[Commercial Pest Control] Pest Prevention in Vacant Office Spaces

In today’s commercial real estate market there are large inventories of vacant office spaces, warehouses and facilities. Such properties — if not monitored — can be damaged by a variety of pests.

Pest management services in and around commercial office settings are commonly requested by Massey Services’ customers. Generally, the service is set up on a recurring basis (monthly, every other month or quarterly) and focuses on eliminating pests around the outside of these structures to prevent them from coming inside, thus protecting the building and contents from damage that may be caused by a pest infestation.

However, in today’s commercial real estate market there are large inventories of vacant office spaces, warehouses, and distribution and manufacturing facilities. Since these locations are not occupied by people on a day-to-day basis, property owners will benefit by having a recurring service that provides routine visits to the vacant property.

Where They Come From.

Pest activity doesn’t appear spontaneously in any space — vacant or occupied. Pests either can be brought into the facility or they can gain access through a crack, crevice or other unseen opening. Every location has three zones of influence: the interior, the exterior or the perimeter.

The potential for damage to interior areas by rodents and pests is tremendous. Imagine how the cost of damage could multiply if months and years go by and pest activity is unknown and not addressed. Routine inspections will provide an opportunity to:

  • Respond to identified pest activity
  • Identify conducive conditions
  • Identify avenues of entry from the exterior into the vacant space

Inspections of the exterior walls, foundation/soil interface, fountains/water features, potted plants, plant beds, rock cover, mulch beds and other exterior sites around the building can provide the opportunity to address conditions conducive to pests. It also provides the opportunity to eliminate pests before they enter the structure.

A common issue is spiders, which are typically found around doors, windows and the eaves of structures. They can become a large problem when exterior lights are left on during the night as these lights attract insects and moths, which will in turn attract spiders. It is recommended that property owners switch white light bulbs to amber bulbs as this will reduce insect activity and therefore decrease the spider population. Birds also may be an issue on the exterior of vacant buildings as they will build nests in areas that are sheltered from the elements. They also may become an interior issue if there are entry points large enough for them to gain access.

In partnership with the property owner, the inspection should include observations about the condition of the perimeter (away from the building). This includes plants, lighting fixtures, signage and general cleanliness of the area. During the inspection of the perimeter, sources of pest activity that could potentially move to the building exterior can be identified and eliminated.

A value-added benefit is notification to the property manager of any other minor issues observed during the perimeter inspection such as a broken fence, lighting issues, etc.

Pest pressure on vacant structures is going to vary seasonally and geographically. Rodent pressures, as well as species of ants, roaches and occasional/seasonal invaders, are all going to be more prevalent at different times of the year. The technician should have an understanding of the behavior and biology of the primary pests in his or her market, which allows the opportunity to identify elements in or around the structure that would contribute to pest activity.

Conducive Conditions.

Fundamental to any Integrated Pest Management program is identifying conditions that are conducive to pests. This includes shelter and sources of food and water, which allow pests to survive in any space.

A vacant space of any kind provides shelter for pests. It is critical to ensure the structure is sound with limited entry points. There are also certain elements in and around the structure that could be food sources for pests. A good example of this is wood and other cellulose materials for termites. Organic debris and water are also contributors to pest activity. In addition to food and water sources for pests, these elements are also indicators of other issues that could be degrading/devaluing the vacant structure. Identification and reporting of these issues during a value-added pest service can allow the owner to take steps to protect the investment that would have been missed otherwise.

The overall service strategy is going to be driven by the pests expected to be encountered. Matching preventive and curative actions to specific situations is both responsible and effective. In its simplest form, the service program should include the following elements:

a. Inspection/Monitoring

i. Interior

ii. Exterior

iii. Perimeter

b. Population Reduction

iv. Trapping

v. Exclusion

vi. Removal (vacuum)

c. Corrective/Preventive Applications

vii. Pest specific

viii. Site specific

d. Follow Up/Monitoring

e. Plan for Recurring Services

Vacant property can represent a significant expense to property owners that can be compounded by damage caused by pests. Routine inspections, along with a sound pest prevention program, can be a great benefit for owners of vacant properties.


The author is director of commercial training and technical services, Massey Services, Orlando, Fla. Email him at tjarzynka@giemedia.com.

December 2013
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