restaurant patio

Avoiding restaurant patio pests this summer

By Alice Sinia

Efforts to return to pre-pandemic activities coupled with warmer weather means patrons are heading back to restaurant patio dining. At the same time, customers and employees still expect restaurants to do their part in helping keep them safe while they dine. In many ways, restauranteurs already have this top of mind, deploying new procedures and standards to comply with social distancing and limiting the spread of pathogens.

What often goes overlooked, however, is how important it is to maintain proper pest control.

Restaurants offer all a pest needs for survival: food, water, and shelter. From ants and flies to warmer weather pests such as mosquitoes and wasps, each of these can be problematic for your businesses in different ways:

  • Ants: With over 10,000 species, ants come in all shapes and sizes. What they all have in common, though, is they tend to live in colonies reaching the thousands. That means where you see one ant, there’s likely more on the way.
  • Flies: House flies are some of the filthiest pests. Each time they land, they carry germs from surface to surface. Associated with over 100 pathogens, these pests are experts at contamination. Not to mention, the presence of these pests while dining can damage your restaurant’s reputation.
  • Mosquitoes: Mosquito bites can do more harm than produce itchy bumps — they can also spread dangerous diseases including chikungunya, dengue, encephalitis, malaria, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, and Zika virus. In fact, more deaths have been reported globally as a result of mosquito bites than any other animal bite.
  • Wasps: Wasps pose health risks to your employees and customers with their stings. While resolving wasp nests yourself can be tempting, the safety of your staff and patrons should be a priority when dealing with these pests; it’s best to immediately call a professional.

It’s hard to enjoy a meal while dodging pests. From patio dining to rooftop bars, these outdoor amenities, which typically add value to your business, can leave your employees and customers exposed.

Fortunately, there are steps your restaurant can take to help mitigate a potential pest problem. Consider the following tips to help protect your employees and diners from pests. 

  1. Evaluate your environment to minimize pest activity and help keep pests from entering your restaurant. Start with landscaping, since overgrown vegetation can provide shelter for pests. Thin out heavy vegetation and trim bushes and branches back from around your patio to eliminate potential sources of food and shelter. Replace outdoor lights with yellow bulbs to help keep mosquitoes and other nocturnal insects away. Pay careful attention to any gaps or holes around your building’s exterior ­– sealing these will reduce potential entry points. Outdoor patios with wooden decks often have dead space under the deck, and if it is not sealed well these spaces can become home to many different types of pests. The structure of the deck is important to evaluate regularly to ensure it remains pest-free.
  2. Minimize standing water which can help pests survive and breed. Empty the places where water may collect after it rains, such as recycling and garbage bins, and pay extra attention to the less obvious sources of standing water, including gutters, buckets, saucers under planters and flowerpots and other containers. Involve your pest management professional if you have ponds or fountains by your restaurant. A professional will inspect and treat the water with products that use insect growth regulators or bacteria to help disrupt the early stages of the mosquito life cycle.
  3. Install pest-specific bait stations and traps to fit the needs of your patio. One of the most effective ways to get rid of restaurant patio pests is a more targeted approach: working with your provider to install pest-specific traps. In the same way each pest brings along specific concerns, each pest requires a specific trap for the best results. For example, consider investing in fly bait stations, wasp traps, mosquito traps and ant bait stations. Your provider will know what’s best based on your patio’s needs, so work with them to create a customized pest control plan to help eliminate patio pest concerns.

By following these tips, you can help protect your customers and employees from the germs pests carry. Diners will appreciate this, and your reputation and bottom line will reflect this, too. Plus, by maintaining ongoing communication with your pest management provider, your provider can help shape your pest control program to fit your restaurant’s unique needs.

Remember, if you notice pest activity around your restaurant, alert your pest management provider immediately. The faster your provider can identify the issue, the sooner it can be resolved – and the faster your diners can get back to enjoying their drinks on the patio.

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 protected] or visit