Pest Control for Birds and Rodents

The Cheese Stands Alone
If feathered friends from above aren’t a problem, look underfoot for uninvited guests.

“Rodents are adept at finding and pillaging anything edible and contaminating food sources with their droppings and urine. According to the CDC, rats and mice spread over 35 diseases to humans, both directly and indirectly,” says Hansen.

One reason rodents are difficult to address is because you may not have full access to your building, says Stern. You may be one of many tenants or have structures below your building that aren’t within your purview, sanitation that’s outside of your jurisdiction, or another property attached to your space.

Bats in the Bell Tower

No longer feared as vampires incarnate, bats are nonetheless a nuisance if they choose your building for roosting grounds.

“Bats are a problem in facilities where they can go undetected in high rafter areas, attics, and other undisturbed dimly lit areas,” notes Chrissy Hansen, a manager with Bird-X. “They are often found in older buildings, especially historic structures. Be aware that their droppings often contain fungal spores that can cause a potentially fatal respiratory infection.” 

Unlike other pests, bats can create a delicate legal situation. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are approximately a dozen bat species that are endangered or threatened. Under this designation, these varieties are protected under federal law and cannot be killed under any circumstances.

States have the option to expand this protection to additional bats native to their region, so it’s best to be aware of existing laws. For example, some states protect non-endangered bats in the wild but permit extermination if one is caught roosting in a building. Because you may not know whether the bats on your property are federally protected or not, it’s best to let a pest professional handle the situation.

Any exclusion methods should be handled during the winter or early spring when bats are typically hibernating. “You need to avoid excluding bats from May to September because they will have their young with them,” cautions Stoy Hedges, an entomologist with Terminix. “If the adult bats can’t return to the building, then the babies will die and their remains will create odor and fly issues.”

Gaps in flashing and signage are easy for bats to squeeze through, says Hedges, so use netting or other exclusion devices in these areas as a preventive measure.

According to Bat Conservation International (BCI), “one-way devices made from lightweight polypropylene netting (less than 1/6-inch mesh), plastic sheeting, or tube-type excluders are the preferred methods for evicting bats from buildings. Exclusion devices should be placed at all active entry points and should remain in place for at least five to seven days.”

Once you are confident the bats have moved elsewhere, begin bat proofing all exclusion points. BCI recommends using silicone caulking, caulk backing rod, hardware cloth, or heavy-duty polypropylene mesh as sealants, as well as keeping an eye out for any wood or structural components that may need repair.

Mice and rodents are also quite comfortable in places that humans tend to avoid – in and around sewer drains, dumpsters, dark underground tunnels, basements, dock areas, and roofs – making their removal a potentially dirty task.

Rodents don’t need a large opening to sneak into your building. If you can fit a pencil under a door or in a crack, a mouse can fit through, Hedges explains. A small rat can use an opening the size of a dime, while a large one can use a hole the width of a quarter. Any area that emits light, like under a door, can also be used as an entrance.

Your landscaping could be a culprit as well. Rodents like to burrow in mulch and soil. You can bury wire under the dirt that will act as a barrier to rodents without harm to your plants, says Stern.

“If you have large trees with branches touching the facade or roof, you’re giving rodents a natural pathway onto your building. Cut branches a minimum of 6 feet back from the wall,” Hedges recommends. “Make sure shrubs grow upward and don’t have ground-hugging coverage to eliminate another potential hiding spot.”

If rodents become a problem despite your best effects, traps are your next line of defense. Snap traps are chemical-free and there are many humane models that kill the mouse or rat instantly, as opposed to a glue board that allows the rodent to die of starvation.

“Mechanical traps also provide a body count so you can see the results of your efforts,” Stern says. “If you use poisons, you may not know how effective the trap is. Rodents will leave the bait site and die elsewhere, creating disposal and sanitary issues.”

“As a preventive measure, however, try using tamper-resistant bait stations on the exteriors to discourage rodents from entering the facility in the first place,” adds Hedges.

Natural repellants such as cayenne pepper gels can also be used to move rodents from critical areas to another that’s more suitable for traps. This approach is particularly ideal for kitchens, food storage, or healthcare settings.

Sound waves are another humane method and use sonic or ultrasonic frequencies to drive mice away from a space. These work well as a temporary approach, but should be complemented by additional strategies.

“Sound devices do repel rodents, but pests can also adjust to noise levels because the urge for food and habitat can be stronger than the annoyance,” Stern observes. “Sonic units are certainly one of many tools you can use, but they’re not going to resolve the issue completely.”

No matter which devices you use, it’s imperative to have a year-round rodent program, emphasizes Harrison. “You will always face rodent pressure. Are you or your pest control provider routinely filling in gaps, baiting around dumpster areas, and performing inspections to look for burrowing?”

An Ounce of Prevention
How much do you have set aside in your annual budget for preventive pest control?

Facility managers can make pest prevention a priority with many low-cost strategies. Make visual inspections a routine part of your maintenance program and implement simple fixes like door sweeps, good cleaning habits, and proper food storage.

For existing pests, costs are difficult to calculate because each building is unique. Factors that affect pricing are the type of pest being addressed, square footage of your building, extent of the infestation, equipment rental (such as scaffolding or lifts), materials, and labor. Some properties may be able to resolve their infestation with an inexpensive solution such as bird spikes or rodent traps, but other tactics may be required if the problem persists.

The most cost-effective strategies are always the ones that prevent unwanted guests from making your building their home in the first place.

 

Jennie Morton jennie.morton@buildings.com is associate editor of BUILDINGS.

 


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