While the basics of controlling rodents have remained the same, PMPs said the pests, protocols and consumer attitudes about rodents are evolving.
?Trend #1 — Rodents Are Increasingly Problematic
Over the past seven years, mice and rats generally became more problematic for pest management companies.
According to the 2021 PCT State of the Rodent Control Market survey, sponsored by Bell Laboratories and compiled by independent research firm Readex Research, more PMPs cited house mice (76 percent), Norway rats (52 percent) and roof rats (44 percent) as challenges in their markets compared to 2014.
House mice generated the largest number of service calls last year, reported 41 percent of PMPs, followed by roof rats (30 percent) and Norway rats (15 percent).
Loss of habitat played a role. “The rodent population exploded” in Greater Houston after massive flooding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 pushed rodents out of parks and bayous, said Del Lawson, vice president of operations at Modern Pest Control in Katy, Texas.
“When you change the natural habitat where they are, it drives them to the houses, and all they need is a small crack and you’ve got rodent problems,” he said. The company’s rodent exclusion work increased three-fold as a result.
In Greater Los Angeles, construction on vacant lots and open land has displaced rats and their natural predators, including coyotes, snakes, owls and hawks. “I think we’re losing a lot of the natural controls for rats, which is problematic,” said John Etheridge, Seashore Pest Control, Huntington Beach, Calif. Homeless encampments provide the pests with easy access to food, he said.
Marty Overline of Aardvark Pest Management said rodent infestations in downtown Philadelphia decreased after an initial pandemic spike. “It’s all about the food stream for commensal rodents, and the food stream really, really dried up, so the population diminished. But I would say it’s going to rebound here in the next coming year,” he said, as people return to office buildings and colleges.
?Trend #2 — Rodent Control is Year-Round
Rodent control has become a year-round activity for more pest control companies. According to the 2021 PCT State of the Rodent Control Market survey, 34 percent of PMPs reported no seasonal difference when performing this service, up from 21 percent in 2014.
Glenn Fordham, owner/operator of Olympic Pest & Termite Control in metro Atlanta, has noticed the shift in rodent control work. “It was very seasonal; it’s not that way anymore. It has peaks and valleys, but it’s almost nonstop now,” he said.
Fewer PMPs claimed fall as their busiest rodent season: just 29 percent in 2021 compared to 41 percent seven years ago.
Still, the arrival of cold fall weather has companies like Custom West Pest Control in Missoula, Mont., switching to “rodent mode.”
“You’ll see the mice start to move indoors in September, October. Then they really get (aggressive) by October, November,” said Nate Nunnally, Custom West CEO.