London’s rodent population is on the rise
The saying goes, “You are never more than six feet away from a rat”. However, unless you keep pet rats in a cage in your home, the saying is likely to be apocryphal. In 1665 when The Plague hit London, the proximity would have been much closer, but today the distance is more likely to be around 50 metres, which is close enough for most people.
A 2017 report by London Assembly member Susan Hall found that London’s rodent population is on the rise. Through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, all 32 London Boroughs were asked how many rodent complaints had been reported to them by members of the public over the past five years. Four boroughs were only able to provide information for the past three years, and three boroughs were unable to provide any information. The rest provided information in full, which revealed that over 186,000 complaints relating to rodents had been received during the period. That is more than 100 per day and the problem is rising.
There are three main dangers when rats or other vermin are present; one, the vast amount of damage they can cause. Two, the propensity and speed at which they breed. Because rats reach sexual maturity and therefore ability to reproduce as early as four to five weeks of age, what can start as two rats, can quickly spiral into a colony of up to 1250 a year if left unchecked. Thirdly of course is the threat to human health.
Because the number of domestic dwellings is greater than commercial buildings, there is a higher percentage of vermin present in houses, but in London where houses and businesses are in proximity, vermin (rats and mice) can easily travel between the two. London’s vast sewer system is thought to play a part in the number of rats in the Capital, together with excess rubbish left on the streets, and the fact that people are living closer to one another.
Rat control in London
Rats (Latin name: Rattus) are medium-sized rodents with over 2,200 species. In the UK, the two most predominant types are the brown (Rattus norvegicus) and the black (Rattus Rattus), both of which are considered pests due to their ability to carry diseases and cause damage to properties. The brown rat can dig extensive burrows in which they shelter, store food and nest. Black rats are expert climbers which means that they can easily access loft spaces.
Left unchecked, rats can do a lot of damage to your property – gnawing holes in walls, skirting, floorboards etc., as well as gnawing through pipes and wires (which could start an electrical fire).
In addition to property damage, rats can directly transfer diseases, which include, but are not limited to:
- Weil’s Disease
- Rat Bite Fever
- Haemorrhagic Fever
Eight things to look out for that show you have rats in your property
- Rat droppings (dark brown shaped like a grain of rice). They can be found in areas such as behind white goods in kitchens.
- Rats have sharp teeth, so look out for gnaw marks on wires, cables, boxes stored in lofts, cardboard food containers in kitchen cupboards etc.
- Nests made from shredded material – this can include cardboard, loft insulation, plasterboard, old clothing stored in lofts, newspaper, etc. Nests can be found in a variety of places, such as lofts, eaves, cavity walls, crawl spaces, under garden decking, sheds, garages, compost bins, or in burrows in the garden.
- Footprints and tail marks on dusty or damp surfaces. If you are unsure if you have rats in your premises, sprinkle some flour or talc on surfaces you think the rats are accessing and check for tracks and footprints in the morning.
- Food scraps or wrappings left behind.
- Greasy marks or smudges on surfaces, such as skirting boards and walls where rats brush past.
- Scratching noises under floorboards, behind walls or ceilings.
- The distinctive smell of ammonia.
If you think you have a rat infestation in your property, then you should undertake treatment urgently. This can be in the form of DIY pest control or using an expert pest control company.
Mouse control in London
Scratching or squeaking noises that appear to be coming from under floorboards, behind walls or ceilings or in the loft could indicate that you are sharing your premises with mice. Other signs such as a strong ammonia-like smell, small dark droppings found on the floor or work surfaces, shredded paper or wood shavings found behind furniture or white goods, in cupboards, or in the loft, means that you have a mouse infestation. Often the first sign of a mouse problem is noticing that food has been nibbled.
The mouse can be found anywhere – warehouses, commercial properties (offices, restaurants, cafes etc.) schools, domestic properties, and the list goes on. As well as causing damage to property, they can pose a health risk by transferring diseases (such as Salmonella, Murine Typhus, or Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome) either through their droppings and urine or direct contact.
Mice have a high breeding rate and have large litters of up to 12. Added to this, female mice are sexually mature at about 6 weeks of age, so it is possible to have an infestation of mice in no time at all. Therefore, if you see signs that you have mice in your property, you should take immediate action – via a professional pest control company or through DIY methods.
DIY rodent pest control
First, check your house for areas of access. Rats can squeeze through holes as small as 12mm, 6mm for mice! Any holes found should be sealed to prevent further access.
Visit any hardware or DIY store and you can purchase DIY rodent traps. If you are undertaking residential rat control, you should not use poison, as it will pose a risk to children and pets if they come into contact with it.
Rats are clever creatures and will avoid anything new in their territory. Therefore, it may take a while before you capture your first rat. On trapping a mouse or rat, ensure that you dispose of the body quickly.
Don’t forget to take preventative measures. These include keeping foodstuffs in metal or glass containers with tight fitting lids and keeping your house and garden clutter-free. In addition, don’t leave rubbish laying around and put your rubbish bags in bins, don’t leave bird food on the ground and clean up seed debris regularly, and if you have a compost heap, don’t add food waste.
Call the experts in rodent control
The most effective method of pest control in London is calling in the experts. Whether you need commercial rat control or residential rat control, a professional pest control company is your best option. To begin with, a professional pest control company will carry out a thorough rodent survey to establish the type of infestation you have, where the main points of entry are and where they are nesting. They will then put in place an effective and efficient way of removing rats and mice from your property, sealing up access areas to prevent re-entry and disposing of carcasses.
Make sure that your chosen pest control company can do the job from start to finish. Surveying the problem, taking photographs and providing a written report and quotation, as well as the skills needed to eradicate the problem, and should the removal of kitchen or other fitted units be necessary, the experience to effectively seal the walls, and re-fit the furniture to its previous standard. Don’t underestimate what is required to provide this total service and ask for proof of competence in all these areas, as many companies are simply pest controllers and not equipped to make good any damage that may occur.
Please note: For tenants of properties in London, the landlord will be responsible for dealing with pest control in most cases. However, if pests are found to be present purely from actions by the tenant, then the tenant will be responsible for pest control. In all cases, the tenant should report the problem to the landlord promptly.