Keeping pests out requires a solid strategy

While no hotel can be a sealed fortress against pests, it is important to approach pest control with a game plan. As the weather gets warmer, now is the time for hotels to ramp up their pest prevention and mitigation strategies.

The top pests that can invade commercial spaces in the spring are termites, ants, birds and flies, said Eric Braun, technical services manager with Rentokil. “Ants are one of the most active springtime pests, especially as ants forage for food as the temperature rises,” he said. “Ants are industrious and breed fast, with the ability to form colonies in the millions. Tiny in size, ants get into the smallest of spaces, making them difficult to spot.”

Nic Ellis, regional entomologist at Western Pest Services, added that yellow jackets and wasps start showing up in late spring and early summer, particularly when people are gathered outside with food and beverages.

Year-round pests include bedbugs, cockroaches and rodents. In fact, said Ellis: “The one insect that hotel managers fear the most is the bedbug.” And unlike cockroaches and flies, bedbugs are not necessarily associated with unsanitary conditions.

Braun said that in hotels, small pests shelter in dark places: cracks, crevices, drains, sewers, inside equipment, furnishings and hidden spaces. “These places are also hard to reach using normal cleaning and sanitation methods,” he said. Establishing a relationship with a reputable pest control company is key, both for prevention and control purposes.

“Without a plan in place, pest infestations can negatively impact brand reputation, cause health and safety concerns and lead to costly business interruptions,” Braun said.

Ellis said that prevention is always the best first step. “Think about how many problems you solve if a pest can just be kept outside. Managing them on the exterior is the first line of defense—the goal is always to keep them from coming in, period,” he said.

Pat Hottel, technical director with McCloud Services, pointed to several key prevention tactics. “Directing efforts on minimizing pest-conductive conditions on the exterior, pest proofing the structure and inspecting incoming products are all key in preventing pests,” she said. “Practicing good sanitation and making timely structural repairs will help mitigate pests on the interior.”

Ellis said that the pest control industry has come a long way, with many tools to employ. For example, for fly management, he pointed to very sophisticated insect light traps and inconspicuous fly lights. And for ants, he said, “There are low-impact methods of managing ants that don’t leave odors or residues, which are very effective against ants and very specific for ants.”

The key, Ellis said, is to utilize a variety of different tools to control, eliminate, manage and reduce different pests.

Training staff to recognize a problem is also critical. “They should be taught how to identify the most common pests,” Hottel said. “This is especially true for bedbugs. It is important that staff be involved in the reporting of pests and education regarding recognizing the common pests is needed. They should also be trained on the procedures to take when a pest is found.”

Ellis agreed, adding that his company has certified entomologists on staff who develop training materials for hotel managers: “The only way pest programs will be 100 percent effective in most cases is if we have site managers cooperating with us on their end to get those extra eyes on the problem.”