Whether it's rain or warm weather, expect pest pressure

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Ron Harrison, Ph.D.
Ron Harrison, Ph.D.

As the weather heats up, so does pest activity. And pests don't necessarily slow down when the warm weather leads to afternoon rain in many parts of the country.

Pests need food and moisture to survive, so — as more than one country song suggests — rain is a good thing. As a result, rain and food sources will increase pest activity outside. When the food supply runs out or conditions become harsh, pests may move inside your healthcare facility to meet their needs.

Pests look for a nice home to hang out in, and that home may look a lot like your facility. Mosquitoes need standing water to thrive and breed, so the extra rainfall combined with optimal temperatures lead to an explosion of their population.

Mice and rats become particularly active when precipitation levels are on the rise because rain spurs vegetation, which then provides plenty of food. In fact, the correlation is so strong that many rodent trap suppliers base their production on rainfall.

Even if you are in an area of the country that doesn't have a 50% chance of rain built into the daily summer forecasts, pests can still be active. In fact, warm temperatures and dry conditions can drive pests inside looking for cooler harborage, water and food. Also remember irrigating the lawns, flower beds and shrubs does provide the water pests need

So how should you deal with summer pest pressures at your facility? An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is a good place to start.

Identify Your Threats
Moisture and heat can get cockroaches moving. Scorpions do fine in dryer conditions. Mice can get moisture from what they eat, but rats cannot. It's important to identify what pests are in your area and what factors will impact them, such as what kind of food they need.

Identification is always the crucial first step in managing pests. Have a professional who can identify the pest as well as conducive conditions come out to your facility and take a look around.

Seal Your Facility
Mice can squeeze through holes the size of a dime, while rats can fit through openings the size of a quarter. Other active summer pests like ants and cockroaches slide through gaps barely noticeable to the human eye.

Seal cracks and crevices in your building's exterior with weather-resistant sealant and add metal mesh to prevent rodents from gnawing into your building. Use weather stripping around all windows and doors.

Monitor for Activity
Check your facility for sources of excess moisture and standing water — remember, mosquitoes must have standing water to breed and for eggs and larvae to complete their life cycle. Hot spots for standing water include your roof, outdoor common areas, walkways and parking lots. Even some plants hold enough water in them for larvae to develop. Inside, be sure to clean up spills immediately and inspect any freezers, ice machines and HVAC units for potential leaks.

Be sure to train your staff on how to identify signs of pests. Rodents leave calling cards like droppings, gnaw marks and rub markings. Cockroaches also leave droppings and — if there are enough of them — emit unpleasant odors. If your staff spots any live or dead pests, or any signs of pests, make sure they know to alert your pest management provider immediately.

Keep these tips in mind and talk with a pest management professional about setting up an IPM program for your facility, which can help keep it clear of pests in all kinds of weather.

Ron Harrison, Entomologist, Ph.D., is Director of Technical Services for Orkin and an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. Contact Dr. Harrison at rharriso@orkin.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com for more information.

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