Winter is upon us. And while many pests are associated with summer heat, the chilly season is a time when material-handling managers are threatened by rodents.
Rats and mice get cold just like humans. As temperatures plunge, they’re desperate for manmade refuge—often in the form of warehouses—offering sustenance and shelter. To make matters worse, box clutters are a favorite hideout of these whiskered intruders.
Whether they’re scampering around shipments or prying into packaging, rodents can contaminate material products, which can be a nightmare for sanitation and your bottom line. For a facility manager, the monetary consequences of a rodent problem can be vast.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rodents can transmit 35 different diseases, some lethal. That risk could lead to problems with the Food and Drug Administration, third-party food safety auditors, or customers. In the U.S., the economic cost of rat damage has been estimated at billions of dollars per year; many times greater than any other invasive animal species.
With the constant flow of people and shipments travelling through your facility, there are ample opportunities for rodents to scurry critters into products; rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a nickel. While some rodents prefer rooftop entryways, others burrow beneath buildings, walls and fences. Still others might have entered boxes via shipment.
What’s more, these pesky pests are not picky eaters. Rodents love chewing on structural materials common to warehouses: electrical wires, gas lines, support beams, baseboards, sheet rock and insulation. All this gnawing can lead to major electrical damage. One in four structural fires have been thought to be caused by rodent-chomped wires.
Pest problems can quickly become everyone’s issue if left unchecked at any point in the supply chain. Follow these easy steps to ensure that rats and mice don’t take a bite out of your business.
Establish a maintenance routine that stops disease-carrying rodents in their tracks. There are many indicators that can signal a rodent presence—or, worse, an infestation.
- Even if your warehouse protocols are up to par, there’s no guarantee that the same can be said of your suppliers. Inspect every skid, looking for droppings, urine and chew marks on packaging. Do it before unloading packages into your facility. Be aware that mice can squeeze their way into shrink-wrapped pallets.
- Maintain an “inspection aisle,” at least 18 inches wide, between stacks of product and the walls.
- Look for capsule-like pellets. Rats do their business about 30 times per day while mice leave 50-70 droppings per day.
- Grease marks, from oil and dirt on rodents’ bodies, are left along their runways, which includes walls and cracks.
- Check for chew marks on walls, insulation, wires, flooring and pallets.
- Watch the building’s perimeter. Keep an eye out for any cracks, gaps and crevices around exterior-facing walls and windows.
- When in doubt, call a pest professional.
Preparing your facility and understanding how to spot signs of a rodent presence can help prevent an infestation before those persistent pests have entered the building.
- Rotate your product within the warehouse (first in, first out). The longer product sits, the more vulnerable it is to rodent invasion.
- Keep packages stored above ground with pallets or shelving. Eliminate gaps between boxes.
- Split food storage up into sections. If one is infested, it will take longer for the other items to possibly suffer the consequence of this infestation as well.
- Trim back vegetation that could touch the roof, cover exterior drains and vents with metal mesh, and install plastic, one-way rodent-proofing valves inside all drains.
- Continuously clean out dumpsters, and check outside faucets and gutters for leaks and/or puddles.
- Lay down exterior bait stations and install door sweeps.
- Clean up areas like employee break rooms by regularly disposing of trash and wiping down food areas. Remove debris under appliances, machinery and other hard-to-reach areas, where rodents like to hide.
Following these steps will help minimize pest issues but partnering with your pest control provider is the best way to ensure that all efforts are being made to reduce an infestation.
By Nic Ellis, board-certified entomologist, Western Pest Services