rats weaselling into crevices leading straight into your warm home. Dee Ward-Thompson, technical manager of the British Pest Control Association, said “We have had abnormally mild conditions throughout the UK this year and that is likely to have led to an increase in the number of rats. Any cold snaps on the way will drive them into buildings in search of shelter and they’ll also go scrounging for food from bins and bird tables.”

According to Pontefract & Castleford Express, the average home can have more than a dozen entry points from the outdoors. Entry points can be anywhere, from 2 cm gaps in unscreened vents or eaves/roof edges to plumbing pipes. Once in the house, humans must be wary of the potential diseases rats carry. Rats can pass Leptospirosis, Salmonella, Listeria, Toxoplasma gondii, and Hantavirus to humans through their urine. If they’ve gotten into the house, it’s best to be extremely cautious when preparing food; who knows what little feet have been scurrying across the countertop.

Aside from the health risks associated with the disease-carriers, rats will “foul water tanks and chew on wood or electrical wires which can cause a lot of damage and poses a fire hazard,” says Ward-Thompson. Without a steady source of food, rats within the house will migrate from relatively unseen places (in the walls, under the floors) to areas replete with food (in the kitchen). Rats are omnivorous and will eat anything that humans do. Even worse than imagining tiny rat hands clutching your breakfast cereal is the fact that rats breed like rabbits. If left to their own devices, breeding is an inevitability leading to nests scattered throughout the house.

The British Pest Control Association (BPCA) says that rooting out infestations is much more difficult than simply taking preventative measures against one. Here are their recommendations:
  1. Inspect your property by looking for gaps, holes, and crevices.
  2. Minimise nesting areas by trimming back overgrown parts of your garden and clearing yard waste.
  3. Check that doors and windows close and clear off drain covers.
  4. Be sure that bins are fully closed and that no litter, especially food, is on the ground. Cover compost heaps.
  5. Tidy the area around bird feeders and take pet food bowls in at night.

Lastly, if you do unearth an infestation, it’s important to contact pest professionals who are well-equipped to deal with the task at hand. A pest controller will be intimately familiar with rat habitats, activities, and routes of entry. To ensure a job well done, Ward-Thompson suggests “employing a company or individual affiliated with the BPCA,” since the association has “established strict criteria to ensure the professionalism of our members so controllers carrying our logo will carry out safe, effective, and legal treatments.”

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).