By Alice Sinia
Although pests present a potential problem all year long, changing seasons often bring changes in pest populations. To best protect your business throughout the year, it is important to know how changes in weather will affect these unwanted guests’ habits. As temperatures drop, restaurants are especially vulnerable to fall pests looking for food and shelter from the outdoor elements.
Here are some of the common critters wanting to use your establishment as a fall getaway and tips on how to avoid these fall pests.
Famous for ruining summer picnics, these irritants can also be quite the nuisance during fall. They attempt to escape the cooler temperatures outside and find warmth, comfort, and food inside your business, making it the perfect hideout. Once a scout ant finds food, it leaves a scented trail for other ants to follow. With dwindling food sources outside at the onset of fall, the indoors is the perfect spot for foraging. Also, though ants are more known to be extremely annoying insects, their presence in your kitchen can contaminate food, beverages, and dining areas.
Quick tip: Do not leave food lying out! Make sure to clean up crumbs and debris immediately. Wipe clean food prep surfaces and make sure trash bins and garbage cans are sealed tightly and cleaned regularly, including recycling bins. These receptacles attract ants due to sugary drinks in bottles or cans, so be sure to recycle promptly and rinse the bottom to eliminate drained sugary drinks. Also, seal any cracks and crevices that ants could use to enter indoors.
Although you only just recently noticed a spider or two in your restaurant, the truth is they have been there all along, growing during the summer to full adult size. In general, spiders enter your building for the same reasons as other pests; they are looking for warmth, water, and food. But, a specific threat of spiders is that they may often follow other pests inside to eat them.
Quick tip: Spiders tend to be more common in areas that have dense vegetation around the premises. Proper landscape management during the summer months with less overgrown vegetation and flowerbeds will cut down the number of spiders around the building, which means fewer will make their way indoors. Also, exterior lighting is important as bright lights draw other insects, which in turn attracts spiders. If possible, use sodium vapour lights, yellow lights, or sensor lights.
Especially German cockroaches, these pests love warm, damp places to live and breed. Even though they may not be as visible as the temperatures drop, it is imperative to remain vigilant during the fall – a few roaches can turn into thousand in just a few months.
Quick tip: Maintain proper cleaning protocols to reduce any food or water sources. Also, inspect your building quarterly to seal any cracks and holes. Sanitation and habitat reduction are key to preventing cockroach infestations.
These unpleasant-smelling insects begin searching for a warm place to live as soon as the temperatures begin to drop. Delivering an odour when disturbed or threatened, they become a nuisance when they are active during the fall and winter months due to indoor heating or warm sunny fall days.
Quick tip: The best way to deter stink bugs from entering your restaurant is to seal potential entry points such as cracks and crevices in exterior walls and the building’s foundation. Fix or replace unscreened vents or worn-out window screens. As a preventive measure, an exterior perimeter treatment around the building can create an exterior barrier of protection that will repel and prevent indoor entry.
Asian lady beetles
Searching for shelter during the cooler months, these pests emit a foul-smelling yellow liquid when they feel threatened, occasionally staining walls and furniture. The beetle’s secretion can also cause allergic reactions in employees and customers.
Quick tip: Inspect your doors, windows, chimneys, pipes, vents, and utility wires for any activity. Be sure to seal potential entry points such as cracks, crevices, and screens.
Non-insect fall pests
Not all birds migrate south to avoid colder weather. Pest birds such as pigeons, house sparrows, and resident starlings are non-migratory so they will be present during the fall months. They roost in high ledges, bridges, and ornamental alcoves and when the cooler temperatures arrive, they search for refuge from the elements inside the sheltered areas of your building.
Quick tip: Do a full building inspection, and check for obvious entry points or areas that may be easily accessible to birds to perch or nest. Clean and disinfect regularly to reduce opportunities for birds to spread disease. There are also various non-chemical strategies that can be used for bird exclusion such as repellants, where they are blocked out or discouraged from roosting or nesting.
When cold weather hits, rats and mice seek warm places to take refuge as well as breed. Entering through small holes and cracks, rodents can quickly reach infestation levels. Rodents are looking for food when they enter your restaurant, so cleaning and sanitation practices are essential.
Quick tip: Check for both obvious and less noticeable points of entry around your business, such as droppings, burrows, runways, and sightings and put down traps to catch any rodents trying to sneak in. Also, seal any openings, gaps, and cracks that will allow them inside. Just because you have not seen them does not mean they are not there.
Some extra pointers
With cooler temperatures on the horizon, preparation against fall pests is your best defence. Here are a few more proactive tips to help keep your restaurant rodent-and pest-free this fall:
- Inspect your shipments: Thoroughly check shipments you receive for any pests or damage that could indicate they may be hiding in boxes or pallets.
- Double-check your product: While doing inventory, make sure containers and bags are sealed and used on a first-in, first-out basis. Focus on old or overstayed products that might have been overlooked. Ensure all products and produce are stored off the floor on shelves with adequate inspection spaces.
- Survey areas where water may be present: Do a complete and thorough inspection of all drain areas and moisture-prone spots in your kitchen, dishwashing areas, prep areas, and closets.
- Maintain trash areas: Keep dumpster, trash, and recycling bin areas emptied and cleaned regularly.
- Check entry points: Make sure to check entry points into your restaurant, such as receiving doors, front and back entrances, to-go doors and patio doors. Also, look for cracks or holes in the foundation, near windows, or around piping leading into the building. Inspect door and window screens to ensure they are not torn or worn out and they have seals.
Following these fall pest-proofing tips will help you prepare your restaurant for success during the colder months ahead. While prevention is key, if you think you have a fall pests problem or infestation, do not hesitate to contact a pest professional to assess your situation and recommend the best treatment plan for your business; the difference of only a few days can greatly impact any potential pest population on your premises.
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. For more information, email Alice Sinia at [email protected] or visit orkincanada.ca.