Rodents – a guide for facilities managers

What you need to know

Rodents, primarily rats, are the most common pest problem our Facilities Management clients are dealing with. The Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus), Roof Rat (Rattus rattus), and occasionally the house mouse are the main offenders in Australia. A rat infestation, regardless of the species that has moved in a little too close for comfort, can pose a major health risk and needs to be handled right away by a qualified pest controller.

Rodents are second only to humans in terms of success among all mammals, which is a fun fact! This is partially due to the unfathomable and slightly horrifying rate of reproduction. Rats can start reproducing as early as six weeks of age, and after a brief three-week gestation period, they give birth to a litter of between 8 and 20 pups. It is simple to understand how a population of two rats can swiftly grow into a massive infestation given that the average female rat has six litters every year. This is why it’s critical to take quick action to control a rat problem.

The Norway Rat, often known as sewer rats or street rats, is the larger of the two rat species that we normally see in Sydney. It is brown in colour, they have strong bodies and long, hairless tails that are typically the length of a 30cm ruler. They typically establish residence in walls, ceilings, behind concrete slabs, under floors, or behind cabinets and boxes in quest of food, water, warmth, and shelter. Due to their exceptional agility, they may enter structures via openings as small as two centimetres, and because they are nocturnal, they are typically more active at night.

According to its name, the Roof Rat loves to build its nest in high locations like attics and rooftops. They are also referred to as “black rats,” and when fully grown, they measure around 20cm in length. Their hair is typically darker in colour than that of the Norway Rat.

Both species are typical pests in cities, and once they locate refuge, they are likely to remain there if they can find a nearby source of food and water. Apartment complexes, kitchens, loading docks, and bin rooms are just a few of the places where facilities managers could run into problems. One thing is certain: frenzy is guaranteed to follow as soon as a building occupant learns there is a rat or mouse infestation. After all, these are the annoyances that everyone despises!

The risk factor for rodents

As prolific disease carriers, rats, mice, and other rodents can cause major health risks for residents, personnel, or the general public. They can also cause havoc on all types of enterprises or buildings. Few people are aware that a rat infestation can cause significant illnesses in both people and pets in any house or building. Through their faeces, urine, saliva, bites, scratches, and even the ticks and fleas they carry, these common pests can spread disease. There are a number of rat-borne illnesses to be aware of in Australia, including rat-bite fever, hantavirus, salmonellosis, listeriosis, and asthma, to mention a few.

Particularly adept at chewing through practically anything, rats can cost-prohibitive structural damage. This is partially because their teeth are always growing, so chewing on everything in reach helps wear them down. Their strong teeth can eat through soft wood, rubber, aluminium, sheetrock, pipes, soft concrete, pipes, and even electrical wires. As it may result in the shorting out of appliances or lighting fixtures, the latter can pose a fire safety risk.

Rodents are a problem for restaurants and other facilities with spaces for handling food. They may readily chew through food packaging, and their hair, faeces, and urine can contaminate food. Rats are curiously incontinent and leave faeces and pee everywhere they walk, which means they spread dangerous bacteria everywhere they go and produce a foul odour. Their actions cause huge food waste and taint food goods, which increases the danger of disease transmission.

Evidence that there is a rodent problem

There are a few telltale signals that the building you manage may have a rat infestation aside from reports of actual rodent sightings. What to watch out for includes:

  • The number one tell-tale indication is rodent droppings, which is not unexpected given that a single rat may produce 25,000 droppings annually.
  • Something seems slightly wrong to you? When there is an active infestation, rodent urine may smell like stale ammonia. The smell may elicit excitement in cats and dogs, so keep a watch out for any unusual behaviour from your pets as well.
  • Rats may be present if there are gnaw marks on walls or walls that have been chewed through. Watch out for bite or chew marks on food packaging in areas where food is handled.
  • If you hear noises at night when rodents are most active, scratching, scurrying, or burrowing sounds may also indicate a rodent problem.
  • Grease stains, fur, or even rodent nests constructed of paper or fabric could also be seen.

How to fix a rodent issue

For a facility evaluation and rodent management plan, facilities management experts should hire a professional pest controller at the first evidence of rodent activity. Rats and mice both breed quickly and heavily, therefore action should be taken before the issue gets out of hand (remember that female rats give birth to six litters of up to 20 pups every year!).

Rodent infestations can be controlled by closing off food sources and entry points. Prior to installing rodent bait stations, traps, or other approaches that have been chosen as part of the strategy, a rodent specialist should concentrate on sealing detected entry locations to prevent rodent access. Cutting off the rodents’ access to the food source is essential; in addition to a well-structured Rodent Management Plan followed by your chosen pest control firm, plan to make some necessary home improvements to keep the problem under control.