When you operate a food-handling facility, rats, mice, and other rodents are not a distant concern but a distinct threat to your operation. Take charge of your rodent defenses with these four strategies.
1. Understand Rodent Abilities
Rats and mice seem to have superpowers. They almost appear to be a cross between insects and mammals, although they are most assuredly mammals.
If a vertical surface has a rough finish — like brick facing, wood siding, or concrete — a rat or mouse has no problem climbing up the surface. Imagine a squirrel flitting up the trunk of a tree, and you understand how rats and mice move up walls, poles, and chimneys.
Both rats and mice can effectively chew through a wide variety of materials. These include:
- Substandard concrete and concrete block
- Wood and wood products
- Aluminum and lead sheeting
- Plastic and vinyl
Rats are able to jump as much as 36 inches upward and 48 inches in a horizontal direction when launching themselves from a flat location. They can reach items just over a foot away with their front feet when standing up on back feet.
Rats are able to crawl up pipes no more than 3 inches in diameter and fit themselves into spaces just over one-half inch high or wide. They can fall without injury up to 50 feet straight down.
Mice can jump up to 18 inches from the floor to a shelf or crate top. They can shimmy into spaces only one-fourth inch in diameter. This means they can enter the small spout on the top of an oil can or a ventilation hole on the side of a box of fresh produce. Mice can also wander upside down if screen material is overhead on which to navigate.
2. Ensure Proper Facility Construction
As you can see, to keep rodents out of your building, you need tight construction in your restaurant, bakery, or other food-service facility. Every facet of the building from the roof to the landscaping must be designed to keep out the intrepid mice and rats who want to come inside.
Any pipe or vent must be firmly covered with copper or other wire mesh. However, strong hardware mesh is worthless if the covers are not attached with enough durable fasteners. Rodents will simply pry back a loose area of the mesh and scurry indoors.
Common entry points for rodents should be designed to be rodent proof and inspected on a routine basis. These common entry areas include:
- Openings for HVAC ducts and vents
- Damaged ductwork
- Openings for utility lines
- Conduits for electricity
- Open doors and windows
- Elevators and air shafts
Use heavy-duty metal screens in all windows. Outfit all exit doors with self-closing mechanisms and underdoor brushes to discourage mice and rats from crawling under the doors. All exterior cracks and holes must be patched and sealed. Use materials like steel plates and plaster to build up the facade if necessary in an older building.
Seal interior joints where the walls meet the ceiling and floor with approved, washable material for your location. Drains must be designed to keep them disinfected and free of pests. Install protective metal flashing along roof edges, roof-vent openings, and other vulnerable areas.
Replace mulch around buildings with rocks arranged over plastic sheeting. Rats and mice use mulch as a cover to sneak inside your structure. Keep all outdoor trash bins covered, and clean them on a routine basis to cut down on smells.
3. Know the Signs of Rodent Infestation
Rodents leave many signs of their presence if you know where to look. Coincidentally, mice and rats leave rice-shaped droppings the same length as the spaces into which they can fit. Mice droppings are pointy-ended and around one-fourth inch long. Rat feces are one-half to three-fourths inches long and often have rounded ends.
Rats and mice leave telltale rubbing signs along baseboards. The bottoms of walls and cabinets may appear smoke-damaged or rubbed with oily hands. Rodents, including squirrels and chipmunks, tend to enter attics and make scurrying and scratching noises overhead.
Rats and mice also chew labels off containers, gnaw their way into containers, and shred debris for their nests. Areas near nests may give off a strong urine odor.
4. Keep Your Pest Control Logs in Order
To maintain your sanitation license in cities like Chicago, you must keep up-to-date, accurate pest-control logs for your facility. In Chicago, you must hold on to your logs for at least a year after treatment, but each municipality or county has its own specific requirements.
Pest-control logs document all treatments at your facility. For each service date, you or your pest control professional will indicate the following on the log:
- Pest control company license and certification info
- Pests being targeted
- Location of inspections, pesticides, and bait stations
- Specific pesticides applied (in strict format)
- Recommended remedies to control pests
Keep your pest-control log in order, so you always prioritize vigilance against rodents. Your pest control technician will help you fill out your logs to be in compliance.
Your pest control professionals should be scheduled for routine visits throughout the year. If you notice signs of rodent infestation, contact the company immediately for on-site services. If your pest control company practices IPM, they’ll show you how to effectively manage pests like rodents in your food-service business.
Contact Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management today to schedule a full rodent inspection and treatment of your commercial food service facility.