As rats have trouble finding their usual source of food from restaurant waste due to pandemic closures, the persistent rodents are making their way indoors to find sustenance, said Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist and VP of technical and regulatory affairs for the National Pest Management Association.
“With many businesses, including hotels, now closed to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus, rats do not have that regular daily foot traffic to deter them from staying out of sight,” Fredericks said. “Now that reliable food sources”—in other words, garbage—“in urban centers are becoming scarce, rats are becoming more brazen and desperate, causing an increase in rodent pressure.”
Rodents can present numerous issues for hotels, from property damage to transmission of dangerous diseases, Fredericks said: “Rodents can chew through just about anything, including drywall, wires and even pipes. This can result in electrical fires and leaks.” Rodents also can cause structural damage in hotels by burrowing in walls and furniture and will even use existing insulation to create their nests.
And then there are the health concerns. “House mouse urine contains a protein that can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms,” Fredericks said. “Rodents can also transmit hantavirus, salmonella, rat bite fever and more.”
What Hoteliers Can Do
The downturn offers hoteliers of shuttered or minimally open properties an opportunity to prevent infestations without worrying (too much) about impacting the guest experience. While hotels are closed or have blocked off areas, owners and managers can take the time for deep inspections and thorough maintenance.
Fredericks recommends four steps to keep critters out:
1. Perform regular rodent inspections
“The top sign of a rodent issue is seeing a live or dead rodent," he said. "Some other common signs of a rodent infestation are droppings, gnaw marks, nests, urine stains, and tracks or rub marks. It is also important to inspect any packages for pests before bringing them inside your building.”
2. Remove any potential food sources regularly
“Removing garbage in and outside your building regularly, cleaning high-traffic areas and storing any food products in sealed containers can help keep rodents out by eliminating food sources that may attract them,” according to Fredericks.
3. Eliminate potential rodent harborage areas
“Overgrown lawns and other vegetation can become potential homes for rodents, so regular landscaping is extremely important. Eliminate shrubs or ground cover that grows close to the ground because this creates cover for rodents," he said. "Storage areas can also make potential homes for pests as they are attracted to moist, dark places.”
4. Reduce possible entryways
“Rodents can enter [buildings] through holes as small as a dime, so it is imperative to seal cracks and holes on the outside of the building, including areas where utilities enter," according to Fredericks. "Inserting door sweeps on exterior doors, repairing damaged screens and screening vents open to the outdoors are other ways to prevent rodents from entering your building.”