Tag Archives: integrated pest management

Alec Senese, Bayer Crop Science, Digital Pest Management
Bug Bytes

Did Barcode Scanning Kill IPM Inspections?

By Alec Senese
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Alec Senese, Bayer Crop Science, Digital Pest Management

Barcode placement on rodent traps was introduced as a simple and seemingly obvious way to make sure that the work of an IPM inspection was being performed. Each trap would have to be manually inspected in order to scan the barcode, providing proof that the task was completed.

While this method may be a great way to ensure an important job is being done, the problem with this approach is that it does not ensure the most important jobs are being done. In facilities that are large and complex, the act of checking and scanning traps is a lengthy and laborious process. This leaves little time for thorough investigative inspection and corrective actions, which are a vital part of preventing future rodent problems. Pest control technicians’ time should be spent using their understanding of pest biology and behavior to be pest detectives in your facility, not spending the majority of their time on time-consuming tasks that require little brainpower.

So did barcode scanning kill IPM inspections? Probably not, but it certainly didn’t help.

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Product Contaminators: Filthy Flies and Creeping Cockroaches

By Chelle Hartzer
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Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

Remember the childhood game “Red Rover?” The one where a line of kids lock arms to form an unbreakable connection, then other kids try to run through the arm barrier to break through? With enough time, these runners always eventually break through the tough barrier, and the first to do so is a winner!

Turns out, this childhood game is similar to a much less enjoyable occurrence: Pests invading your facility. You’ve taken the time to implement an integrated pest management (IPM) program to form a robust barrier around the outside of your facility. And yet, pests will inevitably find a way in if they’re allowed the same circumstances over time.

That’s because pests are clever, resilient and persistent. It isn’t a matter of “if” pests will try to find a way into your facility, it’s a matter of “when” they’ll find a way in. When they do find a way inside, these pests need to be removed quickly or they can create significant contamination problems for your product.

All pests carry some risk if they get into your facility. Some may simply pose contamination issues while others are able to spread disease-causing pathogens.

In fact, some of these disease-spreading pests can be quite small, making them more likely to find a way through your facility’s external barriers and contaminate product.

That’s bad news for your business’s bottom line. Imagine the cost of losing an entire shipment to contamination. Or even worse, imagine the impact on your business if a supply chain partner farther down the line received this contaminated product and didn’t notice, allowing it to make it all the way to the consumer! The resulting public outcry could devastate a brand.

So, you must be proactive in your efforts to prevent these contaminators. Two of the most common across the United States—flies and cockroaches—love to live and feed on waste and decaying organic matter, which is rife with disease-inducing pathogens. After flies and cockroaches touch or land on these substances, they pick up microscopic pathogens and then move on in search of other things they need to survive. Those three needs: Food, water and shelter.

Unfortunately, your facility has all three of these needs, meaning any food processing facility is a top target for inquisitive pests. Knowing these pests can cause diseases like typhoid fever, dysentery and cholera makes it even more important to proactively prevent them from coming into contact with your product.

Luckily (or unluckily!), there is a lot of overlap in the types of food sources attractive to both flies and cockroaches. To understand how to prevent these pests from thriving inside your facility, it helps to know what makes them tick.

Why do flies and cockroaches like food processing facilities?

To answer this question, it’s important to look at the biology of these pests. While there are some differences between fly and cockroach species, they’re all attracted to the same general food source: Organic matter.

Fruits, vegetables, meats, grains—you name it, these pests would love to eat it. The presence of these organic foods alone will be enough to draw in flies and cockroaches. But these pests, especially cockroaches, prefer to stay hidden in cracks and crevices when not searching for food.

Cockroaches and flies aren’t picky eaters, so nearly any food is a food source for them. That’s why they can both be found around waste areas, whether that’s the lingering garbage left in the break room trash can or the overflowing dumpster in the back. These locations offer organic materials aplenty, and both flies and cockroaches are going to feel quite comfortable calling these areas home. Some flies are even notoriously able to thrive off the organic material built up in drains!

Once they have found a home in or around the facility, flies and cockroaches alike are going to start reproducing. Both have incredibly high reproduction rates, so a few of these pests can turn into an infestation in no time.

Cockroaches (depending on the species, of course) lay dozens of oothecae over the course of their lifetime, and each of these oothecae—or egg cases—can produce a dozen or more immature cockroaches that can emerge in less than a month. They take a few months to develop but they are feeding that whole time! Flies, on the other hand, have even more daunting reproduction rates. One female housefly is capable of laying up to 150 eggs in a batch, and she’ll produce five or six of these batches over the course of a few days! Within a day after the eggs are laid, maggots will hatch and slowly begin to mature. Within one to two weeks after hatching, these maggots will turn into pupae and then mature into adult houseflies.

It becomes easy to see why flies and cockroaches would love a food processing facility. Simply put, there are plenty of food sources and hiding spots for reproduction to occur. Therefore, careful monitoring procedures and preventive strategies need to be in place and be robust enough.

How can facilities protect themselves from filthy pest pressure?

Roaches and flies are constant scavengers, so any open doors or windows are an invitation for pests to come in. Roaches are also known to squeeze their way through tiny gaps in the exterior of a facility. Loading docks and break rooms are high-risk areas, too, as they’re prime harborage areas with plenty of hiding places and potential food sources. Even clutter like cardboard boxes collecting in a corner can be a perfect home and food source for cockroaches!

When reviewing the food safety plan for potential improvements, look at the proactive sanitation and exclusion tactics and ask yourself if these are effectively preventing pest issues before they become a problem.

Here are a few examples of sanitation and exclusion tactics every facility should be doing to prevent filthy pests like flies and cockroaches:

  • Make sanitation a priority with your staff. Make a sanitation schedule with daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. Assign cleaning roles to your employees based on where they work around the facility, and make sure they know what to do if they spot a pest somewhere. A pest sighting log in a centralized location helps. Don’t forget to clean up break rooms and offices.
  • Use automatic doors and check door seals. End the “open-door policy” for pests. Any entry point is a risk, so reduce the amount of time and number of access points for pests however you can. Air curtains can also help push pests away from frequently used doors, as they push air out of the facility when doors are opened. As a result, any nearby flying pests are blown away from the facility.
  • Seal cracks and crevices. Walk around and inspect the outside (and inside!) of the facility at least quarterly. Using a waterproof caulk or other sealant, cover any gaps or openings you can find. Remember: Some pests only need a few centimeters to squeeze into a building.
  • Inspect incoming and outgoing shipments. Vehicles transporting goods can become infested with pests, too. Inspecting shipments not only reduces the chances of pests being brought in by staff unintentionally, but in partnership with supply chain partners it can help you detect the source of an infestation more effectively to get your operations back up and running quicker.
  • Store food securely. Make sure products are stored off of the floor and are sealed when possible. In kitchens and other areas where employees store food, use airtight containers and empty trash bins at least daily to avoid food waste becoming a target.
  • Don’t forget to look up. Many issues could start on the roof and roof vents, and air-handling units can serve as access points for many pests.

Pest prevention doesn’t have to be hard, but you do have to be organized and, most importantly, proactive. If you take the time to create a strong food safety plan focused on the proactive prevention of pests, you’re going to better protect your business’s bottom line and brand reputation. And, perhaps even better, having a strong plan in place will give you some peace of mind knowing your products are protected from invasive, filthy pest contaminators.

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Invisible Invaders: How Tiny Beetles Destroy Stored Products

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

Most likely, you’re going to do everything in your power to set up a proactive prevention plan to block out this virus. You’d probably want a new policy for inspecting incoming shipments. You’d probably want to add monitoring devices and install automated devices to ensure the virus is blocked out. And, you’d probably start checking the stored products you already have safely tucked away.

But instead of an imaginary virus, know that beetles can actually do this! Beetles, specifically those that fall into the category of stored product pests, actively seek out and feed on the types of goods that food processing facilities work so hard to protect. While some of these beetles prefer certain types of foods over others (grains are a pest favorite, for example) they’d love to find a home in your facility.

While it may seem like an invisible, pervasive virus is a far cry from some beetles running around your facility, know that this comparison isn’t a stretch. The beetles we’ll look at in this article are all four millimeters long or smaller, so it’s not going to be the type of pest that you happen to notice and can quickly remove. These types of beetles are known for their ability to stealthily invade stored products and feed, reproduce and survive right there in the product. If your first thought is, “well, I’ve never seen one of those,” then you need to inspect your products. And soon.

In fact, one study from the University of Wisconsin and the USDA found that “stored product pests can damage, contaminate, or consume as much as 10% of the total food produced in the U.S. alone, while in developing countries that rate has been estimated at 50% or more.”

Stored product pests are prevalent. And beetles are some of the most common we find in the United States, with multiple different species plaguing food processing and storage facilities. Because the most common species vary from region to region, it often takes the insight of a trained pest management professional to correctly identify one of these pests.

That said, let’s dive in a little deeper on just a few of these beetles to better understand what attracts them and how they operate to get to your stored product.

Cigarette and Drugstore Beetles

Similar in appearance and in their habits, cigarette and drugstore beetles are two common beetles found in food processing facilities. Generally, about two to three millimeters in length, these light brown bugs are tough to spot and a pain to remove if not detected quickly.

Both beetles are known for their ability to chew into stored products and penetrate through some packaging. Once inside, they feed and spread to other nearby food sources over time. And when it comes time to reproduce, both species of beetle will lay eggs directly on or in food products. The larvae then go on to spend most of their young lives thriving while surrounded by a consistent food source until they reach adulthood. At that point, the infestation is going to spread to neighboring products and the population will start to increase at an accelerating rate.

Despite their naming, both beetles eat a variety of foods including cereal, coffee beans, spices, rice, dried fruits, animal-based products and pet food. If there are any small holes in packaging—even cardboard—it’s possible that cigarette or drugstore beetles are present.

Flour Beetles

Reddish-brown in color and about three to four millimeters in length, flour beetles are longer, narrower beetles than the cigarette and drugstore beetles. Flour beetles are so small, it usually takes a magnifying glass to tell the difference between the different species (red and confused).

Another one of the common pests found in stored products, flour beetles can live for nearly a year and deposit hundreds of eggs in that time span. Once they find a way to wriggle themselves into packaging, flour beetles contaminate goods with shed skin and frass (bug poop!). If allowed to feed and thrive for too long, they’ll go from product to product and infest an entire room full of goods. Everything they’ve infested will be unfit to eat and will have to be thrown out, which can prove costly.

The good news (if you can call it that) when it comes to flour beetles is that they’re a bit pickier than other stored product pests. They typically feed on the broken bits and dust from grain that collect in bags of grains, flour, cereal and pasta.

Sawtoothed Grain Beetle

These beetles thrive in the cracks and crevices in foods, wedging their flat bodies through miniscule gaps. Ranging about two to three millimeters in length, these long, thin beetles usually get into products when they’re being transported. Often, the pests are brought indoors unknowingly, where they begin to spread their influence. One tainted item can lead to a massive infestation down the road.

These grain beetles are also known to cause mold problems due to moisture buildup. Frankly, beetle-laden products often wind up having moisture buildup and mold, which can attract other pests to the scene if allowed to persist. In their adult form, sawtoothed grain beetles are known to travel quite a bit, so it’s possible you may spot them on the floor or in cracks and crevices near food storage areas.

The food preference for sawtoothed grain beetles is a little different from the previous two groups of invasive beetles, as they prefer to feed on food items like birdseed, cereal, chocolate, dried fruit, flour, pasta, pet food, nuts, tobacco and yeast.

Proactive IPM and Prevention Tips

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the signs that stored product beetles might be present at your facility, let’s discuss the many things you can do to proactively prevent them.

First and foremost, a variety of tactics should be incorporated as part of your Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Under FSMA regulations, this is something every facility should have at this point. It emphasizes a proactive approach to pest management, which is something you’ll need to implement immediately if you want to decrease the risk of a costly pest infestation.

So, let’s look at some specific things you and your pest management professional can implement.

Initially, closely inspect the facility and set up an ongoing plan to inspect incoming shipments for signs of stored product pests like live insects, webbing on products and damaged kernels. FSMA mandates that considerations for your supply chain are in place, so talk to your supply chain partners about inspecting all incoming and outgoing shipments to ensure pest issues can be identified promptly and traced back to the source.

You should also use monitoring devices to help you keep a pulse on pest populations around the facility, which is especially helpful for larger buildings and warehouses. Pheromone traps are especially helpful when monitoring for stored product pests and can help you detect any of the invasive beetle species mentioned previously. Other tools like fly lights and glue traps can help you track other pest trends over time. Once placed, monitoring devices will offer insight as to which areas in your facility are most at-risk for pest problems. Then, you can work on improving the exclusion and sanitation tactics in those areas to reduce the risk of invasive pests.

Also, use temperature as a tactic. These beetles (and other stored product pests) cannot live in extreme temperatures. The fact is that most stored product insects can’t develop below 15o C (60o F). While this isn’t an option for all facilities, even fans and lower humidity can help.

Finally, create a sanitation schedule. This should involve as many staff members as possible and include daily, weekly and monthly duties. Perhaps most importantly, clean up product spills immediately and watch for damp or wet spots that may encourage mold. While it’s impossible to clean up everything, the more you limit the amount and access to food, the lower the chances of insects detecting and pursuing those food sources.

So, be proactive in protecting your stored products from beetles! They’ll prove costly if allowed to destroy and contaminate product, so don’t wait to improve your food safety plan. This threat is worse than an imaginary virus, because it’s very, very real.

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Filthy Flies Can Put Your Operations at Risk

By Chelle Hartzer
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Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

When we think about dirty pests, cockroaches are usually the first to come to mind. But while the conditions they thrive in are disgusting, flies breed and feed in the filthiest areas. Their lifestyle means their bodies can be covered in dangerous, potentially disease-inducing pathogens, which can be spread anytime they land on a surface or their body comes into contact with something.

House flies are born as maggots, emerging into their larval stage from tiny eggs laid anywhere decaying organic matter can be found. After splashing about in the grime and decay and consuming just about anything they can find, the larvae leave their food source and crawl around seeking out cool, dry, protected places. A shell forms around the pupae, where they remain for a brief time before turning into adults. This entire process takes less than two weeks from egg to breeding adult. Once they’re adults, house flies take off in search of more decaying organic matter and moisture to lay their eggs in and continue the processes.

Essentially, a house fly spends its entire life cycle either crawling around in filth or flying around to find new sources of filth. Add in the fact that they reproduce rapidly, and it’s easy to see why they’re a food safety threat. But they’re not the only species of fly that plagues food processing facilities, as fruit flies and moth flies are two other incredibly common fly species that love to make food processing facilities a new home.

To prevent flies, the first step is to take a close look at your current integrated pest management (IPM) program and ensure your program focuses on taking a proactive approach to mitigating pest issues. But before discussing the specifics of how to protect a facility from these fly invaders, it is important to know how and why they get into a facility in the first place. Each species has slightly different locations where they’re likely to be found, which should be monitored closely to ensure they don’t become hot spots.

Let’s look at the three most common fly species most likely to plague a food processing facility:

House Flies

House flies are persistent and active. Each time they pause to rest on floors, walls or ceilings, remember they’re potentially dropping off disease-causing pathogens. House flies are known to transfer more than 100 pathogens resulting in ailments like typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera and dysentery. They’ll feed on any moist human food, animal food, garbage, carcasses and just about any other wet or damp organic material. Flies detect a food source and hone in on it, which is why they’ll be looking for a chance to invade your food processing facility.

Moth Flies

Although moth flies feed on organic matter and sewage, they’re found in moist areas coated with nutrient-laden organic material. They are sometimes called drain flies because (you guessed it) they are often found in drains. They love the buildup that sticks around the pipes, and once they start reproducing, they can be a nuisance to eliminate. Usually, you’ll never see drain fly eggs and larvae because they drop irregular masses of egg sacs that hatch into larvae, which then live in the gelatinous film inside drains. From there, they mature into pupae and then flying adults, which is when you’ll start to notice them. This is why regular drain cleaning, with a foaming cleaner, is important in controlling these fly issues.

Fruit Flies

Like drain flies, fruit flies are named aptly. They’re most attracted to rotting or decaying fruit and vegetables, but they also enjoy fermented items like beer, liquor and wine. Aside from the products themselves, fruit flies may also breed and develop in drains, garbage disposals, trash cans and even mop buckets. Fruit flies are also known for being a major risk to contaminate food with bacteria and other pathogens. If there is food waste present, fruit flies want to be there. Finding their source and eliminating it is especially important for successful control.

Now, the most important strategy for preventing flies—and most pests in general—is to implement a robust sanitation plan. Flies are looking for food and water to survive, so any source of organic matter or moisture is going to be likely to attract them. And once they’re inside, flies are likely to stay there. Most won’t travel more than a few hundred feet from the spot they were born in their entire lifetime. While small flies are more likely to be found breeding inside facilities, large flies are likely to be breeding outside and flying inside structures.

Consider these tips, as they can help you keep flies and other pest threats away:

  • Make sanitation a priority. Sanitation is one of the most important ways to help reduce pests. Flies love any damp organic matter they can find, so clean up messes as soon as they occur. And don’t forget to take out the trash on a regular basis. That means at least daily. Don’t miss cleaning the insides of trash bins, liners often leak and a buildup of material can be present underneath them.
  • Swap outdoor lighting. Use outdoor sodium-vapor lights, especially near entrances/exits to the inside of your facility. Lights can be placed away from the building to draw flies away and reduce populations at the same time. Ensure that inside lights don’t shine out at night and attract night flying insects and flies in.
  • Install automatic doors. Automatic doors give flying pests a smaller window of opportunity to get indoors by reducing the amount of time that doors remain open. For greater effectiveness, install two sets of automatic doors that only open once the other is closed to create a vestibule. Installing air curtains behind these doors can also help block pests from finding a way inside. Air curtains alone aren’t perfect, but they can help some.
  • Inspect loading and unloading areas. Shipment areas are a prime location for flying pests to wander in. Make sure all doors form a tight seal when shut and are not allowed to stay open for extended periods of time.
  • Seal cracks and crevices. Just about any gap, no matter how small, can be big enough for flies to find a way inside. Door sweeps and weather stripping can be installed to minimize these gaps. You can also use weather-resistant caulk to seal gaps on the exterior of your building, although this will likely take some time and a team effort at larger facilities.
  • Clean drains on a regular basis. Even if you don’t have a lot of “wet” processing, all drains, including break room, restroom, and locker room drains need to be cleaned. Small flies can develop in as little as seven days, so weekly cleaning is a must.

Implement these sanitation and exclusion efforts as part of your ongoing IPM program. With flies, sanitation cannot be stressed enough. They are living and breeding in conditions that need to be cleaned up, inside and outside. As with any pest issues, it is important to contact a pest management professional if it seems things are getting out of hand. If you’re seeing flies daily inside the building, that’s probably a good sign that your products may be at risk!

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Not-So-Fantastic Pests and Where to Find Them

By Chelle Hartzer
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Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

Although no two food processing facilities face the exact same pest pressure, there are a few common pests you’re likely to spot. Depending on the type of pests in the surrounding area, different spaces in a building will be more at-risk for an infestation. Pests will feed on and contaminate product, and get into equipment, if undeterred. And considering many pests can be a potential health and safety threat, prevention is important to help protect your bottom line.

Instead of reacting to pest issues, adjust your integrated pest management (IPM) program to take a proactive approach to preventing the following six common pests.

Rodents

Some of the most clever and resilient creatures in the pest world, rodents are a versatile threat to food products. Usually brown or gray, mice and rats can compress their bodies to fit through holes and gaps the size of a dime and a quarter, respectively. Once inside, they reproduce rapidly. A single rat or mouse can produce more than 32 offspring per year. In addition, they can use their sharp teeth to gnaw through packaging and leave urine and feces droppings everywhere they go. All of this makes them an absolute terror once indoors. They’re smart enough to know hiding from humans is their best option, and they’ll even learn from unsuccessful trapping attempts.

Cockroaches

These notorious crawling insects are contaminators, too. Roaches love to get into dirty areas and run all over food contact surfaces, equipment and products, potentially dropping off disease-inducing pathogens on everything they touch. Cockroaches can fit through tiny gaps by flattening their bodies, making them tough (but not impossible!) to keep out. They tend to avoid coming out in the open during daytime hours, as they prefer to hide in the dark. If you spot one running around during the day, then it may be a sign of a larger infestation behind the scenes.

Flies

When flies detect a potential food source, they’re going to head straight for it. Stringent sanitation is the best way to minimize attractants, and keeping doors and other openings closed can help, too. Preventing flies is important, because they’re twice as filthy as cockroaches. In fact, more than 100 pathogens are associated with the housefly alone. These pathogens are transferred when the fly lands on a surface, contaminating the area. If flies are a threat, you should have fly lights placed strategically to reduce the population and monitor where they’re coming from.

Indian Meal Moths

This tiny insect feeds on a wide range of raw and finished goods, and leaves behind frass (insect droppings) that that can lead to major loss of products. If you don’t see the pest itself, which can be reddish-brown and silver-grey in color, you may notice the silk webbing spun by larvae. When someone notices this, immediate action is necessary, as it means the moths are reproducing and may be spreading amongst products in close proximity.

Sawtoothed Grain Beetle

Unable to penetrate most packaging, sawtoothed grain beetles hunt for holes in packaging, which can be one millimeter in diameter, and lay eggs near the opening. Larvae then squeeze through the hole once hatched and begin feeding on product! Although they prefer processed food products like bran, chocolate and oatmeal, they’ll feed on just about anything they can get into. About three millimeters in length, these beetles love moldy, damp conditions, so minimize those attractants as much as possible.

Ants

Everybody has seen or been around ants before, but are you aware that they carry bacteria on their bodies capable of contaminating food? What starts with a few foragers can escalate quickly, as ants leave behind an invisible chemical trail leading other ants straight to a food source. Ants will feed on just about anything depending on the species, so identification is key. Generally only a few millimeters in length and ranging in color from black to red, ants can establish colonies under a building’s foundation, on lawns or in out-of-sight locations indoors.

Watch Out for High-Risk Areas

Understanding the biology of pests helps us to understand what they’re looking for and where they’re most likely to be hiding. Generally speaking, pests are attracted to places able to provide them with the three things they need to survive: Food, water and shelter.

Food doesn’t necessarily mean actual food products of course, as some pests—like cockroaches, flies and ants—will feed on any organic matter they can find. Remember, that includes garbage!

But taking out the trash and ensuring dumpsters are far away from the building aren’t the only ways to reduce pests. Quite the contrary, pests have a myriad of different hiding spots that should be checked by facility staff and a pest management professional regularly.

For starters, don’t overlook the break room. It’s easy to forget to take out the trash, which should be done at least daily depending on waste output. Break rooms also frequently have sinks with drains where food buildup can cause odors that are attractive to pests. Drain flies love this! Wipe down countertops and sweep/vacuum/mop daily to ensure larger food crumbs and debris are taken care of, and make sure your staff knows to clean up any spills immediately. Don’t forget those vending machines—when was the last time they were moved and cleaned underneath and behind?

Equipment can be a hot spot for pests, too. Insects, especially stored product pests, will hide beneath and behind heavy machinery. Pests don’t want to be exposed out in the open, so they’ll hide in small gaps and crevices. And if there is food waste or moisture present, watch out! Those attractants will prove irresistible if allowed to linger for too long, so make sure your cleaning schedule includes sanitation in and around equipment. Never overlook those hard-to-reach areas, or pests will make you pay.

Speaking of hard-to-reach areas, walls are often popular harborage areas for pests. Rodents are perhaps the most dangerous, as they pose a health and safety threat to employees and can contaminate product. Worse still, wiring in walls looks like roots to rodents. They’ll often chew through and create sparks—a potential fire hazard. Rodents are just one of many pests happy to live in your walls, so contact a professional if you notice activity.

Even once food is produced, packaged and stored, pests are still a threat! Stored product pests, like the Indian meal moth and sawtoothed grain beetle, can get into packaged products and live in it. They’ll feed and contaminate the product, then move onto the next, proving costly when large batches have to be thrown out. Thankfully, there are monitoring devices like pheromone traps to help identify where these begin to pop up, but again, you’ll want a professional’s help to ensure these tools are effective.

Don’t wait for pest sightings to occur before taking action. The best approach to pest prevention is a proactive one, and there’s not an insect or animal alive who can outsmart a trained pest management professional. Lingering issues will prove costly with time, as a product infestation or plant shutdown would be a painful hit on your business’s bottom line. Instead, create a plan that accounts for these pests and high-risk areas around your building, and you’ll be able to rest easier knowing you’re prepared for pest invaders.

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Stored Product Insects Are Costly Consumers

By Chelle Hartzer
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Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

How much can pest issues cost? The truth is, it changes based on the pest, the size of the population and the prevalence throughout your food processing facility and products. If you want to protect your bottom line, you need to know which pests are the biggest threat and take steps to prevent them. Let’s focus on one major threat to food processing facilities: Stored product insects.

Believed by some pest control providers to be the costliest pests for food manufacturing and processing businesses, stored product insects can put a huge dent in your profits. What’s worse, these pests can be tough to discover by an untrained eye, and they’re incredibly difficult to control without the help of a pest management professional.

According to the USDA and the University of Wisconsin, “stored product pests can damage, contaminate, or consume as much as 10% of the total food produced in the U.S. alone, while in developing countries that rate has been estimated at 50% or more.”

That’s an astronomical figure for such small insects! Can you imagine the impact on your bottom line if 10% of your product was ruined?

For any business in need of an updated prevention plan, the first step is to review the current integrated pest management (IPM) program to ensure a proactive approach has been implemented to monitor for, and react quickly to, any pest issues around the facility. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for an IPM program; each program should be customized to meet the needs of the individual business. Different geography, construction and food products being produced can all create different pest pressures.

According to another study conducted by CEBR on the impact of pests on the global food supply, disruptions caused by pest infestations resulted in $9.6 billion in operating costs in the countries surveyed and 84% of U.S. businesses reported a net impact on revenue due to pest infestation across a five-year period. Diving deeper, 28% of food manufacturers and processors reported pest-related costs associated with contamination of raw materials leading to replacement costs.

In other words, having stored product insects around is expensive. If there were ever any doubts about the value of a proactive IPM program, these statistics prove it. So, let’s take a closer look at how you can work to protect your business against stored product insect—some of the most likely and costly invaders.

Types of Stored Product Insects

The term stored product insect covers a range of insect species that can be broken up into three main subcategories: External feeders, internal developers and secondary feeders. Each category has its own distinct characteristics, which are important to know for detection and proper identification.

External Feeders

This group develops on the outside of products, including damaged grains and processed foods. As they feed, they damage product and leave behind frass (insect droppings) as they make their way through.

Some of the most common external feeders include Indian meal moths and flour beetles.

Adult Indian meal moths are roughly 9 mm long and have a wingspan of 14–20 mm. The front wings on the adults are bicolored, with two main tones: Reddish-brown at the wing tip and silver-grey at the base. If you don’t see the pest itself, you may notice a messy silk webbing spun by the larvae.

Red and confused flour beetles, two of the most common beetle species, are 3–4 mm in length and also have a reddish-brown color. They’re rectangular-shaped beetles and can often be found in grain bins infested with internal developers. This is because flour beetles like to feed on the kernels other stored product insects, like borers, have already broken up. They can also be found in processing lines and finished products.

Internal Feeders

Internal feeders lay eggs inside or outside of kernels of grain but develop entirely inside those kernels. As they develop, they hollow out the kernel, then the adults can go on to damage other kernels.

Some of the most commonly encountered internal developers are lesser grain borers and rice, maize and granary weevils. Weevils measure about 5 mm in length and are usually brown in color with a distinct elongated “snout.” Lesser grain borers, the most common internal feeder across the United States infesting wheat, are a bit smaller and don’t have the snout that weevils do. Both weevils and lesser grain borers have pitted patterns on their bodies, and all can fly except the granary weevil. As the larvae and pupae develop inside grain kernels, damage becomes especially evident when the adult chews out and leaves a distinctive perfectly round hole.

Secondary Feeders

This group typically eats from the outside in and feeds on the mold and fungus that can grow on out-of-condition grain and damp product.

Two of the most common secondary feeders are the foreign grain beetle and sawtoothed grain beetle. Foreign grain beetles love mold, and resemble flour beetles in size and color. To tell them apart, look for two “bumps” on the top corners of the thorax. Eliminating molds and damp conditions that facilitate mold growth is generally enough to help prevent infestations from secondary feeders.

Sawtoothed grain beetles can feed on many types of products and while they can’t physically penetrate packaging, the adults will find holes less than 1 mm in diameter, lay eggs, and the larvae will squeeze through the tiny openings to get to the product. They prefer processed food products like bran, chocolate, oatmeal and even pet foods, but will feed on whatever they can access. Sawtoothed grain beetles are smaller than flour beetles (3 mm) and have distinctive “teeth” on the margins of the thorax.

Prevention, Monitoring & Detection, and Removal

The best way to protect a facility from stored product insects is to employ numerous different tactics. Specifically, it’s important to proactively mitigate pest attractants, monitor for activity in key areas around the facility, and establish thresholds and action plans when pests are detected.

First and foremost, educate all employees about the pests most common around your facility and what to do should they spot one. Your pest sighting log is a great tool, but only if people use it! Have a clear escalation plan for any pest issues spotted. In addition, create a sanitation schedule to ensure all areas and equipment are cleaned to remove food and moisture buildup attractive to pests on a regular basis. While you can’t possibly eliminate all food (you are of course storing and processing food!), the aim is to minimize the amount and the access these insects have to that food source.

Next, make sure all incoming shipments and packages are inspected closely in a sealed off unloading area away from other products. Make sure employees know to check for signs of damage, especially holes caused by boring pests. Taking the time to inspect anything entering your facility in this way will give you a chance to spot pests before they have the chance to spread to your other products. Use the first-in, first-out (FIFO) approach for all goods to ensure older product doesn’t sit. The longer product sits, the more chance it can be infested and it may start deteriorating, and this is especially attractive to stored product insects.

For ongoing monitoring, talk to a pest management professional about deploying pheromone traps strategically around your facility. Pheromone traps are the best tool to monitor for stored product insects, as they will give you an idea of which pests are present, in what numbers, where they are, and they can help you track trends in pest activity over time. If any stored product insects are ever spotted, contact your pest management professional immediately. If there’s a chance of having stored product insects on your product, you absolutely should have pheromone trap monitoring in place.

The Total Cost of Stored Product Pest Problems

The impact of pest issues caused by stored product insects isn’t limited to the cost of paused operations and replacing contaminated product. These pests are tough to spot, and could be passed along to partners further down the supply chain. Naturally this could hurt the trust between supply chain partners, which is never a good thing!

If your facility gets a reputation of having problems with stored product insects, it’s going to hurt your brand—and that’s going to be another knock to your bottom line. Stored product insects can spread quickly between products placed closely together. So, if pests are mistakenly shipped to a partner’s facility or a store and then on to a customer, now THEY are going to have to deal with stored product insects, too. Being proactive is the best approach, and careful documentation can help you and your supply chain partners track pest issues to the source so they can be resolved quickly and minimize the impact on profits.

It becomes easy to see stored product insects can cause both short-term and long-term effects on the profitability of a business. Don’t let that be your facility and your reputation! Be proactive and partner with a pest management provider to help ensure your facility operations run smoothly and your customers stay happy.

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Minimize the Risk of Pests by Maximizing Your Staff

By Chelle Hartzer
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Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

If you were given the option to run a long-distance relay race, would you select four runners to split up the distance or would you choose to run it alone? That’s a no-brainer—you’d pick four runners to give yourself the best chance of success every time!

Apply the same mentality to your food safety program, and (by extension) your pest management program. The only way you’re going to be able to effectively monitor an entire facility is by establishing a team to help. Otherwise, that’s a lot of ground for just one person to cover.

As a food processing facility, you probably already have an integrated pest management (IPM) program in place. But does your staff know the telltale signs of rodents or stored product pests? Would they be able to spot cockroaches crawling around in your facility’s storage area? The earlier you can spot a pest problem, the quicker it can be resolved before it turns into a major issue that could prove costly.

Staff training is the best way to get everybody on the same page when it comes to pest management, because pests are great at hiding and living in hard-to-reach locations. It takes a trained eye to spot certain pests, and informed employees can be a great help to this.

Before you begin staff training, you will want to identify all of the areas both inside and outside of your building that are at high risk for pest issues. Schedule a meeting with your pest management provider and make note of the high-risk areas and the most common pests your facility may be prone to. Once you’ve determined these high-risk areas and the best tactics to protect against them, employee training is a logical next step.

The bigger your facility, the tougher it is to manage all of the different potential hot spots. Everybody knows this, but few consider what this means for their pest management programs. Creating an educational pest program for employees is critical to protecting your facility. The employees are on the ground level and are often the most likely spot the early signs of a pest problem.

Step 1: Start with the Basics

When beginning staff training, make sure employees understand the IPM program in place and how it works in your facility. Many pest control providers offer complimentary employee training, so reach out to your provider about on-site training sessions. As employees learn more about what each tactic does to prevent pest issues, they’ll get a better understanding of why pests get into the facility in the first place. Once informed, they can use this knowledge to help reduce potential risk factors such as standing water from a leak, food waste in processing areas and waste removal.

Here are a few telltale signs of some common pests:

  • Stored product pests: Though generally tough to spot, there are some common telltale signs you can spot on products like webbing, larvae, live adults—some of which can look like grain products—and, of course, damaged packaging.
  • Flies: If you see larvae (maggots), especially around drains and in other damp or wet areas, it’s time to act fast. Flies reproduce quickly, so small problems can escalate rapidly.
  • Cockroaches: They can be found behind or under equipment, wall voids, or any other protected area. Cockroaches will take advantage of nearly any food source!
  • Rodents: These pests leave droppings constantly, so watch out for tiny pellets. Rodents are constantly gnawing, so if you see any products with gnaw marks, that’s a good indication that rodents may be present.

A pest management provider can identify what challenges are unique to your facility and which areas are most likely to experience pest activity. Employees are going to be a crucial part of this process, so they will need to know where to look.

Step 2: Designate Roles

Employees are the eyes and ears of your business. Whether it’s pest problems or any other issues at your facility, your staff is probably going to notice issues before management does. Once they know the pests to look out for, they can also keep an eye on:

• Cracks and openings: Any opening that leads from the inside to the outside may allow pests in.
• Sanitation issues: From large bins of food waste, to break room trash cans, let them know to report when these are overflowing or need to be cleaned.

The key is once employees know what to look for, they need to know how and who to report it to. Make sure there is a pest sighting log and employees know where it is and what information to record.

Step 3: Emphasize Communication

Communication is key. We all know that. Which is why it’s so important to encourage the age-old adage when it comes to potential pest problems: “If you see something, say something!” The longer a pest issue persists, the more likely it is to turn into a costly, potentially hazardous infestation.

Consistent communication between employees, management and pest control providers benefits all parties. It ensures employees are in-the-know about important information and new initiatives while making it easier for managers and pest control professionals to stay a step ahead of invading pests. Designate a point person that employees should go to if they have something they want to talk about and make sure to utilize that pest sighting log!

Open dialogue makes it clear to employees that they are a contributing part of your IPM program. Your employees serve as the first line of defense against pests, so if they see pest activity, it’s incredibly important they feel comfortable escalating it immediately. Tell employees you want and need their input in order for your pest management efforts to be most effective. And don’t forget to solicit feedback—they might even have ideas on how to make the program better!

Step 4: Establish a Pest-Sighting Protocol

There needs to be a clear course of action for any employee who notices a pest or evidence of pests within your facility. You’re in the business of protecting your products, and many pests spread dangerous pathogens everywhere they go.

Establishing a protocol for reporting pests will keep things simple for both employee and manager, as it ensures pest problems are documented and action steps are clear. Should a pest be spotted, make sure employees know to do the following:

  • Capture pest(s) for identification if possible. Take pictures if you can’t. The better a pest management professional can see a pest, the more accurately they’ll be able to prescribe a solution.
  • Fill out a pest-sighting log and note when, where and how many pests were seen. Imagine this as a crime scene, and your pest management professional is the crime scene investigator.
  • Contact management if the issue is severe and needs immediate attention, at which point management should contact their pest management professional. The sooner everyone is on the same page, the quicker you can implement a solution to help prevent pests from compromising your products.

Even the best IPM program can’t keep out every pest trying to get into your facility, which is why it’s so important to establish a pest-sighting protocol. It might also be worth forming an IPM committee to meet on a monthly basis. It’s best if this committee includes members from each department and, if possible, the pest management professional in order to promote ongoing improvements.

Step 5: Ongoing Education

Once you’ve taught your employees the basics of how to spot pests, pest evidence, and how to proceed once they see any, training should not stop there.

Although pests stay relatively the same year to year, your facility won’t. Staying up to date with the latest information can help you proactively prevent pests before they become a threat to your operations. Review monitoring reports with your pest management professional to determine if changes need to occur to focus on new areas, or redouble efforts at a hot spot that hasn’t been resolved yet. Remember: Many pest issues take time to completely manage.

Ask your pest management partner for tip sheets, checklists and other educational materials to stay current, and share them with your employees. Also, keep in mind that different pests thrive in different weather conditions, so adjust your tips for employees seasonally so they know what to look for.

With all staff members consistently armed with the necessary information to help identify hot spots and minimize the risk of pests, you’ll be in great shape for your next audit. Just make sure to document everything being done to help proactively protect products. You’ve got to have proof of your efforts!

Glen Ramsey, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Using Monitoring Devices to Protect Products from Pests

By Glen Ramsey
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Glen Ramsey, Orkin

They’re sneaking in through your windows, crawling through your front door when nobody is looking and squeezing through tiny openings to steal your food. They’re tough to catch, and even tougher to spot.

Naturally, we’re talking about pests. They come in all shapes and sizes, but have the same goal: To find a reliable, safe place to call home where they have abundant access to food, water and shelter. Unfortunately, food processing facilities offer pests all three of these things, making them susceptible to infestations that can compromise products and hurt the bottom line.

You probably already have an integrated pest management (IPM) program in place to mitigate the risk of pests inside your facility. While these programs are great for offering proactive, preventive solutions that use chemical solutions as a last resort, they shouldn’t be the beginning and end of your pest management efforts.

First and foremost, facility staff should always be familiar with the warning signs of pest issues and what to do if they spot something crawling around the building. Most pest management companies will offer complimentary training sessions for you and your staff, which is a great first step. Then, during your weekly/monthly staff meetings, let your employees know which pests are most likely to cause a problem and include some images of warning signs. Empower them to call out problems, explain the risks of pest damage to your products, and you’ll have a better chance of catching pest problems early.

But your staff can’t be expected to spot everything, and there are always pests that slip through the cracks.

That’s why pest management professionals frequently recommend using a variety of tools to closely watch pest activity and detect emerging hot spots around facilities. Tools like IR thermometers, moisture meters and telescoping cameras help pest management professionals identify these high-risk areas. Once these areas have been identified, your pest management professional can take the next step in advanced detection using monitoring devices to paint the picture of pest activity around your facility.

Monitoring devices make it easier to see where pests are traveling and give an idea for how many may be present. These devices capture pests for identification, assist in early detection and will help to mitigate the risk of infestation through early warning. If you’re particularly worried about an upcoming audit or the recent enforcement deadlines for FSMA, these devices will give you a better chance of scoring well and can help you demonstrate compliance by shifting your pest management plan to a more proactive approach as mandated by these new regulations.

There could be quite a few of these monitoring devices you’d like to start using around your facility today.

Fly Lights

A popular device found in many food processing facilities, fly lights attract flying pests by emitting strong UV lights that draws insects in, at which point they become trapped on a sticky glue board in the back of the light—out of sight and away from your products. They work best when placed inside near doorways and windows where pests might be able to squeeze inside, but they’re effective just about anywhere. Discuss placement with your pest management provider.

Why does it work?

The leading theory on why flying pests are attracted to lights has to do with their reliance on the sun and moon as navigational guides. In the past, insects could use the sun and moon as a guide because it stayed at a constant angle, allowing them to move in a consistent direction. However, artificial light confuses them and causes them to circle around the light source. Insects that move towards light in this way are called positively phototactic, while pests like cockroaches who move away from light are called negatively phototactic.

Mechanical Traps

Most commonly used for rodents, mechanical traps can allow for the humane capture and removal of rats and mice. These traps sound simple, and that’s because it is; the concept hasn’t changed for years. Why? Because it’s effective! Rodent curiosity or bait can draw the rodent inside one of these stations, which have a mechanical door ready to close as soon as it enters. There is also new technology on the way that will instantly notify both customer and pest management professional when this occurs, so the creature can be removed immediately. These stations are most frequently used around the interior perimeter of a facility to keep rodents from getting further than the exterior walls.

Why does it work?
Simply put, rodents will often run along walls. They’re extremely athletic and very clever, which is why it’s never recommended to try to place traps yourself. They can learn from close calls with unsuccessful trapping techniques, which is why it isn’t worth the risk to handle rodent issues alone. With proper knowledge and placement, they can be outsmarted.

Sticky Traps and Glue Boards

Perhaps the simplest tools in the pest professional’s shed, sticky traps and glue boards are meant to reduce the population of crawling insects around a facility. Because they’re not very large, they can be used just about anywhere inside a facility.

Why does it work?

These are usually used for small population control in areas where crawling pests are already present. Sticky traps and glue boards are generally coated with a substance that attract pests, which then ensnares them when they step on the surface of the trap. These are great for catching pests like cockroaches, and give you a sense of how many pests are coming through an area over a period of time. Over time, you’ll be able to see if the population is trending downwards or if the problem is getting worse based on the number of pests captured.

Pheromone Traps

Great for combating the stored product pests that pose a huge threat to food processing facilities with large inventories, pheromone traps trick pests into getting trapped. While sticky traps can be used all over, pheromone traps are more effectively used by placing them strategically around storage areas to help monitor for any stored product pests.

Why does it work?

This type of trap uses synthetically replicated versions of insect pheromones, which are secreted chemicals that insects put out to communicate with each other. In this case, the pheromone traps lure pests out from their hiding/feeding areas. There are also probe-type pheromone traps that are best used in bulk grain storage if necessary.

Now this isn’t an exclusive list of all the monitoring devices a pest management professional can recommend around your facility, but it does give you an idea of the most common, effective devices out there. Keep in mind that sanitation and exclusion must also be a big part of any IPM program, but monitoring devices (along with detailed documentation) can take your program to the next level and give you a better feel for the pest issues your facility deals with the most.

Any time you’re using these tools and devices to detect pest hot spots, it’s important to record the results over time. Your pest management professional will keep a logbook of findings on site, and you should reference that regularly. Also, consider requesting or creating a trend map of pest activity over time to help you see which pests are plaguing your facility the most. That way, it will be easy to work towards improving the pest management program you have in place, which in turn will help protect your products from contamination and protect your bottom line.

Zia Siddiqi, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Stored Product Pests May Be Lurking in Your Facility

By Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D.
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Zia Siddiqi, Orkin

Pests can be sneaky. Many can compromise food products without anyone realizing they’re present. This is bad news for food processing facilities where an abundance of food products can translate into high pest pressure.

Beetles and moths are two of the main offenders in this environment and are referred to as stored product pests. These creatures can cause safety and legal concerns if they find their way into products, as they are quite adept at doing. They can damage packaging and cause product contamination or alter the taste of products when they secrete chemicals from their bodies, as many do.

This is not only a concern for your business’s reputation and bottom line, but could cost you major points on your next audit. Especially under the new FSMA regulations, prevention must be the emphasis in all U.S. facilities. This represents a shift from previous regulations as the new ones require risk-based preventive controls.

Integrate pest management
Does your company have an integrated pest management plan? Image courtesy of Orkin

The best way to prevent stored product pests and adhere to FSMA regulations is by implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) program. IPM programs focus on proactively preventing pests by inspection, monitoring and eliminating conditions that attract or harbor them using tactics like exclusion and sanitation, using chemicals only as a last resort. Under FSMA, you need to identify potential roadblocks and actively work to remove them. Showing constant improvement over time is an absolute must.

These programs also call for comprehensive documentation to monitor pest issues and ensure improvements are made over time. Auditors love to see documentation, as it shows that you are consciously working to strengthen your pest management efforts with continual improvement. If your facility doesn’t have an IPM program, it’s time to make a change sooner rather than later.

To successfully prevent stored product pests, you need to understand what they are and why they are attracted to your facility.

Types of Stored Product Pests

There are many different species of stored product pests, but they can be classified by four main categories based on their biology and habits:

  1. Scavengers: Eat just about anything, even if other pests have been there first. Pests in this category include the red flour beetle and sawtoothed grain beetle.
  2. External feeders: Feed on the exterior of cereal (grain) and kernel products and work their way inside. Pests in this category include Indian meal moths and cigarette beetles.
  3. Internal feeders: Lay eggs in the grain and feed on kernels from inside. Pests in this category include granary weevils, lesser grain borers and Angoumois grain moths.
  4. Secondary feeders: Eat from the outside in and consume moldy and damp food products. Pests in this category include spider beetles and fungus beetles.

How do you know if you have stored product pests? An infestation becomes apparent when the pests can be observed crawling or flying around. At this point, it’s important to identify the specific species that is plaguing your facility, as this will dictate the appropriate treatment method.  A trained professional can help correctly identify the species and recommend the best course of action to resolve the problem. Stored product pests reproduce quickly, so it’s critical to address any infestations before they have time to multiply and contaminate additional product.

The most common stored product pests are:

  • Sawtoothed Grain Beetle. Can burrow directly through boxes and packaging, so even sealed foods are at risk. They prefer processed food products like bran, chocolate, oatmeal, sugar and macaroni.
  • Indian Meal Moths. One of the most common pests for food processing facilities, the larva feeds on a large variety of different products. Some distinctive signs of an infestation are silk webbing and frass near the surface of the product.
  • Cigarette and Drugstore Beetles. Also able to chew through packaging, these beetles prefer pet food, spices, tobacco and any packaged food.
  • Granary and Rice Weevils. Prefer whole grains or seed products like popcorn, birdseed and nuts. They are recognizable by a snout protruding from their head and their reddish-brown bodies. Grains infested by weevils will be hollow and have small holes.
  • Spider Beetles. Similar to small spiders in appearance, they prefer grains, seeds, dried fruits and meats. They often accompany a rodent infestation because they prefer grain products that are old and moist.

Prevention Tactics

To help prevent stored product pests, incorporate the following tactics as part of your IPM program:

  • Closely inspect incoming shipments and packages. Look for the signs of stored product pests, like webbing, larvae and live adult insects. Check for signs of damage, especially for holes that can be caused by boring pests. To monitor for pests entering in this way, a quality assurance sample should be placed in a closed, labeled plastic container for later observations to see if any activity is noticed. This will give you a better idea if pests are present and what types may be being introduced via the incoming shipment.
  • Use of pheromone traps. These are the best tool to monitor the pest activity. These traps can also be placed in transportation vehicles to see if the trucks have a resident stored product pest population.
  • Use temperature as a repellant. Most stored product pests cannot live in extreme temperatures. If storage rooms can be maintained at 60°F or lower, stored product pests won’t be able to establish themselves inside.
  • Practice the first-in, first-out (FIFO) approach for products. Deteriorating products are an invitation to stored product pests, so make sure that older products go first and remove any with damages. It is also best to store products off the floor and more than 18 inches from walls, as it makes it easier to clean the surrounding area.
  • Create a sanitation schedule. Keeping a facility free of food debris will go a long way in eliminating attractants for pests. Clean up product spills immediately, and vacuum and wipe down everything on a regular basis. Don’t forget the cracks and crevices!

Keep in mind that being proactive is an important part of this entire process. If you see something, say something. Resolving pest issues as quickly as possible will be beneficial in the long run, as infestations are naturally more difficult to remove and could cost your facility dearly during an audit. A pest management professional will be able to point out the hot spots around a facility and can help to ensure that proactive prevention tactics are in place before anything gets out of hand. If any products are compromised, discard them immediately.

Pest Management: A Team Effort

The stakes are high in the food processing environment, which means pest control must be a priority. The most successful pest control programs are a team effort. Form a strong partnership with your pest management provider and work closely with them throughout the year to proactively prevent pest problems. Reach out to them early and often if you suspect any issues.

It’s also important that your entire staff is aware of pest management initiatives and tactics, which is why many pest management providers offer free staff training courses upon request. Take advantage of the resources available through your provider.

Working with a pest management provider to create a customized, IPM plan will help prevent pests and in turn protect the quality of your products and your business.

Zia Siddiqi, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Rodents: The Winter Invaders

By Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D.
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Zia Siddiqi, Orkin

As temperatures plummet throughout the United States, rodents become more active in seeking out a warm shelter for the winter. Unfortunately, food processing facilities are perfect for rodents because they have everything that rodents need to survive.

Rodents are scavengers, and as a result they like to have all of their survival needs in close proximity at all times. Once they enter your facility, their three main needs are food, water and shelter, so it’s easy to see why food processing facilities are an appealing target.

Before anything else, you’ll want to work with your pest management professional to make sure that your facility has an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to help keep pests out. An IPM program is tailor-made for each facility and focuses on environmentally friendly prevention and exclusion tactics to protect your facility, using chemicals only as a last resort. A strong program can help prevent a number of different pests from getting into your facility, even rodents. This preventive approach also compliments the HARPC under FSMA.

Adaptable and clever, rodents can be a pain if they are able to get inside. Rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter, while mice can fit through a hole the size of a dime. Rodents are also known to chew on openings around a facility in order to make them large enough to squeeze through. Even the smallest of cracks and gaps can become a pathway inside to a wandering rodent.

There are significant health and safety risks associated with rodents that should make you carefully consider your current pest management program and its tactics for keeping them out. Rodents are known carriers of more than 35 different diseases including Hantavirus, salmonellosis, jaundice and plague. All of these are incredibly dangerous to have anywhere near your product, so the best solution is to prevent rodents from getting inside in the first place.

Also, rodents have tiny bladders and frequent bowel movements, so they leave behind a trail of urination and defecation everywhere they go. They’ll expend their waste, which naturally contains pathogens that spread disease, dozens of times a day.

Because of their roaming nature and constant waste expulsion, there are some telltale signs of rodents that can help you detect them before it becomes a major issue. It’s important that you educate your staff about these signs and contact your pest management professional to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

Signs of Rodent Activity

  • Urine marks and droppings. These can be found nearly anywhere that a rodent has been. Look for little brown pellets and yellowish discoloring, which will show best under UV light. A black light inspection can help determine if there is an infestation.
  • Noises in the walls, basement or ceiling. Gnawing, clawing and scratching noises can be a sign that a rodent might be running around, especially if heard at night. Rodents prefer to stay out of sight when hunting for food, so you won’t often notice them during times of high activity around a facility.
  • Rub marks around corners and baseboards. As they look for food and try to remain unseen, rodents will most often stick close to walls and corners. When they do skitter around, they’ll leave behind brownish marks that can be seen if closely inspected.
  • Musky odors. When rodents congregate in a certain area, their nesting sites will begin to give off a detectable odor especially if the rodents are reproducing.

Issues with rodents can get out of hand quickly as rodents reproduce rapidly. As soon as a rodent feels safe and has warmth and shelter, it will start the reproduction process. Mice produce about eight litters every year with between four and seven pups in a litter, while rats produce about six litters every year with between eight and twelve pups in a litter. Some rodents can then reach sexual maturity in as little as 35 days after birth, which shows how quickly rodents can multiply within a facility.

Make sure to educate staff on your IPM program, and be sure to establish the proper protocol in the case of a pest sighting. It’s important to note when, where and how many pests were spotted, as this information is valuable when working to resolve a problem.

The key is to stop rodents before a problem becomes an infestation, but trying to catch and remove rodents yourself can make them wise to trapping and baiting techniques. Remember that rodents are quite clever and learn from past experiences. To avoid making things worse in the long run, contact a pest management professional if you think that you have a rodent problem, especially if it might be an infestation.

If you are looking for some ways to make a difference on your own, there are certainly some things that you can do. Treat your facility like a fortress, and every good fortress needs to be as impenetrable as possible. Below are some exclusion and prevention tactics that you can start doing immediately to make your facility as strong as possible.

Rodent Prevention Tips

  • Seal the exterior. Walk around the exterior of your facility and check for any holes or cracks the size of a dime or larger. Pay especially close attention to pipes and other penetrations that may have open spaces around where they enter the building.
  • Remove clutter. Rodents use a variety of materials to build their nests, so areas fraught with clutter will look appealing to them, especially if it’s materials like cardboard boxes and paper.
  • Store food effectively. Keep all food products tightly sealed and off of the floor, as rodents have an easier time detecting and getting into food if it isn’t elevated. Also, containers made of plastic or metal are preferable so that they won’t get chewed through.
  • Clean up. Food and drink particles from spills or waste bins will attract rodents, so clean up and take out the trash regularly. Regular sweeping and mopping is an absolute must, especially around trash receptacles.
  • Trim vegetation. Plants need to be cut back at least two feet from the outside of your building and grass needs to be kept short. Vegetation gives rodents a place to hide, so if not trimmed back it can serve as a “jumping off” point to help rodents get indoors.

It’s also important to consider the environment surrounding your facility, as this can be a major factor in the amount of pest pressure that you experience. For rodents, cities are often hot spots, as other factors like construction and greater waste output from a higher concentration of people can increase pest pressure on a facility.

If you’re worried that your facility might be at risk of a rodent infestation, contact your pest management provider and get an assessment. It’s always better to be prepared with an IPM program ahead of time, as these critters aren’t going to be easy to remove from your facility once they’ve settled inside.