Pest management critical to flood preparedness
By Alice Sinia, Ph.D., Quality Assurance Manager – Regulatory/Lab Services, Orkin CanadaFood Safety General Alice Sinia Integrated Pest Management program IPM strategies Orkin Canada
Orkin Canada quality assurance manager - regulatory/Lab Services Alice Sinia offers advice on how facilities can prepare for an influx of pests due to Spring flooding.
When the weather starts to warm up across Canada, snow will melt away and spring showers will lead the way to lush, green summers. But along the way, we have to prepare for floods.
In May of 2017, many parts of Canada suffered from severe flooding as torrential rain and snowmelt overran the river and drainage systems. Some cities, including Montreal, even declared a state of emergency. While systems are in place to provide immediate relief from floods, it’s important to be prepared for the long-term consequences of flooding, including increased pest activity and pest-related health risks.
Just like you, pests will seek relief from flood waters. For example, rats and cockroaches found in sewage and drainage systems will be forced to higher ground and inside buildings. Crawling insects such as ants, ground beetles and wood roaches that escape the floods will migrate in large numbers into dry buildings.
Even if your property stays dry, it’s still at risk for pest activity, as insects, rodents and other wildlife will move to higher ground untouched by the flood waters.
When flood waters recede, accumulated debris attracts flies, scavenging beetles and cockroaches that feed on the abundance of garbage and sewage overflow. Mold growth also attracts mold-feeding insects like plaster and fungus beetles., and moist soil and pockets of standing water offer breeding grounds to mosquitoes, midges and gnats. Your property also could face a higher risk of carpenter ant infestations and damage as heavy rain and flooding leave behind wet or rotting wood.
While there’s not much you can do to prevent a flood, there are steps that you can take to mitigate the pest-related damage. The first step is to develop and implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program before a flood occurs. IPM strategies focus on preventive controls, like exclusion, sanitation and maintenance techniques, to help defend against pest activity year-round. The ongoing monitoring and prevention will help keep pests away from the property before a flood occurs.
Before flood season begins, meet with your pest management provider to develop a plan for responding to pests after floods and heavy rain. They will be able to tell you which parts of your property are at a higher risk for pest activity and can help establish a corrective or preventive action plan and process for minimizing damage. As part of your ongoing IPM program, here are a few proactive measures you should make to reduce pest activity and prevent flood-induced pest infestations:
- Cover gutters with mesh. This will help prevent debris like leaves from piling up and clogging gutters during a weather event. If your gutters do get clogged, they could provide harborage for pests seeking relief from the wet conditions. Clean the gutter covers periodically – clogged gutters can cause localized flooding;
- Repair and maintain all window and door screens. Be sure screens fit tightly and are without holes. This will help prevent pests from getting inside your building;
- Seal cracks and gaps around the building’s exterior. This will help keep pests from crawling inside during wet and dry conditions, as rats can fit through holes as small as a quarter;
- Fix leaks immediately. Pests are attracted to moisture, and you don’t want to give them any reason to flock to your property before a flood or heavy rain occurs;
- Cap or screen floor drains to prevent rodents from entering the facility through the sewage system. Cap or screen unused or idle pipes as well;
- Identify areas outdoors where water could pool, including ditches, uneven ground, soft ground, burrows and depressions. Drain, aerate or fill these areas with gravel.
There also are steps you can take after a flood to reduce conditions that attract pests. Of course, your top priority in a flood should be your and your employees’ safety, so don’t enter flood waters and take precautions when lifting heavy materials around the property. Once the waters have receded, take the following steps to help defend against pests.
- Eliminate standing water from around the facility. Empty or dispose of containers and other objects that hold water. Be sure that any food or product spills are cleaned;
- Remove clutter that could provide pest harborage, including cardboard boxes and unused wooden pallets;
- Clean up fallen tree branches, washed up vegetation or objects ferried by the floods;
- Clean and aerate to dry flower beds and landscaping around the building;
- Inspect wooden structures. Dry or aerate any wet wood to prevent mold, rot, fungal beetles and carpenter ant infestations;
- Inspect for structural damage caused by gusty winds or harsh rains and repair right away to prevent pest entry;
- Be sure trash cans are tightly sealed. It could take a few days for your waste management provider to pick up the trash, so take extra care to practice good waste management techniques;
- Inspect, clean and repair gutters. They may be flooded with debris;
- Keep pest management in mind if you have to make repairs. Pests that infest your property during construction can be hard to remove afterwards, especially if they are sealed in the walls.
After a flood, it’s also a good idea to contact your pest management provider and ask them to inspect your property. They can help you assess damage from a pest management perspective and provide recommendations for repairs and preventing pest infestations. Seeking a professional opinion is important, as there could be underlying conditions or excess moisture that will attract pests like mold-feeding beetles, cockroaches, rodents, carpenter ants and termites over time. They can also help you adapt your existing IPM approach to respond to changing conditions and excess water left by the flood.
In the aftermath of last year’s devastating floods, emergency preparedness is increasingly important and can go a long way in helping your business recover from these natural disasters. So, take advantage of the opportunity to mitigate pest worries and think about a response plan now, before a crisis hits.
Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is quality assurance manager – Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 15 years of experience, she manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.orkincanada.com.
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