Rats - The New Kings of the Urban Jungle
Posted on 5th April 2020 at 08:46
As in all towns and cities across the Covid-19 hit UK, Reading has seen people change their behaviour following the lockdown caused by the viral outbreak; our absence from the streets of Reading and the disappearance of a major food supply has seen rats emerge in broad daylight looking for food.
Rats are now the Kings of the Urban Jungle in Reading
The noticeable change in Reading is that there are no food stuffs being throw into restaurant waste bins, no food in the street bins and no dropped food carelessly thrown away after a drunken night out. Our behaviour has changed with the lockdown and as rats are scavengers, they live off our waste and in urban areas – very little else. The recent changes mean that food from man has been taken away almost overnight and we are now seeing rats invading homes in a desperate search for food.
Households that have never had a problem with rats, suddenly find themselves with an active rat infestation, what’s more, the recent panic buying also means that many homes across Reading are stocked with food and some of this has been stored in places which are within easy access to rats.
Let’s look at rat behaviour in Reading; rats live in a well-established hierarchical colony, normally, when food is readily available any small-scale disputes arrange the top tier of dominant rats with the lower tiers quickly organising themselves in a descending order. It’s well documented that rat’s line up in order of seniority behind the alphas members and so the colony pecking order is quickly formed.
When we get a situation like this where the food supply is almost turned off as quickly as water running through a tap, then the colony order collapses. Initially the rats will fight amongst themselves for dominance over whatever food is left with those rats that get killed being eaten by the rest of the group. As the food supply dwindles, many rats will leave the colony in search of their own alternative food supply and this is where we are now seeing a rise in rat callouts right across Berkshire.
Once a rat gets a whiff of a food supply it will do all it can to get at it; we’ve seen rats get into the space left by a missing piece of mortar ; the rats gnawed away at the corner of a house brick, rounding the end until it could squeeze through the gap between that brick and the neighbouring one. Old, rotten wooden doorframes and gaps below garage doors all allow rats into the interior and if, due to the Covid-19 outbreak the garage is stocked with food, then other rats will quickly follow to take advantage of this new wealth of food.
Lets not forget the most of our internal infestations originate with the drainage system, almost every house in the country is connected to the sewers. As modern houses have their soil pipes built, running down through the interior of the structure, so where there is a defect with the system, rats can find easy access to the cavity wall and from there up into the loft of the property.
Rats have a strong inbuilt driver for food, with rat behaviour its boom or bust; a plentiful supply of food brings with it all year round breeding, so, once inside a building they will explore the area and not just the one room that had access into.
We recently attended a house in Maidenhead where the owner had caught a rat inside an empty cardboard box that was left on the upstairs landing – the access point for the rat was an outside door to the cellar. The rat had gnawed through the bottom of the wooden door and worked its way up into the kitchen and from there has accessed the cupboard under the stairs to emerge out of the airing cupboard on the first floor. We could follow a trail of droppings and see the evidence in the form of gnawing on floorboards and joists, the cardboard box? This has held chocolate Easter eggs and the rat was either drawn to the box by the smell, or it was disturbed on the landing and simply hid inside the box.
With the current situation in Reading with the social lockdown, which is set to continue for some time to come, its important to take some steps at looking at our household hygiene and what actions we can make to proof our homes and businesses against the inward migration of rats.
Why is this important? Because the virus can live outside the body for several days; this virus has been found in the faeces of infected hospital patients. There is a theory that the Covid-19 virus will be found contaminating the sewers, and it may be possible for this virus to find its way from the sewers, carried in by rats on their feet, tails and fur, into our homes. WebMD has an article giving the length of times that the virus can live on different surfaces.
Just as we’ve stepped up our hand washing routines, this is a good time to review our household routines. The first action should be to look at food storage; make sure that containers are strong with airtight lids to keep scents inside. Storing food in sheds, garages and lofts is not a good idea unless you have a secure outer container like a metal cabinet to keep the boxes in, without a shadow of doubt we are see a change in rat behaviour due to the shortage of their food supply, so beware.
Wash or rinse out food recycling cartons and wrappers to remove those scraps of food that we’d usually ignore, by throwing out a residue of food you are actively bringing the rats right up to the boundary of your property. This in itself isn’t a problem, but rat behaviour means that they like to run along the junction of the wall and the ground, a plastic airbrick or a missing piece of mortar maybe all that’s needed for you to find yourself hosting a rat infestation.
Stop up gaps under garage doors with a plank of wood; we go to many properties where rats have got into an adjoining or internal garage and from there accessed the entire house. Given the fact that rats are able climbers and can jump almost a metre straight up from a standing position, many of the internal infestations we see in Reading start inside the garage. A rat will be able to squeeze through a gap the size of the end of your thumb – take the test, if you can get your fingers under the garage door then you’re giving rats an easy route into your home.
If you have, or, suspect that you have a rat problem then don’t look upon the use of a professional pest controller as a ‘luxury’, many of us will conduct a survey of your property which includes any adjoining buildings. Think about it logically, if you live in a semi-detached house and you’ve got rats, then there’s a good chance that 50% of the problem lies next door and no amount of poison placed inside you half of the building is going to get you rat free in the long term.
A good pest controller will not want to go a ‘straight to a poison’ approach; instead we mark up access points and drains to determine where the activity is. We confirm this by setting traps in places like the loft; so when a rat is caught it will be covered in the tracking dust and this is proof that the entrance point, whether it lies in the drains or the suspicious hole in the wall. Once the rat entrance is determined a plan is put together using more traps and a mixture of traps and poison and then, at the appropriate time the rats entrance is sealed up – this is how to do rat control at a professional level.
As we remain locked up in our homes we have allowed rats to claim the streets – rats are the new Kings of the Urban Jungle and those rats are looking at our food supplies with a scavengers eye.
Stay safe in these uncertain times but importantly, stay rat free.
Tagged as: Rats and mice
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