Clegg's Blog

Commercial Pest Control Issues: Rats

If you have a commercial business, you will likely have an issue at some point with rats. Our commercial pest control team is seeing an increasing number of calls for help removing rats, with a large number of these calls involving roof rats. Certain types of businesses are more prone to rat infestations. These include farms, feed mills, produce warehouses, and restaurants, among others, though all businesses and residences may have problems with rats.

How do I know if I have rats?

Until you have a full blown infestation, you may not see any rats. They are usually nocturnal and prefer to hide from people. They will, however, leave evidence of their presence. Things to look for:

  1. Rat droppings
  2. Chewed wood, walls and baseboards
  3. Dirt or grease marks along their commonly traveled paths
  4. A musky odor (sometimes difficult to detect in larger or more open buildings)
  5. Small footprints along their traveled paths (when dirty or dusty)
  6. Smashed or damaged vegetation around their point of entry and egress
  7. Live or dead rats

As one of our team members says, “If you are seeing rat activity, you may have a bigger problem than you think!”

Are they Norway rats or roof rats?

Roof rats are a non-native species brought into the US through shipping and found most commonly in coastal areas of North Carolina (and the southeast), though they are moving inland. We are such a mobile society that many non-native species can easily “hitch a ride” on ships, trains and trucks as goods are transported from place to place. Roof rats are around 10-18” including their tails. They prefer warmer climates, and like to nest up high near the roof, hence the name.

Norway rats are very common in North Carolina. They are slightly larger than roof rats and are the more aggressive species – out-competing the roof rats at ground level. Norway rats do not occupy the same space as roof rats. Norway rats construct burrows. Often times the nests are made in crawlspaces, or near planting beds outdoors near buildings. Food preferences are different, as well, with Norway rats preferring meats and roof rats preferring fruits. But they will feed on whatever the environment has to offer.

How do I keep rats out of my business?

There are several things you can do to make your building less attractive to rats. First, focus on sanitation. Make sure the property is clean, debris is removed promptly, and no food is left out. Empty trash early and often and, if possible, keep your exterior dumpster away from the building. The second thing you should do is look at ways the rats might enter your building and eliminate their access (we call this “exclusion”). Ensure that doors and windows are sealed and holes and cracks patched. It doesn’t take a very large crack for rats to get in. Rats are also good climbers, so look for any easy paths they may take up to your roof. Keep landscaping trimmed away from the building and look for openings at the roofline where they may access the structure.

How do you get rid of rats?

Just like people, rats need water, food and shelter to survive. If you eliminate their access to these things in your building, they won’t want to move in. In addition to making your business less accessible through exclusion methods, you must remove the existing population. We typically use a combination of baits and traps. Each situation is different, so we create a customized treatment plan that takes into account the type(s) and number of rats, location of the infestation, access points we can identify, and even the type of business.

Do rats carry diseases?

Yes. Rats urinate constantly as they go through their environment, possibly spreading disease. Salmonella may be transmitted through urine and feces. Some rats may carry Hantaviruses that can cause serious complications and death in humans. This is more commonly seen in drier climates like the southwestern U.S. Rats may also carry leptospirosis or cause rat bite fever. In addition, they may carry fleas and ticks (which carry even more diseases) into your environment. Learn more about these diseases on the Centers for Disease Control website.

Are mice infestations treated the same way?

Some techniques are the same, but mice and rats are different animals with different behavior and activity patterns. We do tend to rely on more trapping methods with mice and bait methods with rats.

What else do I need to know about rats?

If you see any signs of rat activity, you should have a pest control professional check it out. The longer the rats are there, the more damage they will do. Rats also breed quickly, so a small infestation can rapidly turn into a large one.

A special note for food-related businesses

We often hear farmers and packers say that rats have always been around their business and always will be. Times are changing, and with an increased industry and consumer awareness of food safety, accepting rat infestations as status quo is no longer acceptable. Food industry businesses should be more aware of potential rat infestations and be proactive in eliminating them.

If you suspect you may have a rodent problem, contact Clegg’s today to schedule an appointment to have your premises checked. Waiting will only allow an existing rat infestation to get worse. If you have questions about rat issues, feel free to give us a call at 1-888-MR-CLEGG.

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