While all buildings need protection against potential pests, older buildings can face increased pest pressures and unique challenges if left unprepared. The likelihood of pest infestation increases as buildings age, and facility managers need to understand the risk factors before an infestation occurs, introducing numerous health and safety concerns.
One issue is moisture, which can result from any number of things, including a leaky roof, plumbing or pipe leaks, or built-up condensation within the walls. Moisture and warmth supports the growth of mould and other fungus for insects to feed on.
Moisture also compromises and deteriorates wood. It can then be easily attacked and infested by wood boring beetles, carpenter ants and wood boring wasps. These pests can cause extensive damage to the foundation, walls and joists of the building.
Another issue is poor maintenance, which, over time, can lead to more cracks, crevices and potential entry points for crawling pests such as mice, rats, earwigs and wood roaches. Buildings can also accrue certain litter and residue buildup over time, especially in areas that are typically out of sight. Closets, areas behind appliances and storage space can quickly become cluttered with pest attractants, making them potential hot spots.
Traditional pest control programs often limit tactics to the application of chemicals. Such programs tend to ignore the reasons why pest problems exist in the first place, and do little to prevent recurring problems, especially within older buildings.
An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program helps protect buildings and any surrounding property by focusing on preventive measures such as sanitation and facility maintenance to cut out pests’ access to their survival needs. Any treatments are used as a last resort in targeted areas, which lessons the potential impact on people, property and the environment.
Sanitation is a cornerstone of IPM. A good sanitation program keeps buildings clean and helps eliminate pests’ basic needs: food, water and shelter. Use the following tips to reduce pests’ access to these resources, making the facility a far less appealing home to insects and rodents.
- Consider using an organic cleaner to eliminate all grease and grime in areas where debris can accumulate, and thoroughly wash floors to remove any residues each week.
- Pests only need a small amount of water to survive, so monitor for and eliminate any standing water that accumulates around the building. Inside the facility, clean up food and liquid spills immediately and be on the lookout for leaky plumbing fixtures in bathrooms. Work with a maintenance professional to make repairs as needed.
- Use a vacuum to remove debris from cracks and crevices in the building. Vacuuming can also remove any pests hiding in those cool, dark places. After the cleaning process, proceed to seal all cracks and crevices.
- Remove trash daily. Make sure all trashcans in and around the facility are lined and tightly covered when not in use. Outside, place dumpsters as far from the building as possible and rotate and clean them regularly.
- Pick up any trash around the property and regularly wash surrounding sidewalks or parking lots to eliminate any evidence of food that could encourage pests to come inside.
IPM also calls for proper facility maintenance and exclusion techniques. A pest management provider can help with regular inspection and monitoring to lock down entry points and detect any defective structures. Use the following are tactics to deter these unwelcome guests from making it inside.
- Outdoor lighting is a great place to start. Flying insects can be deterred by swapping out mercury vapour lamps, which attract pests, with sodium vapour lights outside next to entryways.
- Help ground flying pests with an air “wall” they can’t fly through by installing appropriately sized air curtain units above exterior doors. Also, work with an HVAC professional to make sure air is flowing out at entrances, not in — this is called positive airflow. A simple test for this involves holding a piece of paper in a doorway and observing which way it blows.
- Eliminate pest-harbouring sites on the property. This includes overgrown grass, debris, wood piles, overgrown tree branches and bushes touching the building. When ground surfaces erode over time, making surfaces uneven, they can collect water and serve as breeding grounds for pests.
- Install door sweeps and weather stripping to minimize any gaps that pests may attempt to crawl through. Inspect the exterior and siding of the building for cracks and gaps as well as potential holes or gaps around vents, utility pipes or cables entering the building. These issues, along with loose fitting window door screens, are all common as buildings age. If found, they should be sealed and caulked to reduce pest pressures.
IPM is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process, so work closely with a pest management provider to ensure that the building — no matter its age — is properly protected against pests.
Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is the resident entomologist – regulatory/lab services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she manages the quality assurance laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at firstname.lastname@example.org.