Rodent control remains a staple for the vast majority of pest management professionals. And for some innovative owner/operators that have successfully marketed their rodent control services, it’s been a growth segment. PCT caught up with noted rodentologist Dr. Bobby Corrigan for a quick Q&A segment. Corrigan is the author of Rodent Control: A Practical Guide for Pest Management Professionals and the Rats & Mice chapter in the 10th edition of the Mallis Handbook of Pest Control, which he also discusses in the following Q&A.
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(1) How do you think the 2015-2016 winter extremes the U.S. has experienced as a result of El Nino will impact rodent control this year?
Bobby Corrigan: In general, harsh winters are threatening to small mammals in temperate states where they don't hibernate. However, if rats and mice have food options nearby (garbage, litter, an abundance of some natural food) — cold temperatures or not — they will not be highly impacted. It is more a case of climate extremes in the opposite direction; that is, repeating mild winters over the past decade seem to be taking their toll as rodent populations are now year-round issues instead of the previous peaks of the autumn season.
(2) PMPs are showing increased interest in using video. Can you talk about your experience using video? How can PMPs best utilize this technology and make it an efficient, effective tool?
BC: With the advent of wildlife night cams and compact camera technology (e.g., Go-Pro series), a whole new world of rodent/wildlife problem-solving has become available at relatively inexpensive costs. Camera inspection technology is especially helpful for solving tough rat problems where the origins and travel ways of rats are difficult to determine from daytime inspections, and result in expensive call backs and annoyed customers. This new technology can now take the place of the highly time-consuming and inconvenient night vigils PMPs had to do in the past for directly observing elusive rodents and wild animals around buildings. This technology, in my opinion, is now mandatory for any pest professional offering rodent and/or wildlife control services. A problem that used to take weeks or month to solve can now be solved in a day or two.
(3) What type of real-world rodent research would you like to see undertaken, and how could this research help PMPs on the frontline control rodents?
BC: We still know very little of how rat and mouse POPULATIONS work in our urban environments and structures. For example, we know very little, if anything, about how the "ordinary" house mouse is established (or not) within our larger city structures. How do they travel within the building? What are the preferred nesting zones? What is the home range of a typical office building mouse? What is a mouse population’s weakest behavioral or biological link in such environments? Presently, most mouse control services for such situations involve merely responding to each complaint by installing a trap or a bait at the spot of the complaint. In many instances, this is truly the old adage of putting a small band-aid on a wound that actually requires surgery to fix. The problem is the customers of these situations don't know surgery is actually needed (or they are unwilling to pay for "surgery").
(4) Your book, Rodent Control: A Practical Guide for Pest Management Professionals, has become a go-to rodent control resource for PMPs. What was your vision for this book in terms of how it would complement some of the great existing rodent control resources, and perhaps fill a void when it comes to rodent control resources?
BC: My vision was heavily based on my own experience of running a pest control route in NYC for three years full-time while saving money for college. I thought it was important to consider pest control in the context of how it is done stop by stop. This is different than reading a general reference on rats or mice and then trying to design a control template based on one's own interpretation of the general reference. Most PMPs don't have time to become that studious on any of the pests, but especially the more complex mammals such as rats and mice. Given everything else on the plate of an everyday hardworking PMP, they need to be clearly guided on questions such as "How do I do rodent control in a grocery store?" and “What is the home range of roof rats in a typical suburban backyard?" and "Why can't I simply pour my bait down a rat hole and expect control?" It all has to be practical in the sense of what is a typical PMP route.
(5) In the Rats & Mice chapter in the 10th edition of the Mallis Handbook of Pest Control, that you authored, you wrote that an important goal of the chapter was to carry on Dr. William Jackson's goal of having "environmental management serve as the cornerstone of sustainable urban rodent management efforts." Can you give us an example of a situation PMPs commonly encounter where they could solve a rodent problem using "environmental management" instead of rodenticides or traps?
BC: If they are sincerely employing IPM, pest professionals should always ask prior to, or in tandem with, the use of any traps or baits: "What and where is the food of this rodent infestation?" Also, "How are the rodents causing the infestation getting into the building?" Environmental management by the PMP on a typical route could be two-fold: 1) providing a written recommendation to the customer to eliminate the causative food; and 2) to offer to rodent-proof the door or hole in which rodents are gaining entry into the customer's building. Unfortunately, many of our customers do not want any additional work for themselves (i.e., cleaning their garbage area, fixing a door, plugging a hole, etc.) and many do not even want someone to verbally, or via a written note, suggest such work. Rather a large portion of the public that hires pest services believes there is a "quick fix" that saves them work, and sadly bypasses the smarter and more cost-effective environmental approach.