By Alice Sinia
In the wake of global health concerns, restaurants across the world have modified their dining areas to be safer and more customer friendly. For many establishments, that has meant a switch to patio dining only. These outdoor spaces are perceived as less conducive to the spread of pathogens and help to put diners and restaurant employees at ease. As a restaurant manager yourself, you may have adopted a similar strategy in your own business.
While patio dining may be one of the best available ways for customers to patronize your business in person, it’s also highly susceptible to pest invasion, particularly from mosquitoes. These buzzing, blood-sucking pests are just as hungry as your diners, and they’re always on the lookout for their next meal. No one wants to eat at a restaurant brimming with mosquitoes — a pest commonly associated with bloodborne diseases like West Nile virus — especially during a time when health is at the forefront of people’s minds.
Guests want to feel safe and secure when they visit your restaurant, and they expect that you’ve done your due diligence to eliminate pests. But with more than 82 species of mosquitoes in Canada alone, the flying foes can be a challenge to keep away. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to minimize this risk. Mosquitoes need a very specific set of conditions to breed and can be eliminated if you know how to eliminate their preferred environments.
It’s important, however, to be consistent with your preventive measures. Mosquitoes reproduce rapidly and can become an issue before you realize what’s happening. In fact, a single mosquito can turn into as many as 400 in just one to two weeks. By keeping a watchful eye and preempting their arrival, you can successfully improve your patio dining experience and protect your customers.
Here are the best ways to prevent mosquitoes on your restaurant patio:
- Manage all sources of standing water. The number one thing mosquitoes need to multiply and thrive is standing water. Here, they can lay their eggs and reproduce comfortably as long as the weather remains suitably warm. You may think your restaurant has no such static water sources, but water can pool in a surprising number of places, and mosquitoes only need half an inch of standing water, or a tablespoon full, to lay their eggs. Be sure to examine any trash cans and dumpsters on your property, as water can accumulate on the lids, inside and on the ground underneath the bins. Additionally, if you have any decorative, dish-shaped objects near your patio — like bird baths or potted plant trays — make sure you’re checking on these frequently. It is ideal to change the water in them at least once a week. Large-leaved patio plants can also hold water in their axials, which often leads to a concealed breeding spot for mosquitoes and should be drained after watering or rain.
- Clean out landscaping and structural elements: Overgrown, dense vegetation can provide extra resting spots for mosquitoes and contribute to unwanted (and possibly unseen) sources of standing water. Trim back any bushes or trees growing near, into or above your patio area, as these can provide cover for mosquitoes. In addition to the landscaping, you should also pay close attention to structural elements like your building’s drainage system. Plant debris and other waste products can get caught in drains and gutters, leading to water backup and creating prime mosquito breeding conditions. Schedule a regular cleaning (or at least a quick check) of these frequently to be sure water is flowing through them properly. Storm drains should also be checked regularly – apply a registered larvicide in the drains based on label requirements, and mention it to your pest control provider during peak mosquito season as a preventative measure.
- Replace lighting fixtures if needed. Thought they’re quite popular, bug zappers and other UV light traps are not very effective for mosquito control. They’re more likely to capture and kill harmless or helpful insects instead. Blue light from LED bulbs is also not ideal, as it can still attract mosquitoes. Try using yellow light instead. This warmer hue emits a wavelength less visible to mosquitoes, which means they’re less likely to follow it toward your patio. You can use light to draw mosquitoes away from the dining area as well. By placing fluorescent lights on the edges of the property and away from people, you can direct mosquitoes away from your customers to less occupied areas of the premises. Another option is using mosquito repellent coils in patio areas before they open to customers, as it will help repel any resting mosquitoes nearby. Walls and ceilings of the patio can also be treated with a registered residual insecticide to discourage mosquitoes from resting there – talk with your pest control provider about these options.
Implementing each of the tips listed above will give you a great start toward preventing mosquitoes on your restaurant patio. Remember to perform these actions consistently and reevaluate your overall mosquito prevention strategy often. Attention to detail can make all the difference when it comes to combating pests and preserving a pleasant patio dining experience.
If you’re still unsure of how to get started, try contacting a trusted pest management provider. Working with an expert can provide the extra help you need to eliminate mosquitoes without painstaking effort. They’ll work with you to develop an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan, which focuses heavily on pest exclusion and minimal reliance on chemical solutions. The provider will also examine your restaurant building and surrounding property to create a pest prevention strategy tailored specifically to your unique risk factors and challenges.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.orkincanada.com.