Are you having problems with a particular rodent control account? Here are some tips to help you trouble-shoot these persistent pests.
Problem: Bait is being eaten, but control is poor or slow.
- Not enough bait or bait placements for the population. Never allow a station to become empty before servicing.
- Wrong product. For example, mice may "tear up" a diphacinone product, but the LD50 of diphacinone to mice is high and they are not likely to get enough in limited feedings to kill them.
- Resistance is always a potential problem with first-generation older anticoagulants and even some of the newer ones. Check product labels to see if they are registered for control of warfarin-resistant rats and mice.
- Use either the same number of bait blocks in each station or use a station label to write how many blocks were originally placed. More bait may be required for clean-outs.
Problem: Poor control from bait, traps or glueboards.
- Not enough control measures for number of rodents.
- Placements made in wrong areas.
- Sanitation not improved.
- No client cooperation.
- No rodent exclusion work done.
- No cultural controls done for long-term control such as mowing of weeds, removal of debris, exclusion, etc.
- Wrong bait used.
- No pre-baiting done.
- Not enough stations placed.
- Wrong diagnosis of pest problem.
- No timely follow-up by technician.
- No long-term control program implemented.
- Traps not set correctly.
- Wrong bait type used in traps.
- Bait not kept fresh.
- Cheap traps used.
- Traps not pre-baited.
- Traps not checked in timely manner (next day is best).
Problem: Rodents are taking the PCO’s bait away.
- Don’t use pellets if they can be translocated. Place packs can cause the same problem. Blocks can be fastened down.
- When using bait and bait stations, be sure the bait is secured into the bait station and that it is firmly secured. Most bait blocks provide a hole through which a wire or other fastening device may be inserted. This wire can be secured to the holes or slots provided in the bait station. Secure the bait above the floor of the station and out of any build-up of moisture that may occur.
Problem: How do I fasten down my bait stations?
- Stations may be secured to the ground by driving a 2 by 2 wood stake into the ground and then screwing through the bottom of the station. A screw gun makes quick work of this. Commercially available steel stakes with "clevis pins" provide a good anchoring system as well. Construction glue can be used on pavement and concrete.
- Wire or heavy nylon ties may be used along fence lines.
- When it’s not possible to fasten stations to the floor or ground, fasten them to concrete patio tiles. Tiles are heavy and will reduce the chance of stations being moved.
- One bait station manufacturer (Robobs Corporation, P.O. Box 133, Marion Center, PA 15759, www.theverminator.com) sells rat and mouse bait stations that close automatically if they are disturbed. It does not need to be fastened down for children and non-target animals to be protected.
Problem: Rodents are not approaching the stations, traps or glueboards.
- Placements may be incorrect. Put materials where rodents move and hide, especially in sheltered locations. Place control materials where it is hard for rodents to ignore, such as a band of glueboards over a well- traveled area.
- For mice, which are naturally more curious, move to locations that are inactive to stimulate them to investigate.
- Rats are shyer of new objects. It may take several days for them to approach new objects such as traps or stations. Traps can be placed and baited but not set. Wait a few days, then bait and set traps.
- Rats or mice may be survivors of prior failed control efforts. The "surviving" members of the infestation become bait or trap shy. It appears they learn quickly to avoid wood with springs or plastic boxes with food.
- Be creative when setting traps. Traps may be "duct taped" to pipes upon which rats travel. Traps may be placed on vertical surfaces. Bait may vary. Consider using gumdrops, candy, sardines, dog food and peanut butter.
- The better the bait sticks to the trap trigger and the stronger the odor, the better the chances are to attract the animal to the serious end of the trap. Place boxes or boards so that they divert the animal’s path to the trap.
- Place enough traps to get all the rats or mice in one 24-hour period, if possible. This may mean a good number of traps but remember that not all baits will be successful, not all placements may be successful, some traps may not trigger or catch the rodent successfully and there is no assurance as to which placement(s) will be encountered by the animals.
- Keep bait fresh! Rodents prefer fresh bait. This means regular maintenance inspections and bait replenishments.
- When baiting or trapping mice, more placements in closer proximity are required.
Problem: Some residential customers don’t like to see bait stations or traps. What can PCOs do?
- Place control materials in areas that are out of sight and reach when possible.
- If you must place materials in open areas, tell residents not to disturb them. Do not place bait where children or pets can have access to it.
- Many homeowners are alarmed at the sight of a dead mouse. Overcome this by placing mousetraps in difficult-to-see locations. When it is necessary to place a trap at a location that might be seen by the homeowner, place the trap inside a box or bag. Mice enter out of curiosity to find the trap and you will be less likely to receive a "panic call" from a homeowner to pick up a dead mouse.
- You may need to protect the customer, children or pets from traps (especially rat traps). A rat trap may be placed in a bait station to keep dogs, cats and some children from getting to the trap. The trapped rat is also hidden, for the most part, from view. You may need to cut away some of the interior plastic baffles of some stations to allow for proper placement of the trap in the station.
Problem: How can PCOs make rodent control more efficient while exposing them to less physical hazards or potential rodent-borne diseases?
- Use a pair of "tongs" to handle traps or dead animals. Prosthesis supply stores will have various "reachers" which are normally used by the handicapped. These reachers are great for placing and retrieving traps, dead animals and baits in hard-to-reach locations. Or use disposable gloves that you deposit in a plastic bag along with the carcass for disposal.
- Put down glueboards before treatment efforts. Glueboards may reveal the presence of fleas on rodents. Alert the customer to the possibilty of a flea problem occurring. Fleas may need treatment before rodents are killed to prevent fleas from transferring to people and pets.
- Put glueboards in rodent live traps.These contain the rodent so that it cannot escape or bite. Glueboards will also contain hair and feces or other "biohazards" and help prevent them from causing irritation, allergy or spreading disease.
Problem: How can PCOs make customers happier with rodent control?
- Take the time to talk with the customer to find out their threshold of concern and their attitudes toward different management options.
- Have a list of customer responsibilities to enhance your rodent control procedures. Explain the options (such as traps vs. baits), with the advantages and disavantages of each approach.
- Your warranty should be contingent upon the customer following your recommendations to reduce rodent food, water and harborage.
- Avoid false expectations. All anticoagulants require four to 10 days before rodents begin to die. Add to this some time for them to find the bait and it easily can be two weeks before rodents are controlled.
- Consider offering rodent proofing as an add-on service. If you’re not equipped to do such work, contact a sub-contractor whom you trust to do quality work. This is an opportunity to supplement your sales.
- Always do follow-ups. Make sure the customer is happy and answer any questions they may have. Remind them that when it is rodent season again you would like to do preventive measures to keep the rodents from entering their home or office.
- Always leave the customer your card or a company brochure to remind them of the availability of your professional service.
- Never stop learning about rodent control and management methods. Read trades publications. Keep current on new products or new product labels, different bait stations, traps and glueboards.
- Evaluate different rodent control products in your own situations to determine which will work best against your pests and with your management approaches. Have back-up methods and materials ready for callback situations.
The author has been a technical specialist with Syngenta and its heritage companies of Zeneca and ICI, since 1975. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.