The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Watch out, you’re surrounded! Relentless invaders are on the attack, and the battlefield may be your business. Infestations of rodents, bed bugs and cockroaches are on the rise this year and are more apt to “bug” American businesses in 2005. Following are observations about trends for 2005 from the Steritech Group, Inc. (Charlotte, N.C.), a provider of pest control services.

“Rodents, ants and cockroaches are perennial pests,” says Mike Potter, professor and Urban Entomologist at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture. “They are certainties of life; but that does not mean businesses must tolerate pests inside their establishments. Business owners would do well to partner with pest management professionals.”

Mice can transmit several potentially serious diseases, including the sometimes fatal Hanta Virus. That illness causes dizziness, nausea, fatigue, dry cough, headaches and, ultimately, can lead to respiratory failure.

Rodents: Weapons of Mass Destruction

Rodents can create havoc in a business. They contaminate food, destroy equipment and structures and are vectors of diseases and food poisoning microorganisms. This year, rodents may be even more prevalent than usual due to the 2004 cicada cycle. Rodents feed heavily on this abundant food source during the summer and fall, which will likely increased both their reproduction rate and their survival over the winter.

Mice can transmit several potentially serious diseases, including the sometimes fatal Hanta virus. That illness causes dizziness, nausea, fatigue, dry cough, headaches and, ultimately, can lead to respiratory failure. Hanta virus first appeared in the U.S. in 1993 in New Mexico but has since been identified in at least 30 states. Anyone working in spaces where mice are active could be at risk for contracting this disease, especially those who work regularly in enclosed spaces that may be closed seasonally and reopened after the winter. This includes maintenance workers, housekeepers, construction and utility workers.

Fire Ants: Unfriendly Fire

“Mild winters, such as those experienced by some areas in 2004, favor the northward spread of fire ants,” says Dr. Ed Vargo, associate professor of Entomology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. “Colder weather limits the spread of fire ants.”

Fire ants first entered the U.S. via ships at the port in Alabama in the early 1900s. They now infest at least 13 southern and western states – Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas – and continue to migrate aggressively northward, having been reported as far north as Maryland and Ohio. Southern states that enjoyed mild winters, watch out!

When a fire ant mound is disturbed, the colony becomes very aggressive and attacks humans and animals nearby. One sting triggers the other ants to also attack, causing a burning sensation (hence, the name fire ants). Some people are allergic to fire ant stings. For these people, a fire ant attack can be lethal.

Fire ants pose an increased danger in sensitive environments, such as healthcare establishments, retirement facilities and day care centers. Establishments such as these should hire a pest management professional to develop a strategic elimination plan.

For most food manufacturing environments, the presence of fire ants is more of a liability issue than a health concern. However, fire ant workers are attracted to oily or greasy foods which they can carry back to the mound and distribute to other ants 1. When this attraction leads them indoors, these ants have the potential to become a contamination concern as well.

Various other ant species are also expected to migrate farther north this year. Ghost ants and white-footed ants, which are particularly attracted to sweets, can be big nuisances to any food establishment and are difficult to manage without professional help.

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