Get Ready for Pesky Winter Pests

Columns - Practical Pest Protection

Pests don't take a break during winter. Be prepared, writes Cindy Mannes, senior vice president of public affairs at the National Pest Management Association.

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October 12, 2021

While many associate summer with peak pest season, winter presents a plethora of potential issues. During this season, many facilities experience an influx of rodents and cockroaches as they head indoors to search for food, water and shelter. Unfortunately for food processing managers, their facilities are abundant with these necessities. This presents a huge challenge as they can transmit disease, contaminate food and cause costly damage.

Pests such as cockroaches and rodents seek out food processing facilities during the winter when their regular food sources, such as public trash cans or dumpsters, are less full. These facilities may also experience an increase in occasional invaders such as spiders, who enter in search of safe places to overwinter.

During winter, specific areas of the facility are more susceptible to infestations than others as they provide the ideal conditions for pests seeking warmth and food. Monitor these areas closely.

Delivery Reception Areas:

Delivery rooms or loading docks open to the outdoors are an invitation to pests. Rodents, cockroaches and pantry pests are also known to infest packaging so they may be brought into these areas unnoticed.

Employee Break Rooms:

Food left unsecured here gives hungry pests a green light to invade. These areas offer an ample supply of food and water needed for survival. Sinks and refrigerators in these rooms can also create moisture that is extremely attractive to pests.

Product Storage Areas:

Spaces for food storage are the ideal place for pests seeking shelter from the elements. The dark corners and clutter found in these areas also provide ideal nesting materials and conditions. Rodents are known to chew through cardboard boxes left unattended for long periods of time to access food.

Vehicles:

If you have delivery vehicles parked outside your facility, they may be at risk from rodent infestations. Engines provide warmth and protection from predators which make them attractive, but these pests are known to chew through wiring and cause extensive damage.

To ensure pests don’t wreak havoc on your facility this upcoming winter season, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recommends managers take the following steps to prepare:

  • Trim back trees and foliage close to the foundation. Even without leaves in the winter, rodents can climb up branches to gain access to the roof.
  • Remove debris from gutters and direct water away from the building through properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
  • Ensure any cracks or holes on the outside of the building are sealed. Pay close attention to areas where pipes and utilities enter the building to ensure there are no openings.
  • Install door sweeps on exterior doors to seal the gap between the floor and the door.
  • Repair any broken vent covers, loose siding or shingles.
  • Keep storage areas clean and organized to eliminate any potential nesting grounds.
  • Properly ventilate storage areas and machinery to prevent moisture buildup.
  • Clean high-volume areas often, including employee break rooms, bathrooms and lobby areas where crumbs and trash accumulate daily. Remember to keep food products sealed and stored properly in air-tight containers.
  • Dispose of garbage regularly and store in sealed receptacles placed at a distance from building entrances.
  • Regularly check under the hood of vehicles for any signs of a rodent infestation such as gnawed wiring or nesting materials.
  • Schedule regular inspections with your licensed pest control partner to identify and treat any pest issues using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach.

The most important step listed above is maintaining your regular inspection and treatment schedule with your licensed pest control partner. A professional can implement an IPM, a holistic and customized approach to pest control that is comprised of inspection, identification and treatment to help ensure commercial facilities are clean, compliant and pest-free. These inspections should not stop at the end of peak pest season because pests are a year-round threat to the safety of food processing facilities.