Tag Archives: London

Where do Feral Pigeons spend their days?

London’s biggest airborne pest, the feral pigeon, has recently become something of a film star. The evil Professor Moriaty, adversary to London’s most famous detective in the movie, “Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows”, has a habit of feeding the winged vermin in the city’s parks.

But when they’re not to be seen alongside the likes of Jared Harris, Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr. and Stephen Fry where do feral pigeons spend their days?

‘Rats with wings’ were not always pests

Today’s feral pigeon, or town pigeon, is descended from birds who were once bred in captivity, often for meat. This happened for thousands of years. Some of the world’s earliest writings, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, mention the domestication of the Rock Dove or Rock Pigeon.

Over the centuries, millions of birds have escaped from captivity and formed huge colonies in our towns and cities. Trafalgar Square alone was home to around 35,000 birds before the Mayor of London took action to reduce their numbers.

A day in the life of a feral pigeon

As their name suggests, Rock Doves live on cliffs. Today’s tall buildings with their miles of ledges provide an attractive alternative to their feral pigeon descendants.

It’s here that birds begin the day, on some precarious perch or rooftop that’s not been coated in Pigeon Spikes or Netting. Some will be nesting, as pigeons can lay eggs at any time of year.

They like to nest in groups, if they can, with derelict buildings being favoured spots for housing a pigeon nursery. Both parents take turns at incubating the eggs, while their partners go in search of food.

Much of the pigeons’ food comes directly from the human inhabitants of the town or city. Some feed the birds deliberately, although this is increasingly discouraged. But many of us feed feral Pigeons by accident, by dropping pieces of food onto roads and pavements. They also eat berries, seeds and insects.

Pigeons can live for up to fifteen years in captivity. However, it’s unlikely they survive this long in the wild, with most feral pigeons probably dying within their first five years of life.

Feral pigeons pollute and damage

While pigeons help to keep our streets clean of food waste, they make plenty of mess of their own. Stonework, vehicle paintwork and the personal dignity of town and city dwellers are the daily victims of pigeon droppings.

Once prized as a quality fertilizer, pigeon excrement is not just unsightly, it’s also highly corrosive and a health hazard. The acids it contains will eat their way through paint, wood, steel and stone. Millions of pounds have been spent restoring historic buildings which had suffered major damage from a build-up of pigeon droppings.

Their waste, and the birds themselves, can also contain parasites and other sources of diseases. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the feral pigeon has been associated with the villainous Professor Moriaty on the silver screen, as both can present a rather nasty hazard to human health.

Click here to follow Bypest on Twitter

Click here to follow Bypest on Facebook

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.

Click here to follow Bypest on Twitter

Click here to follow Bypest on Facebook

US Government Called to Declare War on Bed Bugs

‘Bed bugs are back!’ cries the US National Pest Management Association. They’re supporting a bill being put before the US Congress, intended to allow Americans to sleep more safely in their beds.

The proposed legislation aims to repel a growing invasion that threatens to literally suck the life blood out of the world’s remaining superpower.

The tiny beasts are also enjoying a boom on this side of the Atlantic. They’re becoming a ‘major public health issue’ north of the border, according to the Royal Environmental Health Institute for Scotland. The Bed Bug Foundation (yes, there is such a thing) reports that London’s population of the things increased by 26% every year from 2002 to 2007.

That trend seems to be continuing, with the UK’s largest pest control firm, Rentokil, reporting a 24% increase in Bed bug calls during the first half of 2010.

The last decade has seen the pests break out of the seedy hotels and shabby bedsits with which they’ve long been associated. They’re increasingly taking up residence in smart hotels and tidy homes.

Despite their name, bed bugs are happy to settle almost anywhere with lots of people. They find moving from place to place incredibly easy and are comfortably at home in shops, museums, galleries and theatres.

Changing attitudes to the use of chemical pesticides has probably caused the global explosion in the bed bug population, along with a more mobile lifestyle. It’s never been so easy for the creatures to hop between cities, countries or continents, tucked invisibly into the folds of clothes and luggage.

Pest control experts are becoming more concerned about the world wide bed bug problem. Hence the American ‘Bed Bug Management, Prevention and Research Act of 2011’ being presented to Congress.

If passed, it’ll create a task force focused on finding ways to stop the blood sucking insects from attacking their citizens. As any visitor to the US will know, the Americans take their homeland security very seriously indeed.

Click here to follow Bypest on Twitter

Click here to follow Bypest on Facebook

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.

Click here to follow Bypest on Twitter

Click here to follow Bypest on Facebook

Pigeons – More Than Fowl Vermin?

The robin and pigeon both enjoy an iconic status in Britain. The cheery, red-breasted chap brightens our winters inside and out. He’s a common sight in our gardens and on our Christmas cards.

His larger cousin, the feral pigeon, has pecked itself into a symbol of city living and formed an unassailable bond with a national institution, Trafalgar Square. When Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London at the time, tried to evict pigeons from the landmark in 2000, he met with unexpected resistance from the birds’ human supporters.

Feral pigeons in LondonIs the little bird who visits your home or office a pest or a pleasure? A bold little robin is entertaining the folk of Aberdeen this winter, popping into his local Co-op for a daily breakfast of crumbs. But he might not be so welcome if he were a Feral Pigeon. Despite having a small, vocal fan base, feral pigeons are not popular with most city dwellers. They’re called ‘rats with wings’ by many of us. They make unwelcome visits to homes and commercial premises across our cities, perching on window sills and roofs and leaving unwelcome and damaging deposits. Their acidic droppings eat away stone surfaces and car paintwork.

Pigeons are often the target of pest control measures, designed either to deter them from moving in or to persuade them it’s time to move on. The brand new Ordnance Survey building in Southampton has a kite flying from its roof, which carries the image of a bird of prey. So far it’s proved an effective pigeon deterrent.

Unlike the little robin, who usually travels alone, feral pigeons move in packs. Well, flocks to be precise, but that term doesn’t capture the arrogant swagger of fat grey birds with aggressive territorial ambitions. They appear to eat almost anything and it’s by living off our rubbish that they’ve earned their reputation as aerial vermin.

Feral pigeons are descendants of the Rock pigeons that we domesticated hundreds of years ago. While we might now despise these grimy, ungainly birds, they’ve been dependant on us for food for generations. But that’s not to say we should have to accept their mess and nuisance.

Effective pest control measures have significantly reduced the number of feral pigeons in London. The 4,000 in Trafalgar Square have been cut to around 200. If they continue to become less common, they might even win back a place in our affections, alongside the round, red robin.

Click here to follow Bypest on Twitter

Click here to follow Bypest on Facebook

Pest Control Takes on Invisible Threats

If you’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter a cockroach in your home or at work, it’s an experience you’re unlikely to forget. These ugly brown beasties have got ‘pest’ stamped all over them.

Unfortunately not all household nasties are so easy to spot. Take Bedbugs, for example. Infestations of these night time nibblers are on the increase and pose a particular problem in the hospitality industry.

Customers paying for a night in a hotel or bed and breakfast probably won’t realise that they’re sharing a bed with the blood sucking mites, which can grow to about 6mm in length. But they’ll know the following morning, when the bites start to itch, and that’s when the complaints will begin.

We regularly deal with bedbug problems across the London area. As with all our work, it’s handled quickly and discreetly.

Another micro pest that adores people and their pets is the humble Flea. The British passion for wall to wall carpeting in centrally heated houses has created the ideal environment for fleas to multiply. While the human flea is relatively rare these days, cat fleas and dog fleas are a regular problem for animal lovers.

The adult fleas cling onto their living hosts but their eggs are laid in carpets, cracks and crevices around the home, where they lie unnoticed. We’re used to dealing with flea problems in both domestic and commercial premises.

Yet another hard-to-spot pest is woodworm. We’re all familiar with the clusters of tiny holes in old timber which mark the exit holes of these wood boring creatures. What we often don’t see, until too late, is the damage they’re doing to the wooden beams in our homes.

Older buildings are particularly at risk from a variety of different wood boring beetles, all of which have a taste for seasoned timber. The name ‘woodworm’ describes the larval stage, when tiny grubs carve networks of tunnels in the wood, sometimes for years. Eventually they emerge as beetles, creating the trademark woodworm holes, and then lay the eggs which become the next generation.

Prevention is better than the cure with woodworm, but often by the time we’re called in, significant damage has been done.

Click here to follow Bypest on Twitter

Click here to follow Bypest on Facebook