Rats - The New Kings of the Urban Jungle
Posted on 14th April 2020 at 08:30
Lockdown has hit the Country and whilst the human inhabitants of Maidenhead have been kept at home in isolation some of our other residents have been travelling far and wide; the absence of food from restaurant bins, office bins and from the pavements has seen hungry rats emerging in the daytime.
For the rat population in Maidenhead and in just about every town in the UK, since the lockdown was implemented there is absolutely no food stuff available from their usual source. Rats are scavengers and they live from the food we throw away, now the table is bare the rat’s behaviour is changing to match these changing times.
We are getting callouts to households that have never had a problem with rats previous to the lockdown, one thing that has increased the chances of an internal rat infestation was the recent panic buying epidemic, where we spent £60 million pounds on extra food. Homes are stock piled with food and some of this has been stored in places which are within easy access to the hungry rats.
Rats live in well-established hierarchical colonies, in a normal situation when the food supply is pretty much constant, small-scale disputes arise amongst the population and this acts to organise the top tier of dominant rats. Further disputes sort out the remaining rats which establishes the ‘pecking order’ of the colony. The alpha rats at the top of the pile get the best of the pickings, but when we have a situation when the food supply is suddenly cut off, the colonies order collapses.
Initially as with any sudden food shortage we’d expect the rats to fight amongst themselves for dominance over whatever food is left, some rats maybe killed during these conflicts and their bodies will be eaten by the victors. When we set traps inside buildings, we frequently find just a head left in the trap’s jaws; why waste a good meal? When the food supply finally dwindles away to nothing, many of the rats will abandon the colony in search of an alternative food source and this is why we are now seeing a rise in rat callouts right across the area.
Rats are persistent and extremely opportunist, if a rat gets to smell food it will do everything it can to find a way to get at it. For example, we’ve seen rats get through a brick wall via a fault with a piece of missing mortar in a joint. In this instance over a long period of time, rats gnawed away at the two opposing corners, eventually rounding off the ends of the bricks. If a rat can get its head through a gap it will push its body through and we’re looking at a space no bigger than a fifty pence piece.
Equipped with teeth that are harder than cast iron and powerful jaw muscles its easy for rats to exploit old, rotten wooden doorframes and gaps under garage doors, allowing access into the interior. Because of the food stockpiling some of these garages are full of food, and when one rat gets in, others will quickly follow.
Rats don’t just exist outside on the streets of our towns and cities; they also move around beneath them and a large proportion of our internal infestations originate from the sewers. Most houses are connected by their drains to the sewers and as modern houses have their soil pipes built internally, any fault within the system will allow rats inside the property. The house will have two connecting voids – the cavity walls and the loft space, once a rat gets inside it can move around the entire property in these areas and this becomes a greater problem when the property is attached to others.
We are dealing with a rat infestation in Maidenhead where the rats are coming from the drains three houses along; recent renovations have been carried out in the neighbouring property and unfortunately due to poor workmanship rats can climb out of the drains and into the properties cavity wall and from there the entire terrace. This is a common occurrence and I would say that around 80% of our domestic rat work stems from defects in the domestic drainage system.
The lockdown will be in place for several weeks yet and its important that we appreciate how serious the rat problem is and what steps we can take to proof our homes and businesses against the inward movement of rats. Just as we have adopted the idea that hand washing is good for dealing with the Covid-19 virus we should look at the hygiene of our own homes as a means of keeping safe.
Food storage and even things like where we keep the wild bird food needs to be reviewed, sheds and garages are not the ideal places to keep any provisions but if there is no choice strong containers should be used; preferably made of metal rather than plastic. At the moment we are seeing a rise in numbers of people reporting rats climbing and eating from garden bird feeders; an obvious sign that food is scarce.
When it comes to our domestic rubbish, wash out any food cartons that will be stored for recycling, make sure waste bins are undamaged and have a lid that fits well. Even a small residue of food left lying about may be enough to encourage rats to come up right to the boundary of your property. Having rats running around the outside of your property shouldn’t usually be a problem, but remember the fifty pence piece? Hungry rats are able to gnaw through a plastic airbrick or squeeze through a gap and you’ll find yourself hosting a rat infestation.
Block up gaps under garage and shed doors with a plank of wood; try fitting your fingers under the door. If you can do that then the space is big enough for rats to squeeze through. Again we attend many properties where rats have got in via an adjoining or internal garage, rats have some amazing super skills, they can climb a vertical brick wall and jump over a metre horizontally from a standing position.
One of the commonest causes for rats in gardens? Household waste being composted, these composters often sit on the ground and rats tunnel under the bottom and up through the base of the compost to the fresh produce chucked on top. Most Councils now run bio-food schemes converting waste food into energy but if you really want to compost your kitchen waste, place the bin on a solid base. Composters are available that keep the container off the ground on a metal frame to allow you to rotate and aerate the interior, these are very good for keeping rats out.
If you have an issue, or, suspect that you have got a rat problem in Maidenhead then don’t look upon the use of a professional pest controller as a ‘luxury’, a good pest controller will conduct a thorough survey of your building to determine how the rats are getting in and this will include any adjoining properties. If you think about it logically, with rats in a semi-detached house, there’s a good chance that half of the problem lies next door so this always needs investigating. Without an in-depth search of the entire ‘building’, no amount of rodenticide used inside you part is going to get you rat free for long?
Additionally a good pest controller will not want to start with a ‘straight to a poison’ approach; instead of using poison they should mark up any potential access points and drains to determine where the rat activity is. Coloured dusts and gels that fluoresce under ultraviolet light mark both travel routes and any animals caught in traps; all pointing towards the entrance. Once the rat entrance point is determined a plan can be put together using a mixture of traps and poison if required to bring the infestation under control. The final stage is to fully seal up the rats entrance point keeping rats at bay for good, with serious drain defects, one way valves can be installed preventing rats from running up the pipes into the property.
With the lockdown seemingly in place for a few more weeks yet we will see further hardship for the rat population and knowing rats, even more attempts to get in and at our food supplies. For now as we keep safe at home the rats have laid claim to the streets of Maidenhead – they are the New Kings of the Urban Jungle … for now!
Tagged as: Rats
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