With the cooler temperatures, it’s a perfect time to revisit your pest management program
By Alice Sinia
As you work to ensure your facility and operations are running smoothly, keep in mind that pests can mean bad news for any business. In today’s world of social media and online reviews, even a single pest can bring an immediate negative impact to your business’ reputation, in addition to risking the health and safety of your product, customers and employees.
Pests can bring harmful microorganisms that cause disease into your facility and may even damage the foundation and structure of a facility in some cases. If these pests contaminate products, business operation will face interruptions, and slowdowns in production can not only cost your business time and money but can also turn your business into an unreliable partner. Pest contamination can also present problems like recalls, leading to negative brand association and preventable expenses in the future.
For food processing facilities in particular, stored product pests can be particularly problematic. It is estimated that stored product pests damage, contaminate or consume a significant amount of total food production. These pests can sneak through packaging and infest food product at any point in the supply chain, creating quite the headache for food processors, their suppliers and their customers.
To prevent pest infestations, it is important to detect pest introductions early on — before they turn into a larger pest problem. Here are a few red flags to look out for:
- Rodents: Rats and mice leave behind a trail of grease marks on walls and baseboards and can gnaw their way through electrical wires, walls and other materials. These vermin also leave behind droppings, urine, body hair and even nests or feeding stations, which are easy ways to identify a rodent problem.
- Cockroaches: Expert hiders, cockroaches are nocturnal. So, seeing one during the day is a sign of a larger problem. The most common signs of activity are the cockroaches themselves alive or dead, droppings that look like pepper flakes, or even hatched or unhatched eggs.
- Stored product pests: Different types of pests leave different calling cards, but holes in packaging, hollowed grains, body fragments, silk webbing and inset trails on packaging are all signs of pest problems.
- Ants: A common pest in the food processing industry, ants can find even the smallest crumb in your facility. Keep an eye out for trails of ants around your warehouse and make note of any areas where a large population of ants is present to identify and eliminate these tiny pests’ food supply.
Pest infestations can take root in a variety of places, especially in food processing facilities that have the food, water and shelter necessary for them to survive. That’s why it is important to establish an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that involves regular monitoring for pest activity and conditions that are attractive to pests. Inspecting for pest activity to identify which pests are present and locating where pest pressures and harbourage are helps inform your pest management plan.
Outdoor pest hot spots
When it comes to your pest-monitoring program, the first place to start is outside. Structural deficiencies around your property can allow pests easy access to your facility. And pests don’t need much space to slip inside. Rats can fit through holes the size of a quarter, and cockroaches can squeeze through cracks as small as 1/6 cm. From the sidewalk to the rooftop, routinely monitor around your facility and keep an eye out for any cracks, gaps and crevices that may allow pests to enter your space.
By modifying potential pest habitats and removing pest attractors around the exterior of your facility, you can deter pests from sneaking into your space. When monitoring for pest activity, be sure your team — from employees to your pest management provider — pays close attention to these pest entryways around a building’s exterior:
- Roofs: Often overlooked, roofs offer the perfect entryways for wasps, birds and rodents. Rats and mice may use tree branches and other vegetation to access your building’s rooftop. So, keep vegetation trimmed away from exterior walls to prevent pests from climbing onto your facility. Consider installing spikes or netting to deter birds from perching on the roof.
- Ventilation intakes: If not inspected regularly, ventilation intakes become a favourite site for wasps entering, and perching and nesting for birds. Be sure to check for bird nests and rodent indicators at these openings.
- Dock plates and doors: Gaps around dock plates and doors offer just enough space for pests to sneak inside, and with a heavy traffic flow, these areas are vulnerable to pest invasions. Avoid leaving dock doors open between shipments and install vinyl door strips to exterior-facing doors to further prevent pests from invading your space.
- Trash areas: Outdoor trash bins and dumpsters can draw pests in toward your business. Litter, liquid and strong odours around dumpsters can all attract pests and put your building at risk of a pest infestation. Implement a routine trash pickup service and clean your trash bins regularly to reduce pest activity.
- Exterior walls, doors and windows: A small crack, gap or crevice in an outward-facing wall or window is all a pest needs to make its way inside. Repair any damaged surfaces as soon as possible to avoid letting pests in your space and maintain window screens and door sweeps.
Indoor pest hot spots
If pests do find a way inside your building, there are countless places for them to seek out shelter. Machinery, appliances and equipment act as the perfect hiding places for many pests, because these pieces of equipment produce warmth and moisture that creates a pest haven. These areas are often overlooked during cleaning, so buildup of organic material also provides pests with a steady source of food. Over time, negligence can lead to hot spots for pests, which then spread to other areas of the facility.
Break rooms, lockers and other employee common spaces can also be potential hot spots for pests. The smallest crumb can make a meal for a hungry pest, and employees may be less careful about picking up clutter in shared spaces away from equipment and products. A facility maintenance schedule and good sanitation practices can help keep pests at bay and keep your facility in tip-top shape.
Throwing out pests
In an industry that offers pests numerous food sources, don’t let pests take a bite out of your operations. Pest pressures can vary from one location to the next and can even change with the season. For this reason, it is important to monitor for pest activity year-round — not just during warmer months when pests tend to be more active.
By working with a pest management provider to identify potential pest hot spots around and inside your facility, you can save time, money and many headaches. So, start the conversation with your maintenance team and pest provider now and take advantage of the upcoming winter months to remove pest attractors before pests emerge from their winter shelters in the spring.