Pest season is about to spring up

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Greg Baumann
Greg Baumann
As winter winds give way to spring breezes, pest season will be in the air. More pleasant temperatures won't only please residents — you can also expect to see an increase in pest population. For long-term care facilities, fair weather may encourage residents, visitors and staff to increase trips between the indoors and outdoors, allowing more pests the opportunity to enter the facility. In addition, landscape activity picks up in the spring which may disturb some pest populations, driving them to seek new habitats. Then there are spring showers that can leave behind standing water that has the potential to attract pests.  

The best way to combat these pests is with a strong Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that takes a proactive approach to reducing pest presence by reducing the resources they need to survive – food, water and shelter.  Before winter thaws completely, spring into action with tips to keep these “fair weather friends” from becoming permanent residents.

Flying and stinging pests

Flying and stinging pests wiped out by the cold weather will begin to reemerge in the spring.  Flies pose a danger to your residents, employees and visitors because they carry up to half-a-billion microbes on their bodies.  Each time a fly lands, it sheds pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella – posing infection and food safety risks in dining areas.  Stinging pests can cause allergic reactions ranging from swelling at the site of the sting to anaphylactic shock.  Deter these pests from pestering your facility by implementing the following tips:

  • Install a double set of sliding doors to create a buffer zone between the outside and inside environment in high-traffic areas such as the lobby and other common rooms. 
  • Check your facility's airflow by holding a strip of paper near a door. Does the paper blow outward when you open the door? That's positive airflow, which can help blow pests out the door. Negative airflow, on the other hand, can pull flying pests into your facility any time a door is opened. Work with an HVAC professional to correct negative airflow. 
  • Install fly lights, which use ultra-violet light to draw pests into a sticky trap. These are especially useful in high-traffic areas and near doors to food service and waste disposal areas. They also serve as a monitoring tool that your pest professional can use to determine any corrective action necessary.
  • Work with your landscaping professional to keep vegetation trimmed to deter flying and stinging pests from nesting outside your facility.

Cockroaches

Cockroaches seek out foodservice areas in healthcare facilities where they can find easy access to food and moisture.  Once established, these pests can quickly spread throughout a healthcare facility.  In fact, a cockroach can produce up to 400 offspring in just six months and can live up to two months without food.  Like flies, they live and breed in filth and have the potential to spread germs wherever they go.  Stop cockroaches with these tips:

  • Engage your facility maintenance professional to seal any cracks and crevices in the building's façade with weather-resistant sealant – cockroaches that are associated with landscaping only need a 1/16 inch opening to enter a building.  
  • Install door sweeps under doors and weather stripping around both doors and windows, which can provide a barrier to roaches. 
  • Place glue traps underneath kitchen equipment and in corners to identify problems early on.  These traps can help you catch cockroaches, and proactively monitor for pest activity.
  • Keep your facility clean with a written sanitation plan that you follow regularly to reduce food and water sources for cockroaches.
  • Regularly remove trash from the facility and place dumpsters as far away from the building as possible. 

Ants

Ants will be marching come spring– you just want to make sure it's not in a line leading to your building.  Stinging ants in the southern United States have been known to attack bedridden patients.  Ants also have been known to invade IV lines in search of moisture.  The same exterior maintenance practices used to deter cockroaches can help with ants as well.  In addition, implement the following tips:

  • Eliminate debris and food waste from around the exterior of the structure.  Food wrappers and crumbs can lure ants closer to your building where they are than more likely to find entry points.
  • Repair any leaking hose bibs or irrigation heads promptly to eliminate sources of moisture that encourage ant foraging near the structure.
  • Encourage residents and employees to avoid creating a “picnic area” for pests by cleaning up after enjoying an outdoor lunch. 
  • Ask staff to store any food left in break areas and locker rooms in tightly sealed containers so ants are unable to find an easy food source.

Spring is just around the corner, but before the temperatures rise, you still have time to mark off a few preventive steps to ensure spring blossoms at your facility pest-free.

Greg Baumann is Vice President of Training and Technical Service for Orkin. A degreed chemist and licensed pest management professional, his global pest management experience spans 30 years.  For more information, e-mail gbaumann@rollins.com.

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