By Alice Sinia
With travel grinding to a halt as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the hospitality industry knows first-hand the financial impacts of this global pandemic. As the country now focuses on reopening, pest management must be included as managers and owners develop their return-to-business plans.
Despite the global pandemic, pests have not stopped. In fact, you might find them to be more active than before. Without the regular volume of day-to-day operations, pests face fewer barriers to expansion, and they may make their homes in areas where you didn’t find them prior to the pandemic. And with less staff around, it can be easier for pests to go unnoticed for longer periods of time, worsening the problem.
Below are the most common challenges to address when developing your reopening plan, as well as what you can to do continue preventing pest infestations as we work to embrace the new normal for the industry.
Pests: Birds & Rodents
The main signs of bird activity are nest sightings and droppings, and it is very likely birds took advantage of undisturbed areas during lockdowns. Birds love to build nests under eaves, on ledges, in unscreened vents and over doors, windows or balconies. Bird droppings can cause health concerns for humans. They contain acids that are corrosive to building exteriors and sidewalks and can become a fall hazard if slippery. Birds can also carry etcoparasites such as bird mites, which are capable of moving indoors and biting people.
Rodents love warm, dark and undisturbed spaces – lodging closures have handed them the perfect environment in which to build new burrows. Trails or paths, often of grease, can be a tell-tale sign of rodent activity. Any food storage or garbage/compactor areas will have likely seen an increase in rodent activity, as restaurant closures have forced rodents to search for new food sources in unconventional areas. If even a few employees have remained on property during closures, their trash combined with undisturbed rooms create an atmosphere perfect for rodents.
Property: Landscape, Trash and Hot Spots
Checking potentially looked over spots on the property before reopening could identify a problem before guests return. Be sure to maintain all landscape directly next to the building; unmaintained shrubs and overgrown grass provide harborage for pests. Overgrown trees assist pests in accessing the building as well. Unkempt foliage and clogged gutters or any other standing water can attract and keep mosquitoes around. For outdoor areas, be sure to check for ants and wasps and nests. Wasps and ants both are attracted to food and drinks, so any outdoor dining spaces will be a major attractant for these pests.
If trash was not cleared prior to closure, it is likely high pest activity will be occurring around garbage disposal areas. Flies, rodents, birds, raccoons and crawling insects alike will all use garbage as a food source. You may also find trash may have been illegally or improperly dumped on your property during lockdown. Thoroughly assess dumpsters to ensure trash has not been left to sit during closures and no pest activity is happening. If trash service was paused during closures, be sure to resume it as soon as people are back in the facilities, even if it is just employees.
Inside the buildings, you’ll want to play close attention to sources of moisture and food storage, such as kitchen areas. For lodging accommodations, if a restaurant on premises all food storage should be thoroughly assessed for stored product pest invasions. Look for signs of rodents in stored foods – bite marks or holes in food packaging, droppings, trails or sightings of the pests themselves. For the initial inspection, keep the lights off and slowly sweep a flashlight around the room looking for rodents and cockroaches, as overhead lights will cause them to quickly scurry away. Cockroaches like dark, warm spaces to nestle so check countertop appliances such as coffee makers or toasters, especially if they were left plugged in, and be sure to thoroughly inspect behind kitchen appliances such as stoves, dishwashers and refrigerators.
What to do if Evidence of Pests is Found
If you find evidence of pests, first step should be to call your provider as evidence of pest activity is crucial for properly solving the issue. Once your provider has come out to assess the situation, clean up any evidence such as grease trails, droppings or pest carcasses. Once things are cleaned, take proactive steps to ensure pests can’t regain entry to your property – screen exterior vents, caulk any cracks or holes, ensure door sweeps create a good seal when closed. Continue monitoring for signs of pest activity, either visually or through pest monitoring devices set up by your pest management provider, and if it seems to continue, contact your pest management provider to reassess or reinstitute your pest management plan as things reopen.
While decisions based around reopening lodging facilities and amenities can be difficult, assessing the property’s pest management should not be. This information can help ensure a pest-free return to your establishment for guests once it is safe for people to begin traveling again. If signs of pests appear, call your pest management provider immediately to establish a swift remedy to the issue for employees and guests alike.
Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is quality assurance manager of regulatory/lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 20 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, email Alice Sinia at email@example.com or visit www.orkincanada.com.