Tag Archives: rats

Do Rats hibernate during the Winter?

You might think that pest control work quietens down during the winter, because quite a few nuisance animals and insects go into hibernation.

But lots of household pests, including rats and mice, remain active all year round. The longer and colder winter nights make your home, garden and workplace more attractive to these rodents, who are always looking for food, and for somewhere warm and dry to nest.

Wasps and other insect pests might become almost invisible during the winter months, but they’re simply dormant and will be back next spring. Colder weather gives you a chance to deal with holes and gaps where they may have nested this year, helping prevent their return.

Pest control during the winter months

Taking action to prevent rats and other pests is as important during the winter as at any other time of year. The most basic precautions include not leaving any food outdoors overnight, and keeping food preparation and storage areas clean and tidy.

Leftover pet food or food spillages, indoors or out, are hugely attractive to rats and mice looking for something to eat.

Another simple pest control task is to tidy up your garden or other outdoor area. Piles of wood or dry leaves can quickly become comfortable homes for rodents. Compost bins are particularly popular, especially if you put food scraps into them.

Outbuildings, such as sheds and children’s playhouses, can also become places of safety for rats and mice. Here they can live undisturbed for weeks at a time, protected from the extremes of the British winter climate. Make it part of your winter routine to check these buildings, and to fill any obvious cracks or gaps through which rodents could get in.

Indoor pests thrive during the winter

Fleas, moths and bedbugs are common indoor pests that don’t pay much attention to what the weather’s doing outside. Whatever the time of year, they continue breeding and spreading themselves around your home or workplace.

The cooler temperatures slow down their reproduction, but our centrally-heated buildings protect them from the cold. Because they live off us and our pets, fleas and bedbugs have more opportunity to spread during the winter, as we spend more time indoors.

Cockroaches, the scourge of many kitchens, also continue to be active during the winter months. In the event that they find themselves short of food, they can, like many pests, survive for a long time on virtually nothing.

Many people think that because pests are not seen so often during the winter, they are less of a problem. Some even believe that rats and mice do hibernate. But experienced pest controllers know that winter is as busy a time of year as any, and that it’s also a good time to act to prevent more serious pest issues from occurring in the spring.

What foods or smells do Rats or voles avoid?

One of the most effective ways to prevent rats or voles becoming a pest control problem is to discourage them from approaching your property. Traps and poisons will catch or kill at least some of the rodents when they arrive, but making your premises unattractive can be more cost-effective, and less unpleasant.

Knowing what foods or smells rats or voles avoid will help to keep them away. How effective any particular odours are at deterring these rodents will depend on the circumstances, such as the availability of food sources and the hardiness of the particular pests.

Peppermint. Some rats and voles will avoid the smell of peppermint. Soaking cotton wool balls in peppermint oil or sprinkling it on the areas where the rodents are known to run can act as a deterrent and encourage them to find alternative food sources. Natural peppermint may also help deter rats and voles but it is not always effective.

Cat litter. Cats are natural predators of rats and voles and these pests will instinctively avoid areas which are scented with the smell of feline urine. Having a cat may be sufficient to deter rodents from making their nests in your home or office as they will naturally produce the smell alerting them to the presence of a potential enemy. The use of ammonia on cat litter increases the pungency of the aroma, increasing the likelihood that it will deter rats and voles.

Predator urine. An alternative to cat litter is the use of a pest repellent that combines the urine of rodent predators such as cats, foxes, weasels and ferrets with other organic substances to form pellets. The smell fools the rats and voles into thinking that their enemies are nearby, which encourages them to stay away.

Other repellent smells. There are several other odours that may deter rats and voles from settling in your property. Moth balls can work, but are not recommended for long-term use because of their potential effect on human health. Another repelling odour is that of toilet cakes – the strongly scented blocks designed to keep toilet bowls fresh. Broken into pieces, the smell that they give off may repel rats and voles. Garlic and castor oil have also been known to work.

Repelling plants. Some plants act as a natural deterrent of voles – such as castor beans, marigolds, daffodils, alliums including onions, and caper spurge.

What do rats and voles eat?

Rats have a very keen sense of smell and are able to sniff out food from over a mile away. They are omnivorous, meaning they eat anything that humans do, from cereals to vegetables, and bread to fat. They will also eat pet food stored in boxes or bags.

Voles eat a mostly vegetarian diet. This includes plants, grass, roots and bulbs as well as berries, seeds, nuts, fungi and fruit. Vole colonies can strip bark off trees and devour fields of crops. They will occasionally eat snails and insects, but usually only when other food is scarce.

Storing food within airtight containers will help reduce the spread of odours which could attract the attention of vermin.

Will smells get rid of rats and voles?

Whilst these smells may help prevent rats and voles from settling in your property, they won’t solve a rat or vole infestation. For this, you’ll need a pest control strategy that eliminates access to food as well as killing or driving the vermin away. A professional pest controller will be able to assess what action is required and eradicate the problem before further damage occurs.

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Who to contact about a Rat problem?

It’s pretty unpleasant to discover that you’ve got a Rat Problem. At first you might not want to believe that the occasional scratching inside the walls or gnawed wood or plastic is evidence that these rodents have invaded your premises.

Unfortunately, the longer you ignore it, the bigger the infestation is likely to become. So the moment you think there’s trouble, the question you need to ask is: “Who do I contact about a rat problem?”

The answer to that question can depend on several factors. Are they indoors our outside? Are you a tenant or a home owner? Do you want a short-term or long-term solution?

Dealing with a rat problem indoors

If rats are inside your property, you’ll want to act quickly. They can spread disease, destroy property and even, in extreme cases, bite people.

Rats can also be very frightening and the mere sight of one in what should be the security of your home could cause considerable upset to vulnerable adults and children alike. If someone, particularly a customer, spots a rat in your commercial premises, this could have a major negative impact on your trade.

To get the fastest and most effective response, you should get in touch with a professional pest control expert. We can be called out at any time of the day or night, 365 days a year. We also have the equipment needed to deal with rats in both homes and commercial premises, such as restaurants or warehouses.

If you are a tenant, you could contact your landlord. However, it could be several days before they address the problem, which is a long time when there are rats on the prowl.

Controlling a rat problem outdoors

It’s not unusual to see a greasy, brown rat outdoors, near your home or workplace. But don’t make the mistake of ignoring the risk it presents. These voracious rodents are adept at finding ways indoors in their constant search for food.

Rats are prolific breeders. Females can give birth to over fifty offspring in one year and each of those could be breeding within five weeks. Putting off dealing with a potential rat problem could result in there being over twice as many vermin to deal with in just a few weeks.

Dealing with a rat problem outdoors does not require such an urgent response, but you should still take action. Your local council may have a pest control team who can offer advice, and perhaps even help. Or you could look into do-it-yourself pest control measures.

However, the best and quickest result is usually going to come from a professional pest controller. Our experience allows us to assess the severity of the problem and take the steps needed to deal with it as quickly and effectively as possible.

Solving a rat problem for the long-term

There’s more to dealing with rats than catching them. If vermin have found their way into your property, they’ll keep coming back.

We pest controllers do more than remove the current generation, we also take measures to eliminate the breeding population and prevent a reoccurrence of the problem. We provide advice on how to spot and close up potential entry points, and we supply long-term baiting and trapping solutions.

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Tony’s Tales – Rats in the Kitchen

Tony Halliday, our boss, has spent years on the front line of pest control in London. His tales of strange situations and even stranger customers would fill volumes. He’s allowed us to record some of the skirmishes he’s experienced in his battle against vermin in Southwark and beyond.

A lot of Tony’s pest control stories feature Rats. These unsavory rodents breed in the old London sewers, making their burrows in the cracks and crevices of decaying Victorian brickwork and broken pipes.

Not surprisingly, rats often turn up in kitchens. They’re always hungry and always looking for food. In older houses, often those which have not been so well looked after, there are plenty of gaps and holes through which the rats can slip in.

On one call-out in Southwark, Tony and his mate were met by a burly South American bloke who didn’t speak a word of English. Tony tried to explain why they were there and the South American responded by waving his arms around and firing off a torrent of words in a foreign language.

Eventually the South American seemed to calm down and led Tony through to the kitchen, a ramshackle affair that had seen much better days. There, on top of the washing machine, peering out from under the worktop, was a rat.

Despite his size, the South American refused to enter the room and simply pointed from the doorway. Tony and his mate knew that they had to get rid of the rat and take measures to protect against other vermin.

Catching a rat is relatively easy using modern pest control measures, such as sticky boards. Unfortunately, this encounter was before Tony’s team had such equipment. So he was forced to hunt the rat down to catch and dispatch it.

This particular rat had a strong sense of self-preservation and did not want to be caught. It quickly disappeared, leaving Tony and his mate to begin a cupboard by cupboard search. They removed kickboards and emptied cupboards as they methodically closed in on the creature.

Looking into one cupboard, Tony thought he heard a noise from the back. He grabbed his torch, put his head in the cupboard, and found himself literally face-to-face with the rat, which was hiding in a saucepan.

For the rat, it was almost a case of out of the frying pan into the fire. Tony dealt with the rodent quickly and efficiently. The South American, despite being unable to speak a word of English, understood that the job had been done and was effusive in his gratitude to the pest controllers.

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Tony’s Tales – The Giant Midnight Rat

Tony Halliday, our boss, has spent years on the front line of pest control in London. His tales of strange situations and even stranger customers would fill volumes. He’s allowed us to record some of the skirmishes he’s experienced in his battle against vermin in Southwark and beyond.

One of London’s most unpleasant Rodents, the rat, can grow to an enormous size. The average rat is usually the size of a man’s shoe, but occasionally pest controllers run into a giant specimen. When that encounter happens at midnight, in a confined space, a routine pest control call-out can become an alarming experience.

Tony’s tale begins, as so many, with an emergency callout just before midnight. A customer had returned, with their family, to discover rat droppings in their home. Having a baby, it was particularly important to have the problem dealt with.

“I know where the rats are coming from,” the customer told Tony when he arrived. “I know because I’ve killed two of them already.” He seemed pleased with himself for taking on the rats. “I hit one with a golf club and killed it instantly. Blood everywhere.”

He told Tony there was another rat upstairs. Asked why he hadn’t dispatched that one, the customer replied by holding his palms two feet (60cm) apart. That’s how big he thought the rat was.

Tony’s got wise to people overestimating the scale of their rodent problems. Unconcerned, he entered, alone, the small bedroom, containing a baby’s cot, where the rat was thought to be hiding. He closed the door behind him.

The creature soon revealed itself. And it was huge, just as the customer had described. Tony had heard occasional reports of giant rats, almost two feet in length, but this was the first time he’d met one face to face. It was enough to send a shiver down any spine – even that of a seasoned pest controller.

Trapped, the sewer rat hurtled around the room, too fast to catch. Not wanting a nasty nip from those disease-ridden fangs, Tony waited for it to settle. It hid beneath a pile of nappies under the cot and Tony surrounded the baby’s bed with sticky Rat Catcher boards. These would catch the lank fur and hold it tight, allowing for easy dispatch with a hammer. Not pretty, but practical.

Tony poked the nappy pile, provoking the rat to run. One leg was caught by the sticky board. Held fast, the rat squealed loudly. Outside the door, the customer and his wife exclaimed in shock. They’d never heard the shriek of a trapped rat.

Tony raised his hammer, only for it to catch on the cot. Knocked from his hands it fell into the grasp of another sticky board. He lifted his foot over the rat, a desperate last resort, but the creature slid out of the way as he struck.

Both Tony and the huge rat had one leg trapped by the sticky board. It would have been a ridiculous sight, if the massive rodent hadn’t turned its sharp teeth on the pest control specialist, ripping lumps from his boots and trousers.

Superior strength won the day and the rat was eventually subdued. But the experience left Tony white and shaken. That was the largest rat he’s ever seen and he’s in no hurry to meet another like it, particularly at midnight.

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A Pigeon’s Eye View of the Royal Wedding Procession

As William and Kate’s big day approaches, we decided to celebrate by taking a slightly different perspective on some of the sites they’ll pass during their horse-drawn trip from the Abbey to the Palace.

Westminster Abbey

Pigeons love medieval churches, particularly the soaring cathedrals with their towers and spires, wide ledges and cosy crevices. However, the birds aren’t particularly welcome on ecclesiastical property, either inside or out, despite making a number of appearances in the Bible.

In the thousand years since Westminster’s construction, pigeons have faced an increasing range of deterrents including rows of anti-roosting spikes, acres of netting, and a variety of Bird Scarers.

Whilst weddings are traditionally accompanied by symbols of good luck, measures will be taken to ensure that pigeons won’t be able to deposit their own sign of best wishes on the bride and groom.

Downing Street

Larry might be the latest and Humphrey the most well-known, but they’re simply some of the latest in a distinguished line of cats appointed as government pest controllers. The first Treasury mouser documented in history was owned by Cardinal Wolsey, who kept it by his side as Lord Chancellor, during the reign of Henry VIII.

The Cenotaph

As the wedding procession passes the focal point of national remembrance for fallen British servicemen, it’s good to recall that not all pigeons are thought of as pests. In fact, over 30 have been awarded the Dickin Medal for displaying conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in support of military forces.

Horse Guards Parade

This royal parade ground is no stranger to spectator events, hosting the Trouping of the Colour, displays in honour of the Queen’s birthday and, in 2012, it’ll be transformed into an Olympic volley ball arena. But according to Westminster City Council pest control experts, the number of rats watching events is down on previous years.

Steve Harrison, Westminster’s director of premises management, recently said: “We pride ourselves on acting quickly and will continue our work to limit the number of rats and other vermin in the city.”

Buckingham Palace

Tight security at the royal residence hasn’t kept uninvited guests out of the royal kitchens. With pantries and larders groaning under enough goodies to serve up to 600 people at one sitting, it’s no surprise that rats and mice want a slice of Windsor pudding, pie, cake or even just a plain cracker.

A royal Rodent Problem occurred as recently as October last year. However, the only teeth nibbling at the delicacies of William and Kate’s wedding breakfast will be those of their chosen guests.

The rest of us will have to make do with street party fare, bank holiday barbecues or whatever else comes our way.

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Tips for DIY Pest Control

Last week saw feline Larry catapulted into the national headlines, when he was appointed ‘Mouser to the Cabinet’ and moved into 10 Downing Street. (Did you spot our awful pun? Sorry, couldn’t resist it.)

That set us thinking about what you could do, at home or at work, to deter common pests.

1. Get a cat. This seems an obvious place to start. If it’s good enough for David Cameron’s rat problems, it’s good enough for yours. But not any old cat will do. Larry has a ‘high chase-drive and hunting instinct’, according to Downing Street.

Of course, if your main pest problem isn’t rats or mice, but something like woodworm or wasps, a cat won’t be much use. But stroking it will help bring down your stress levels, which is always a good thing.

2. Tidy up after yourself. Many pests are attracted to mess, particularly if it includes things they can eat. Rodents, Cockroaches, pigeons, Flies and Fleas all thrive in dirty, untidy settings. The other really good thing about tidying up is that it doesn’t have to cost you a penny.

3. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Your eyes are the best pest detectors we know of. Even if the vermin remain out of sight they often leave evidence you should spot – such as droppings, itchy bite marks, or small holes. If something suggests there’s a potential problem you should act quickly before it becomes more serious.

4. Deter rather than destroy. It’s better to keep pests away than to clean up after them. A good place to start is by stopping up any small holes that they might use to come inside your home or workplace. If birds, particularly Feral Pigeons, are a problem you could install anti-roosting Bird Spikes or Netting.

Some pests are put off by noise. If you think Rats or Mice might be snuggling down in your compost bins, give the sides a sharp whack with a stick when you pass – they don’t like noisy neighbours.

5. Call a professional. Yes, we know this isn’t strictly a DIY tip, but if there’s a problem you need help with, it’ll be you that needs to make the call!

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Passionate Pests and Reproducing Rodents

One of the distinctive features of pests is their ability to reproduce. We thought it only fair that as it’s Valentine’s Day we should do a little research into the love lives of the creatures we’re commonly called to deal with.

Brown rats – There’s no shortage of sex in the city among these ubiquitous rodents. When they’re not rummaging through rubbish and scurrying around sewers, they’re probably hard at work creating the next generation. The average female Rat can turn out a brood of up to 14 ugly babies in just three weeks.

Wasps – Frustration might be high for the black and yellow scourge of the summer picnic, because in their world sex is a pastime reserved for royalty. The queen only equips selected males with what they need to pursue the relatively small number of females.

Cockroaches – An intimate dinner for two isn’t quite the same if you’re sharing a table with one of these closet romantics. Unseen by us they can engage in complex courtship rituals involving bold posturing and making distinctive sounds by rubbing their body parts together.

Fleas – Apparently the male flea is supremely well-endowed and his equipment also includes two antennae with what look like sink plungers on the end. It’s thought these help him to hang on to the female because when she jumps it’s with a rate of acceleration equivalent to a space rocket lifting off.

Bedbugs – A life between the sheets hasn’t made the average male Bedbug very discerning. They’ll try to mate with any bedbug smaller than themselves, which causes predictable problems. Once they’ve caught up with a female, she’ll lay around 3-4 eggs per day.

Lovebugs – Okay, we don’t come across these in London, but we couldn’t resist including them. Lovebugs, or honeymoon flies, are found in the southern United States where they are, at certain times of year, a pest. They’re also, as their name implies, intensely amorous. When they mate the couple remain bonded together for days, even flying while entwined.

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Billions to be Poured Into London Super Sewer

Most of us picture London’s sewers as a network of brick-lined tunnels infested with rats and other unsavoury pests. It’s a fairly accurate image but plans are afoot to construct a new super sewer that could run beneath the streets of Southwark or Tower Hamlets.

The huge drainpipe is being designed to capture the overflow from the existing sewer system, which regularly reaches capacity and spews raw waste into the River Thames. The project is going to cost over £3.6 billion and the tunnel will run deep underground for over 20 miles.

The exact route hasn’t been decided yet and part of the process to help determine where it will go was a public consultation, which closed recently. The most expensive option is to run the tunnel beneath the Thames but it could be diverted to cross either Southwark or Tower Hamlets.

When the route is chosen, the planners will get to work, followed by the builders. It’s a massive project that will take years to complete and the tunnel won’t be ready before 2020 at the earliest.

The notion that a sewer is home to countless rats should be dispelled by this twenty-first century scheme. Numerous pest control measures will be incorporated into the design and many of the materials used will be rodent-resistant.

Environmental health officials from across London will want to be sure that this new channel for waste won’t become the breeding ground for more vermin. They’ll want the confidence that increasing London’s capacity for handling sewage won’t also boost the local rat population.

Unfortunately, the new super sewer won’t replace the existing and aging Victorian tunnels. It will supplement them but the old network, with its millions of holes and crevices that make ideal homes for rats, will remain. This means that even with its new super sized flushing mechanism, London’s problems with pest control will remain.

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Rodent Bites Can Hurt More Than Your Pride

It’s bad enough being bitten by a rat. But it’s particularly humiliating and distressing to be bitten on the penis.

That’s what an American claimed to have endured recently, when he’d been locked up for a short spell in a rodent infested prison cell near New York. He said that the rat came out of a mattress and bit him twice, once once on his hand and once in a much more intimate location.

He was probably attacked by the extremely common Norwegian or Norway Rat, also known as the Brown Rat. These are the dirty, unpleasant rodents that thrive on the rubbish we too often leave around us. With their sharp teeth these sewer-loving vermin are a major pest control problem, gnawing through wood and thick plastics on their relentless search for something to devour.

The chances of being bitten by a rat are relatively low in Britain, if official statistics are to be believed. But rats aren’t the only pest that can attack with their teeth.

We were all shocked by the headlines, last June, which reported how an urban fox viciously injured twin baby girls as they slept in their Hackney home. More recently a female lawyer lost part of an ear to a fox in Fulham and woman from Sussex had the tip of a finger bitten off by one as she slept.

Other furred vermin, such as Grey Squirrels and Mice, can also inflict a nasty injury with their teeth. But quite aside from the shock and pain of being unexpectedly bitten, victims also risk catching something very unpleasant from their attackers.

The American man who suffered the unfortunate bite complained that he’d subsequently been forced to endure a series of injections to protect him from rabies. While British pests are highly unlikely to carry this disease, they can transmit a host of other potentially fatal conditions including Weil’s disease, salmonella and tuberculosis.

Anyone unlucky enough to be bitten by a Rodent or fox should get medical help. In 2007 a Sussex businessman died after he was bitten by a pet rat and ignored advice from NHS Direct, who told him to visit his doctor.

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