Of the many discomforts and concerns raised by COVID-19 lockdown, pest infestation was probably one of the worst. Across countries, pest controllers are receiving more reports of rat infestations in their home and garden during the coronavirus lockdown than ever. Specifically, there has been an increase in rat call-outs by 51% in the UK since March 2020.
The troublesome pests rodents are reportedly more aggressive and intentional. As many offices and non-essential businesses are forced to shut down because of the pandemic, this provides them with opportunities to find their way into deserted facilities and set their habitats. So, how has the lockdown contributed to the upsurge of rat infestation and to which extent should we be concerned about this problem?
Rat infestations during COVID lockdown
Since Melbourne first went into coronavirus lockdown in March, the city’s rat rate has been constantly rising. The rats are reportedly expanding their territories, breaking into shuttered businesses, and eating in closed restaurants and cafes all day long. According to frontline pest control professionals, before the lockdown, the rats would only appear at night, but the long-term shuttering of facilities in the Central Business District gave them the entire day to rampage around.
Aside from Melbourne, many cities in Australia are also facing a COVID-induced rat infestation. Back in May, a veteran rodent control worker told The Guardian that the coronavirus restrictions in Sydney were driving hungry rats into homes and suburbs. He also warned that loosening restrictions could potentially lead to “a new rat plague”.
Besides vacated restaurants and cafes, rats are also looking out for other places, since their closure forced them to look for a more abundant food source. And their target destination includes both suburban and up-town establishments. A pilates studio in Melbourne that was left unattended during lockdown has become home for the squeaky creatures. They have built a giant nest in padded yoga mats left in the studio, according to a rat-catcher.
Several studies have been conducted to track rodent activities under the effects o COVID-19 lockdown. Most of them agreed that whether in the U.S, Canada, Japan or Australia, the search for food is the driver behind the surge in rat activities.
Even though some studies display significant drop-offs of rat activities during the lockdown in certain places such as New York, all cities were reporting rat infestation from unexpected places.
The University of Sydney Associate Professor Mathew Crowther, whose research project tracking the city of Sydney’s rat numbers pointed out similar results, explained that people’s eating and generating rubbish at home more frequently during lockdown had led the rats to make their way into residential areas to feed themselves. Meanwhile, Professor Peter Banks from the University of Sydney, said the creatures are “totally reliant” on humans for their food. And if the rats continue to reproduce but being incapable of supporting their babies, the parent rats will kill their offspring. For such reasons, rats were moving to the suburbs and closer to residential facilities.
What should we do about it?
With the notion of what is driving the rats into your home in mind, there are several rodent control measures you can adopt to keep your house free from infestation. (SEE: Rat Pest Control)
Easy preventative measures
- Always cover and store left-over food and drinks properly. Piling up dirty dishes in your sink your dining table is strongly unrecommended, as food remnants and water drops will invite the rats into your kitchen.
- Domestic garbage should be collected frequently and kept in sealed bins, as the starving rats can also look for food in your wastebaskets.
- Seal or fill up any cracks or cavities in doors, windows and pipelines, because rats can sneak through these holes to enter your house.
- Trim excess trees and shrubs in close vicinity to your house to take away possible nesting areas and make roof entry harder for the squeaky guests.
Treatment against infestation
If you have found traces of infestation inside your house, you can whether call for professional help or deal with them yourself with some tools such as:
- Baits: You can set up bait stations at various strategic locations around the house structure. The biggest advantage of bait stations is that the risk of secondary poisoning of non-targeted animals such as your pets or children will be reduced to almost zero.
- Snap Traps: a more convenient option than baits that do not require daily monitoring.
- Tracking Powders: Burrows and rub marks covered with tracking powders and pastes can help trace back to their nesting and give you clues to treat them from the root.
However, rodent complaints are not always easy to deal with, especially when swarms of them are moving from restaurants and cafes to households for food. Therefore, if the infestation and damages go beyond your control or over-the-counter treatments seem ineffective, professional help from rodent pest control agencies is strongly recommended.