By Alice Sinia, Ph.D.
The combination of torrential rain and melting snow during springtime can overwhelm river and drainage systems in places throughout Canada. While some areas are hit harder than others, provinces across the country are all at risk for potential flooding. As those waters recede, accumulated debris begins to attract pests like flies and cockroaches. Pest sightings can increase if proper steps aren’t taken to prevent them, so it’s important to prepare your restaurant against the pest risks associated with flooding this time of year.
Major flooding significantly changes pest habits and habitats, and minor floods can still cause pests to be displaced from their homes and change their population dynamics. Even if your restaurant isn’t directly affected by flood damage, any higher ground is at risk for rodents and cockroaches that have evacuated sewage and drainage systems. Insects and wildlife will actively seek out safer, drier areas.
Floods can cause structural damage, creating pest entry points. It also interferes with the sanitation and exclusion measures you have in place at your restaurant. Traps, bait stations and treatments can be damaged or even washed away in some cases. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost when it comes to battling pests and keeping them out. There are several ways to prepare before flood season starts to mitigate the risk of pest infestation.
First, meet with your pest management professional to assess your property and develop a plan of action should flooding occur. They can identify hot spots vulnerable to pest activity and recommend proactive measures to reduce the chance of pest infestation after flooding, including:
- Consider using aluminum or mesh to cover gutters. This will help prevent leaves and other debris from building up and clogging gutters, especially during heavy rain. Clogged cutters can provide harbourage for pests seeking relief from the wet conditions.
- Ensure drip edge is installed correctly so that water cannot go behind the gutter and doesn’t create a gap where spiders and even wildlife may try to inhabit.
- Inspect the perimeter of your restaurant’s exterior and seal any cracks and gaps with a water-proof sealant. This type of sealant lasts longer and will help keep pests from getting inside. Did you know mice can fit through holes the size of a dime?
- Install window and door screens or check that already existing screens are intact. Be sure screens fit tightly and are without holes to prevent pest entry.
- Pay attention to landscaping and identify any areas outside around the where water could pool, including ditches, uneven ground, soft ground and burrows. Drain, aerate or fill these areas with gravel.
- Make sure garbage compactors sit on level concrete to prevent pooling underneath. Also check that lids are closed so water does not build inside, garbage can’t be washed out and to keep it sealed off to pests seeking refuge.
In the event that your restaurant is directly impacted by a flood, there are still steps you can take to protect your business and its reputation by being proactive against pests. Based on the amount of damage, your first priority is undoubtedly safety and getting your restaurant up and running. Once the damage is assessed and waters have receded, contact your pest management provider for their perspective and recommendations for repairs and preventing infestations later on. Your pest management partner will customize a plan for your restaurant, but here are several steps to keep in mind after a flood occurs:
- If you have to make repairs, make sure pests haven’t already gained access to your restaurant. It will cause an infestation if pests are sealed in the walls. You should also inspect for pest carcasses, such as that of rodents, raccoons or skunks, which can become source of attraction for other pests
- Eliminate remaining standing water around your restaurant’s exterior, including potted plants and other objects that could hold water. These areas are often breeding grounds to mosquitoes, midges and gnats and can also attract birds and other thirsty pests.
- Clean up trash, debris and fallen tree branches around the property as they can attract and harbour pests.
- Inspect wooden structures and dry or aerate any wet wood. Your restaurant is at a higher risk of carpenter ant infestations and damage if heavy rain and flooding leave behind wet or rotting wood.
- Inspect for structural damage caused by gusty winds or harsh rains and repair right away to prevent pest entry.
- Keep trash cans tightly sealed and dumpsters closed during the time it takes for your waste management provider to pick up the trash.
- Clean out and repair gutters and storm drains if damage occurred. This will not only allow the flood waters to drain off your restaurant’s property, but prevents breeding and habourage sites for pests.
- Flooding is stressful for animals, too. If you come across wildlife during your clean-up, contact a professional to handle their removal.
- Check to see if existing pest control devices are missing or damaged and have them replaced as soon as possible. It may be necessary to increase the number of devices, like fly traps, post flooding as a preventive measure.
- If your restaurant has water damage inside, dry and disinfect the area as soon as it is safe to do so. Lingering moisture can cause mould growth, which attracts plaster and fungus beetles.
After major flooding across Canada last year, proactive steps against pests has become increasingly important to help protect your restaurant in the event of a flood. Contact your pest management provider to prepare now and develop a plan of action. That way you can get back to taking care of your customers and leave the pest control worries behind, even during flood season.
About the author:
Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is Quality Assurance Manager – Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 15 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.ca.