Post lockdown, is this a return to normal?
Posted on 2nd March 2021 at 07:40
Rats in Reading, are we about to return to the new normal after lockdown?
It’s been a strange old time this last year and a difficult one to adjust to and its not over yet, we are about to see another change in rodent behaviour and particularly that of the common rat: Rattus norvegicus, because of the upcoming change in human activity.
The last twelve months has seen some major changes in our behaviour and this has had a knock-on effect for the UK’s Number One pest: the common rat. We have never seen anything like what has just occurred, it’s almost unbelievable, a complete shutdown of not just own, but the entire worldwide economy, combine that with a cessation in travel and going out and probably the most harmful aspect of lockdown, the enforced isolation of thousands of people.
Rat activity in Reading went through the roof during lockdown
Back in March 2020 we were phoned up the National Pest Technicians Association who are our representative body, and asked if we were still working; this was on the day of the Prime Ministers announcement that the entire country was about to go into lockdown. The NPTA told us to close down all our active jobs and then go home as we weren’t considered as being essential (a big mistake as we then found out), we compiled with their request and we spent the rest of the day, racing from job to job, collecting in traps and proofing up rodent entrance points. We were as always, busy dealing with internal rat problems across the County.
So, we went into our first lockdown and changed from a busy, six day working week to zero days overnight. This enforced inactivity was not going to last for long, we came out of lockdown just 3 days later as we soon started getting calls from homeowners with some serious rat problems.
Receiving phone calls to deal with rats from distressed homeowners is pretty much an everyday occurrence and so not unusual for us, however, these infestations all seemed to have something in common with one another. Rats were becoming desperate for food and were gnawing their way in through the outside doors into kitchen and garages right across the region.
This first call out struck me as highly unusual and a first for me, however we started to see a pattern of this behaviour in towns right across the area from Reading to Maidenhead where houses located near areas frequented by restaurants and takeaways started getting invaded by hungry rats. We were busy with rats problems like this all through the summer months; on reflection, its fair to say that this has been our busiest year on rats ever.
Internal infestations of rats up by 60% in the Reading area
My theory for this dramatic change in rat activity is simply down to the fact that commercial bins had been emptied and because of the lockdown and the lack of human activity, these bins have remained empty. The knock-on effect of no food has meant that rats which relied on these bins for their food supply, suddenly found themselves hungry with nothing to eat, and so in desperation, they turned to other sources of food which was found inside our customers homes.
This behaviour became a repeating pattern all through the long hot summer months, the majority of our internal rat infestations occurred within houses that were situated close to shut down business premises. When it comes to rat behaviour there tends to be a natural tidal flow of activity meaning that we see a trend of rats leaving properties to go outside from early spring and through the summer and into autumn, this flow is reversed as the weather cools and the rats come back inside during the colder months. This behaviour applies more to the semi-urban areas in the surburbs rather than in the more highly populated areas like Reading town centre, because in Reading, available harbourage is going to determine the rats behaviour as the population generally tends to be much higher.
Rats - nature's top scavenger!
Further changes to rat behaviour came about from the absence of our presence on the streets and pavements within the town centres, when the pubs, restaurants, takeaways, and entertainment venues shut the night-time traffic disappeared. No more dropped chips or half eaten kebabs that get thrown to the floor when a taxi turns up, and no more bags of rubbish dumped on the ground because its late and the kitchen staff want to go home.
We need to understand that rats are predominantly scavengers and they will be out on our streets after dark, foraging for these carelessly discarded leftovers as their main source of food.
Urban rat activity had to adapt to our behavioural changes as we settled down to the Covid-19 restrictions and a lot of research has been done with documented evidence from both here in the UK and elsewhere, that suggests that urban rats went to war with their neighbouring colonies, resulting in the strongest and fittest eating the weakest due to a lack of food.
Lockdown has had a mixed outcome for all wildlife presenting both challenges and opportunities; less human presence on the streets has seen animals like deer and rabbits move into town centres foraging for food but it’s the rats that have seen the most change. With lockdown set to be lifted we now reverse the cycle and once again rats will begin to repopulate and adapt to a ‘new’ environment – an abundance of food in town centres again.
The future for rats in Reading? Everything looks good for them
As a prediction for the rat's future, I can see a great deal of opportunities that will be presented in the short to medium term; empty territories will be ripe for exploitation for new colonies of rats. Bins will start to refill meaning food will be available on a daily basis and this leads to a rise in breeding rates. More food will appear on the streets as the public returns to the night time social scene and some companies will have cancelled rodent monitoring contracts – less professional pest control means more rats, pure and simple.
If you run a food related business in Reading; from a corner shop to a restaurant or a takeaway then you really need the help offered by pest control in the form of regular monitoring; in the UK, there is no legal requirement stating that you must have a pest control company on board. If you choose not to that’s OK but take a minute to look at the wider picture. Routine pest control monitoring should not cost you a great deal of money, what you’ll pay over the year is very little considering what you take in through the door on a weekly basis. In the unfortunate event that you are discovered to have an infestation of rats (or even something like cockroaches), your loss of income will be considerable. The most likely outcome is that the Environmental Health Department will close you down, even if it’s only for a week or two while the situation is bought under control but the loss of earnings far out weights a year’s pest control fee’s.
Professional monitoring contracts can save you £££thousands
In addition to a loss of earnings, you will have to add on the fine that you’ll receive from the Court’s as this maybe where you end up, the EHO may determine that you have been negligent in maintaining your properties hygiene and ensuring healthy standards within the establishment. So, your now out of pocket for a couple of weeks trading and on top of that, several thousands of pounds down in fines to the Court, but what has the competition been doing in your absence?
If you run any food related business, from a Michelin starred restaurant to a small takeaway, your competition will have picked up all of your customers who now, with the chance to sample their food, may not return when you re-open.
More bad news comes in the form that the the local press will have certainly picked up and published the story about the infestation, and if it’s really bad or if your just unlucky, it may have made the national news and certainly it’ll be all over social media – we’ve all seen videos of rats in restaurants in Reading before!
Reading Pest Control - working with you for a safer future
Using a professional pest company to monitor for pests like rats and cockroaches, prevents any initial outbreak, through a series of regular checks. We are on hand so, at the first sign of rats we are on top of the situation. Rodenticide will be in place in the internal bait stations to catch the first rodent intruders and here at Reading Pest Control we use a more dynamic system of pest control called Integrated Pest Management.
We do more than check on our bait stations, we look at the actual fabric of the building, making ongoing repairs to areas that may allow rats into the building as any defects occur; the kitchen door that has a rotten edge? We can cover that with steel mesh to keep rats out until the door is replaced. The drain fault caused by settlement in the car park, we will sort that out and prevent rats from leaving the drains.
We look for faults as they occur meaning that we can stay one step ahead of the rodents, our ethos is to provide a inclusive service that eliminates problems before they arise, we don’t want our clients having problems with rats. Rodent infestations lead to a lack of confidence from your customers and in turn, we’ll lose your confidence.
If you would like to discuss a rodent monitoring contract, whether this is for a food related business or as part of your commitment to the health and safety of your staff in the workplace then please feel free to get in touch by using the contact form or giving us a ring on 07491 247 999.
Tagged as: Rats and mice
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