(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the December/January 2018 issue.)
There are only three things a pest is looking for at any given time: food, water, and shelter. While this may seem basic, most businesses provide these year-round, meaning there’s an ever-present battle behind the scenes for the health and safety of food sources.
Flies and cockroaches are two of the most common pests to see, and both are known disease spreaders. While most people find these common pests to be gross, most do not recognize pests pose dangers to our health. Able to spread pathogens by simply touching a food source, flies and cockroaches are known carriers of typhoid, cholera, and dysentery. An outbreak of any one of these could be devastating not just to consumers’ health, but to a business’s reputation and bottom line.
As with many aspects of the food business, sanitation is going to be key to success. In pest control, while it’s important to have a strong pest management process in place, there’s also a lot frontline employees can do to keep the situation under control. Staff can be the eyes and ears of your business when it comes to spotting pest invaders first. Establish strong sanitation processes and procedures immediately to avoid major problems in the future. It’s always better (and often cheaper) to keep pest issues from getting to the point of infestation where more intensive treatments are necessary.
As part of proactive pest management, establishing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is the first step to ensuring your business is as protected from pests as possible. An IPM program seeks to prevent pest activity before it occurs and reduce dependency on chemical treatments. The process is not a one-time event, but an ongoing cycle of three critical activities: 1) assessing the situation in your facility, 2) implementing specific, science-driven solutions based on findings, and 3) monitoring pest activity to make sure the techniques are working.
After a thorough inspection, a pest management professional will locate the hot spots and high-risk areas in and around the business, then work with you to create a custom IPM program that works for the particular pest challenges that you’re facing. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for pest management. In addition to IPM, there are numerous activities you and your staff can start doing today to improve sanitation practices and make the facility less attractive to pests.
Get Employees On Board
Discovering pest issues is going to be incredibly difficult if your staff isn’t involved. They’re on the ground level and closest to areas where pests are most commonly found, like the kitchen, patio, or bar for example.
That’s why the first step to implementing a stringent sanitation plan is staff training. If employees know what to look for and how they can contribute, they’re more likely to be vigilant in calling out potential problems. Bring them in at the beginning of the process and let them know the details of the custom IPM program, especially the hot spots around the business. Consider assigning different areas for employees to monitor corresponding with their job type. In a restaurant, for instance, cooks could be in charge of keeping an eye on kitchen drains and sink areas while waiters are in charge of monitoring the main dining room and outdoor patio areas.
Here are a few telltale signs for some of the most common pests.
- Flies. If you see larvae (maggots), especially around drains and garbage bins, it’s time to act fast. Flies reproduce quickly, so a small problem can escalate rapidly.
- Cockroaches. Unpleasant odors along with coffee ground-sized droppings are evidence of these resilient pests. They could be found behind or under kitchen equipment.
- Rodents. These pests leave droppings constantly, so watch out for tiny pellets. Dark rub marks around baseboards, especially around corners, are a good indicator of a potential problem as well. They love finding stored food product to bite into.
- Termites. Cracked or bubbling paint, mud tubes on exterior walls, and discarded wings from swarmers are possible evidence of a much larger issue. They are attracted to moist areas and wood structures, often behind walls and out of sight.
Make sure employees know what to do when they spot a pest as well. Establish a pest-sighting protocol to encourage employees to document a sighting immediately. This should include the type of pest, the number present at the time, and where exactly the pest was spotted. Monitoring tools should be put in place by a pest management professional, but employees can help identify pest issues earlier than anyone else.