Cockroaches, rats, and other pests have plagued commercial facilities for much longer than computer viruses. Along with general grossness, pests present a health concern to end-users and distract from a facility’s appearance. Increasingly, research has pinpointed pest infestation as the trigger or cause of a host of diseases. In response to this age-old menace, pest management has evolved to better understand and safely combat these unwanted visitors.
According to the National Pest Management Association (www.pestworld.org), based in Dunn Loring, VA, pests can cause serious threats to human health, including diseases such as rabies, salmonellosis, dysentery, and staph. A study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a report in the New England Journal of Medicine show that cockroach allergens can cause health problems for asthmatic children.
Cockroaches have been reported to spread at least 33 kinds of bacteria, six kinds of parasitic worms, and at least seven other kinds of human pathogens. They can pick up germs on their bodies as they crawl through decaying matter and then carry these onto food surfaces. Rats and mice are also responsible for several conditions, ranging from dermatitis to the more serious Hantavirus. Bird waste and nests damage building exteriors and create a nuisance for passers-by.
Steritech (www.steritech.com), Charlotte, NC, is a pest prevention and food safety-related services firm serving commercial clients. Instead of focusing on pesticides, the company stresses that its clients consider the three S’s: storage, sanitation, and structure.
Structural considerations include sealing cracks and screening holes in the facility where pests can enter, or ventilation systems that suck small flying insects into the building. Storage refers to storing trash pails or dumpsters near building entrances. Sanitation is leaking garbage or standing water on a site. Birds are often attracted to these sanitation issues and will nest on a building, causing further damage.
After reviewing and correcting these issues with the building owner, the next big focus, according to Michael McGuiness, technical director, Pest Prevention Division, Steritech Group, Atlanta, is employee practices. Common employee practices that encourage critters include propping open external doors and eating and/or storing food in desks and work areas. “Food should be kept in a central fridge. A few crumbs of a cookie and ants will lay down a pheromone trail to the food source and other insects can pick up on that trail and you are creating a highway system for insects to other offices,” says McGuiness. It is best if all foods are stored in a designated area.
“When mice get inside a building, it is a nightmare; they live in people’s desks and eat their granola bars,” says McGuiness. Cockroaches are also easily vectored into a building via bags from stores.
Beware of that trash can under your desk: Office garbage receptacles are another pest lure if they are not emptied regularly. Steritech urges facility managers of large cubicle work areas without a cafeteria to have a central designated food trash can.
“Many of the pests we deal with are introduced species,” explains McGuiness. Without natural predators, these pests proliferate. Indiscriminate pesticide use, instead of eliminating pests, will cause pest populates to merely peak and valley. Adds McGuiness, “One week there is nothing and the next there are insects everywhere.”
“The work that we do truly is a partnership between the business and the pest control company, rather than the pest control company just coming in to do something,” says Cathy Mannes, director of public affairs, National Pest Management Association. The current trend in pest management is to take an integrated approach, monitoring specialized baits and low pesticide usage.
Birds, for example, can be discouraged from nesting in facilities by removing lures and installing invisible netting or small, harmless spikes. Rodent stations can help pest management professionals detect rodent sources. Insect monitors can be inspected regularly to identify the insects’ species and locations. The use of insect growth regulator can arrest insects in a non-producing juvenile stage.
However, the best tools cannot combat a lack of communication between the building team and pest management professionals. The National Pest Management Association, in addition to educating its members, strives to teach the general public. “It is anecdotal, but we have heard from our members that many customers are doing more research on the Internet and are becoming more knowledgeable about pests,” says Mannes.
McGuiness encourages facilities management staff to post signs urging end-users to report pest sightings and to record these occurrences in a central log. Despite a pest management professional’s efforts, even the best program may not be successful if all of these parties aren’t working together.
Regina Raiford Babcock (email@example.com) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.