Deploying digital solutions for preventative pest control

Deploying digital solutions for preventative pest control

Paul Blackhurst, Head of Technical Academy, Rentokil Pest Control

2020 was an unforgettable year. The pandemic confined many of us to the walls of our home to safeguard against the spread of infection, leaving offices and other buildings largely uninhabited. This combined with favourable weather conditions for breeding over several years allowed rodent populations to thrive last year, which coincidentally was the year of the rat under the Chinese zodiac.

Corresponding with the first lockdown, residential rodent enquiries to Rentokil reached record levels for the months of March and April; a time in which rodent enquiries traditionally decline as the weather warms up. While the surge in enquiries over the lockdown period can partly be attributed to more people noticing rodent activity while they may be working from home, there’s a longer-term trend that we believe is contributing to the rise. Analysis shows web traffic to rodent advice pages jumped 37% in 2020, with Rentokil enquiry data for rodents showing an annual increase over five consecutive years (2015-2020). Experts have attributed this to warmer winters which are allowing populations to survive the colder months which usually curtail their numbers. The warmer weather is also meaning rats and mice are potentially producing more litters in a season.

These figures are a warning sign to anyone responsible for commercial premises that have remained largely unoccupied during lockdown. Empty buildings can be a haven for rodents to flourish, providing safe harbourage and often a source of food as well.

With hygiene likely to be top of the priority list for many businesses as they plan for a safe return for employees when the time comes, facilities managers will also want to be sure that pests haven’t moved into premises while their usual occupants have been working from home. Fortunately, there are steps businesses can take to prevent rats and mice from taking up residence in the first place.

Using technology to fight rodent infestations remotely

Businesses are increasingly turning to digital technologies to address pest issues as they provide continuous site surveillance to help inform pest prevention strategies. Innovative digital pest control management systems are providing 24/7 monitoring, rapid response and effective elimination of rodents. Rentokil’s PestConnect for example, is a connected and fully integrated pest control solution, that acts like a rodent burglar alarm. Connected devices send an alert to a technician when a rodent is detected. It can also determine exactly where in the building, and when, a pest has triggered an alarm. The technician can then visit the premises to dispose of the pest and address the root cause of the pest problem.

With PestConnect operating as your eyes and ears on the ground 24/7, there is no need to schedule unnecessary visits to your site. The deployment of digital technologies enables pest control teams to monitor rodent activity remotely, reducing the risk of a rodent infestation occurring and safeguarding premises, ready for when employees begin to return to the workplace.

Unprecedented insight into pest behaviour

Rodents are nocturnal and will come out of their hiding places at night in search of food and water. When the trigger information from over 7,000 PestConnect devices deployed across the country was analysed, we discovered the most common time that a rodent is active in an office setting is 0.36am.

While it’s useful to know when rats and mice are most active in the office, PestConnect can also tell you where in the building they are located. This can help our experts when working with our customers to be really targeted with their pest prevention strategies, by finding hidden entrances and rodent hiding places that may not otherwise be discovered. For example, analysis of our data found that 30% of rodent infestations occurring in warehouses originate in the loading bay area, where building entrances are frequently open.

Once rodents gain access to premises they can be very difficult to control. A mouse can survive on as little as three grams of food per day and can eat from up to 70 different sources of food within 24 hours. PestConnect helps to control these populations, while at the same time limiting the use of toxic pesticides. It uses three versions of ‘connected’ traps – ‘Dual AutoGate Connect’ which uses infrared sensors to detect rodents outside the premises, exposing rodenticide in bait stations to the target pest and then closing to seal off rodenticide from the outside environment after the target pest has been controlled, RADARConnect for those mice that manage to find their way indoors and Rat Riddance Connect, a ‘smart trap’ used to monitor for and control rat activity inside.

The system is compliant with the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) Code. Its RADARConnect traps kill rodents using carbon dioxide, a faster and more humane method of elimination, without using rodenticide. Rat Riddance Connect is a connected mechanical trap and Dual AutoGate Connect is a device with barrier between bait and the environment, which only opens during an active rodent infestation.

Harnessing the latest technological breakthroughs and innovation, digital pest management solutions can help businesses to manage and prevent infestations without causing harm to the environment, and with a level of efficiency and visibility not possible without connected solutions.

While deploying digital technologies on premises is now widely considered an integral part of a building’s pest control strategy, it is also important that the right protective measures are introduced to stop rodents entering the building in the first place. Once rodents gain access to a facility, they can be very difficult to control. It’s vital to conduct regular inspections of your facility’s interior and exterior to identify, and seal, any potential entry points for rodents and other pests. Mice can fit through a hole as small as the width of a biro, and rats have been known to enter buildings through damaged drains. Building and facilities managers should ensure gaps around the building’s exterior are sealed with wire wool, caulk, metal kick plates or cement.

Final thoughts

While we remain hopeful that life can return to some degree of normality in 2021, this year will inevitably bring its own challenges with the current lockdown and future restrictions. But with the right technology and systems in place, pest management does not need to be one of these challenges. Employing a preventative strategy using digital solutions will mean that costly infestations are much less likely to disrupt your business.

Digital pest control solutions provide an unprecedented level of insight for facilities managers, so they can create a highly effective pest management strategy that complies with all health and safety legislation, minimises technician call outs, and reduces a business’s environmental impact with the amount of pesticide used onsite.

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Deploying digital solutions for preventative pest control