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pest management
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By Ashley Roden, BCE

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That adage applies to many facets of life, including preventing pests from gaining access to commercial properties.

As temperatures rise and landscapes bloom, pest pressure around manufacturing plants, warehouses, office buildings, and health care facilities increases. Pests including ants, flies, stinging insects, and a host of occasional invaders including stink bugs, hit their prime in the summer.

This increase in unwanted crawling, creeping and flying visitors puts pressure on building owners and property managers to do what is necessary to keep pests on the outside where they belong.

What Attracts Pests to Your Building?

Pests are attracted to commercial buildings for three primary reasons: food, water, and shelter.

  • Food: Pests are attracted to food sources such as crumbs, spills, and improperly stored food items. This includes pantry pests like beetles and moths, as well as rodents, flies, cockroaches and ants.
  • Water: Certain pests need water to survive, so leaks, standing water, and improperly maintained drainage or irrigation systems can attract them. Cockroaches, for example, are known to be drawn to damp, dark areas and termites are attracted to moist soil and water-damaged wood.
  • Shelter: Like humans, pests want relief from summer’s hot and dry weather. Commercial buildings with cracks, crevices, and other entry points provide ideal hiding spots to beat the heat for pests like rodents and insects.

In addition to food, water and shelter, pests can be attracted to commercial properties by the following:

  • Waste: Garbage, recycling bins, and dumpsters are attractive to pests because they provide easy access to food and shelter. Regular waste management is essential to prevent pest infestations. Poorly located trash and recycling dumpsters near loading dock or exterior entrances can attract a wide variety of pests.
  • Plants and Landscaping: Overgrown vegetation, mulch, and plant debris can harbor pests like ants, rodents, and mosquitoes, especially if they are located close to the building. Roof rats, mice, squirrels, and ants find tree limbs touching roofs and vines up the side of a building to be attractive highways to access buildings through HVAC or utility openings on the roof. Bushes and shrubs planted too close to building foundations become pest magnets, offering near-ideal concealment and protection from the elements.
  • Building Design: Excessive or poorly designed exterior lighting can attract flying insects to doorways, windows, loading docks or exterior hallways.
  • Building Location: Pests do not respect property lines and will travel vertically and horizontally in their quest for food, water, and shelter. Pest infestations in adjacent units or next-door properties can spill over causing headaches.

Pest Hot Spots in Commercial Buildings

What are the most common pest hot spots in and around commercial buildings? Furnace rooms, food service outlets, lunch/break rooms, employee locker rooms, and shipping and receiving areas are common pest hot spots inside commercial properties. Employee work areas can also harbor pests if unsealed food and waste is available. On the exterior, loading docks, trash and recycling dumpsters, and landscaping features, including ponds and other water features, can attract pests.

How To Keep Pests Out

The goal for facility executives and managers is to make their properties as unattractive to pests as possible. This can be accomplished by following these recommendations:

  • Do an Inspection: Walk around the exterior of your building with your maintenance staff and pest control service provider to identify structural, landscape and cultural issues that are attracting pests and providing them access. Document the items that need corrective action and set a timeline for making the repairs.
  • Keep Doors and Windows Closed: Training employees to close doors and windows is the most effective action building owners and property managers can take to deny pests’ access. Use screens if keeping doors and windows closed is not possible.
  • Maintain Landscaping: Trim shrubs, bushes, and trees regularly—do not let them touch the building. Do not crowd plantings next to buildings—leave enough space for a human to walk. Keep mulch at a minimum; install a 12-inch stone/gravel barrier around the foundation to remove pest harborage areas.
  • Eliminate Harborage Locations: Pests need a place to live, preferably a hidden space where they will not be disturbed. Minimizing inaccessible spaces can therefore assist pest management efforts: False ceilings, false bottoms under cabinetry, uncapped concrete blocks, and gaps behind permanent machinery are examples.
  • Seal Openings with Proper Materials: Openings, such as crawlspace and soffit vents, need to be screened to exclude rodents and other wildlife pests. Seal small cracks, gaps around countertops, or pipe breaks and utility openings with heavy duty, weather resistant materials. Install door sweeps where necessary, and tight-fitting windows are also important exclusion features. You will be surprised to learn just how small a gap pests can penetrate. For example, the width of a pencil (about ¼ inch) is sufficient to allow mice to squeeze under doors.

When fortifying your building against pests, remember it is more cost effective to invest in long-term preventive solutions vs. short-term strategies that simply check a box. Once pests establish their presence inside a building it is more difficult, time consuming and expensive to eradicate them.

It is important to work in concert with your maintenance staff, key vendors (i.e., landscaper, cleaning services, food vendors, etc.) and a pest management professional to identify your facility’s pest vulnerabilities and take timely corrective actions to deny pests’ access. This way you will help create a healthy pest-free environment for employees and visitors.

Roden, BCE is the technical and quality assurance manager at Sprague Pest Solutions, a premier commercial-only pest control company serving the Western United States. She is responsible for creating and leading Sprague’s technical training programs. Roden holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental health and entomology from the University of Georgia. She is a member of the Pi Chi Omega professional fraternity and the Urban Pest Management Technical Committee.

Click here for more information about Pest Management.

Facility Executive Magazine