The Rise of the Rats
New figures from Rentokil Pest Control point to a 36 per cent rise in rodent-related enquiries in the UK since last winter, and suggest a steady growth of rat numbers since 2016.
Pest control experts have said that colder winters used to naturally cull rat numbers, but that milder weather patterns are allowing more rodents to survive the season. To compound this issue, prolonged, hotter summers are creating the perfect conditions for young mice and rats to survive the nest, feed and breed.
The gestation period for rats is just three weeks, and just ten weeks after leaving the nest they become sexually mature, while the mother becomes receptive to mating again shortly after giving birth. Mice reach sexual maturity earlier than rats and produce larger litters at a more frequent rate. With more rodents surviving the nest it has created larger populations, which have continued to multiply.
According to Rentokil’s ‘Rise of the Rat’ report, two rats can become 482,508,800 rats after just three years in an ideal environment.
Paul Blackhurst, Head of Technical Academy at Rentokil Pest Control, says:
“Weather conditions can affect pest numbers, with Rentokil experts attributing unusually warm spells to increased populations. 2019’s summer was the hottest on record for the Northern Hemisphere, and the surge in rodent sightings this winter are a legacy of these conditions, as more young rodents survived through to adulthood and were then able to breed almost immediately.
“It’s only now that we’re starting to see the effects of the population increase, as rain and a drop in temperature cause rats and mice to migrate indoors, where there’s more food and shelter. With heavy rain falling across the country it’s likely we’ll continue to record a rise in rodent enquiries as rats are displaced from their burrows.
“However, there are steps businesses can take to ensure pests are kept at bay, with digital pest control increasingly important to rodent prevention. For example, Rentokil’s PestConnect is an innovative digital pest management system, providing 24/7 monitoring, rapid response and effective elimination of rodents. This connected and fully integrated pest control solution acts like a rodent burglar alarm, providing more insight into rodent activity than ever before.
“It’s essential to ensure rubbish is stored in a strong bin with a lid that is large enough to prevent waste from overflowing. Rodents and other pests can easily tear through black bin liners to get to unwanted food.”
Tips for homeowners
By knowing the signs to look out for and taking practical preventative steps, homeowners can greatly reduce their chances of playing host to these unwanted visitors.
Here’s how to identify a rodent problem in your home:
1. Smell and sound: Rats and mice have a very strong ammonia stench. On top of this, rodents are often very noisy, making audible scrabbling noises in the premises.
2. Droppings: Rats excrete dark, pellet-shaped droppings up to 14mm. Mice droppings are typically 5mm and spindle shaped.
3. Smears: Rodents use established routes along skirting boards and walls due to their poor eyesight. You may notice grease marks where rodents brush up against your walls and surfaces.
4. Footprints: Rats can leave foot and tail marks in dusty, less-used areas of your accommodation – such as the attic or basement. Shining a strong flashlight at a low angle should reveal tracks clearly. To establish if an infestation is active, sprinkle fine flour or talc along a small stretch of floor near the footprints and check for fresh tracks the next day.
5. Burrows: Brown rats are well known for digging and excavating extensive burrow systems for shelter, food shortage and nesting. They build burrows next to structures, such as sheds or garages, and are also found in secluded, well-vegetated areas such as gardens.
6. Damage: Gnawing marks, shredded paper and damage to food storage containers are all common signs of rodent activity.
It is, of course, best to prevent the presence of rodents in the first place. You can do this by going back to basics by making sure you don’t provide these creatures with the ideal conditions in which to thrive. Simple things like effective cleaning, ensuring food waste is properly sealed and stored can make a big difference and try not to leave food out on the side in kitchens.
If you do see any obvious holes in the exterior of your home that you think rodents can use as entrance points, then be sure to talk to a professional pest controller who will fill these up with wire wool, caulk, metal kick plates or cement.