Food-service establishments are sensitive areas that pose a unique set of challenges when dealing with rodent infestations. Here are some techniques you can employ.
Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from Techletter, a biweekly publication from Pinto & Associates, Mechanicsville, Md. To subscribe, visit www.techletter.com or call 301/884-3020.
Because the business of restaurants, cafeterias and institutional kitchens is food that is stored, prepared, served and spilled, there are plenty of opportunities for mice to make a home. It’s important to know what your options are in treating spaces like these. What follows are some techniques that can prove useful.
Begin with an inspection. Check the entire food-service facility — dining areas, kitchens, storage, receiving — and make notes when you see evidence of mice or conditions conducive to mice that need to be corrected. Inspect the exterior, too, especially perimeter shrubbery and the Dumpster and garbage can enclosures. Point out to your customer sanitation problems and areas where rodent-proofing is needed.
Glueboards or snap traps are usually better choices than rodenticides in food-service establishments. Un-baited multiple-catch traps also work well. These methods have the advantage of having the dead mouse “in hand,” and you won’t have to worry about decaying carcasses inside of wall voids.
For mouse control inside the restaurant, rodenticide baits are not the best choice for a few reasons. First, food is plentiful in food-service establishments, especially in kitchen and storage areas. Bait will have to compete with this readily available food. Second, mice tend to carry off bait and hide it. Hoarded bait can attract insects, or in the worst case, can contaminate food products. Third is the smell of dead rodents.
If you do use rodenticide bait, make sure it is labeled for use in food facilities and make sure you follow application directions carefully. Use formulations that can’t be carried off or translocated. Likewise, don’t use rodenticide tracking powders in food areas. Mice can track the powder onto food surfaces or, if misapplied, it can drift onto food or food prep surfaces.
Non-toxic bait monitoring blocks can be placed in many areas where rodenticides are a poor choice. Since the blocks are non-toxic, they don’t have to be placed in tamper-resistant bait stations. Use the blocks to pinpoint problem areas before you begin your trapping or baiting program. Once you have evidence of gnawing on the blocks, you can then place traps or baits in the same sites. The amount of gnawing even can help you estimate the size of the mouse population.
Place baits, glueboards and snap traps in areas inaccessible to children and in inconspicuous locations. Otherwise, place them inside bait stations to protect them from sight and from grease and moisture. The restaurant doesn’t want its customers (or the health inspector) to know that it has a pest problem. Employees don’t necessarily care to see dead mice, either.
Bait stations allow you to insert sticky trap monitors inside the station to intercept cockroaches and other insect pests. Place traps or baits along suspected runways that the mouse uses to get from its nest site to its favorite food source. Place your controls 8 to 12 feet apart against walls or behind objects.
Mice travel in three dimensions, so place controls in suspended ceilings and in crawlspaces and voids as well. But don’t place baits in ceilings where they could drop onto food areas below. Glueboards are a good option for suspended ceilings.
Outside, place bait, glueboards or snap traps inside tamper-resistant bait stations and anchor them behind shrubbery, inside the Dumpster enclosure and in other conspicuous sites. Use baits labeled for exterior use that are weather-proof. Be sure to place traps or bait stations near all entries into the building doorways as well as loading docks.
Check back frequently. Replace bait and glueboards and remove dead mice. Keep records of where and when controls are placed and how often they’re serviced.
The authors are well-known industry consultants and co-owners of Pinto & Associates.