Defending against fall pests begins with your hotel's exterior

When it comes to pest control, the best offense is a good defense.

The leaves are turning, the temperature is dropping, and the pests are searching. When your favorite coffee shops start serving pumpkin-spiced lattes, it's time to start sealing up cracks and crevices around your property, or unwanted visitors like rodents, stink bugs and boxelder bugs may make their way inside.

Angela Tucker, manager, technical services with Terminix, said fall pests have a different biology from a hotel’s usual suspects—primarily, they want to get inside your hotel and hunker down for the winter. In order to keep them out, operators should walk around and inspect the exterior of the property for entry points such as gaps around pipes, windows, doors and other access points.

“Rats and mice want larger gaps than insects, such as doors that are not flush with the ground,” Tucker said. “These doors need a door sweep, and if you have a property with existing rodents they may be gnawing at the structure, which could eventually create a hole to get in.”

Plugging up a hole can be done in a variety of ways, but common material such as foam or steel wool is only effective for a certain duration of time before it degrades. While this can be acceptable for properties inclined to perform routine maintenance (and are good at frequent check-ups), it’s hardly ideal for the long term. Drew McFadden, director of marketing and research at Xcluder, a manufacturer of rodent and pest exclusion products, recommends sturdier material such as stainless steel and polyfiber hybrids, which his company produces.

“I’ve seen instances where mice have bored into cinder blocks,” McFadden said. “It’s not a general practice of theirs, but that alone shows how effective they can be at breaching a surface.”

Hotel operators should inspect for telltale areas where pests can get in.

Rodents should be at the top of a hotel’s list for exclusion, according to Tim Husen, technical services manager at Orkin. This is because they are difficult to get rid of and carry an unpleasant stigma if a guest were to see them.

“Be mindful of which doors employees prop open, and also where your hotel stores its seasonal items,” he said. “Come Christmas time and you are retrieving decorations, you could also be picking up a few rodent hitchhikers.”

Husen also said operators looking to prevent infestations ahead of time should investigate the foliage around their property because different trees and plants attract different insects. The boxelder bug, for example, is drawn to boxelder trees, as well as maple and ash trees.

Aside from rodents, Patricia Hottel, technical director at pest-management company McCloud Services, pointed to cluster flies as a common pest that can be controlled through understanding its biology and behaviors. According to Hottel, cluster flies prefer tall buildings, so they can be found at the higher floors of a structure. These penthouse pests are also drawn to contrasting colors, so brown buildings with white or black accents may see more cluster fly activity than a building composed of one solid color.

“This is also how they find access points,” Hottel said. “They hone in on that, they look for openings in dark framing, so that informs hotel operators and pest-management professionals on where to look for potential infestations.”