pest control

Green goals in pest control are worth setting

A sustainable approach to integrated pest control and management protects facilities most effectively.

By Alice Sinia

Green initiatives are more than a trend.

Many industries including foodservice are putting greater emphasis on ensuring products are sourced and processed in an environmentally conscious manner, and are making decisions with ecological impact in mind. Pest management programs should be no different.

Sustainable pest management is not only achievable but it is also a best practice. Pests only need three things to thrive in an environment: food, water, and shelter. Unfortunately, all three of these resources are readily available and easily accessible in most commercial facilities. That is why it is important to work with a pest management professional to prevent an infestation before it occurs.

Using the principles of integrated pest management (IPM), sustainable pest management can be achieved with minimal use of pesticide products and less environmental impact. Having an IPM program in place can protect a facility from potential pest pressures without compromising green initiatives.

Mission prevention

Integrated pest management is a scientific approach to pest management that focuses on preventive strategies to eliminate conditions that cause pests to be drawn into a facility. By manipulating pests’ behaviour, biology and environment, an IPM program controls pests’ activity before they have a chance to invade a space and cause an infestation.

The presence of pests is often a symptom of underlying sanitation, housekeeping, storage, or maintenance deficiencies, so including employees in IPM program implementation is imperative to pest management success. Employees should be trained on the importance of sanitation and maintenance, how and where to look for pests, and what to do when they find one. With more eyes looking for potential pest problems, it becomes easier to catch pests earlier and come up with corrective action for any potential pest hotspots.

Red flags

Most structure-invading pests avoid human contact whenever possible and are experts at playing hide-and-seek. This can make it difficult to determine if pests are present. When inspecting a facility for signs of pest activity, keep an eye out for:

  • pellet-sized droppings, which signal the presence of rodents, and small, pepper-like flakes, which may indicate a cockroach issue
  • discoloured, greasy looking, dark areas around baseboards and corners known as ‘rub markings’
  • gnaw marks on baseboards, cardboard boxes and electrical wires around the property
  • pests themselves, whether dead or alive, as there could be many more living out of sight

Other signs of pest activity include the presence of body fragments or cast skins in damaged products, or discarded wings in gaps, cracks, and crevices, signalling an open entryway for pests looking for a new home. If there’s an area that consistently exhibits signs of pest activity, make note of the recurring issue and talk to a pest control specialist to determine the next course of action.

A watchful eye

Over time, cracks and gaps can form in the exterior of a facility. While these openings may seem tiny and inconsequential, they are significant to persistent pests that require very little room to invade a space. During routine inspections, take note of any potential pest entryways and fix or replace spots that could be inviting pests inside. Weather-resistant caulk is handy when sealing exterior cracks and gaps, and replacing torn window and vent screens is a must to keep pests out.

There are several other environmentally friendly tools that can be used to keep pests at bay, including door sweeps, weather-stripping, door closers, and air curtains.

  • Door sweeps are easily attached to the bottom of exterior-facing doors. They use bristles to block pests from crawling through gaps or spaces below doors. Placed around doors or windows, weather-stripping prevents unwanted pests from crawling or flying into the facility.
  • Door closers automatically close the door after entering or exiting the facility.
  • Installed above doorways, air curtains blow a burst of air as a door is opened or closed. This wave of air interrupts the path of any winged pests that try to find a landing strip inside the building.

For the record

Diligent and consistent sanitation and maintenance schedules are also critical for an effective pest management program. However, determining how often to perform maintenance can be a difficult task with limited knowledge.

For this reason, it’s important to document each step of the facility’s pest control process and work with a pest control expert to pinpoint pest hotspots. No two facilities will face the exact same pest issues — as pest pressures change, facility maintenance and sanitation schedules should experience a shift as well. By making schedule adjustments, staff will better keep up with pest activity and help reduce or eliminate the use of pesticide treatments, which should only be employed as a last resort. Restaurants and other facilities should not have to compromise their environmentally conscious initiatives for pest control practices.

Alice Sinia, Ph.D., is the quality assurance manager, regulatory/lab services, for Orkin Canada. With more than 20 years’ experience, Alice’s focus is government regulations that pertain to the pest control industry, as well as providing technical support in pest/ insect identification to Orkin branch offices and clients. She can be reached at [email protected].

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