Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is quality assurance manager – regulatory/lab services for Orkin Canada, focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry.
More than a trend, green initiatives like fuel-saving cars and energy-efﬁcient light bulbs beneﬁt the environment and even help save money in the long run. As a result, many businesses have taken advantage of the opportunity to go green. And these efforts aren’t limited to technological innovations. Even pest management programs can improve a facility’s sustainability.
From stored-product pests like grain beetles and Indian meal moths to common invaders like flies, ants, birds, rodents and cockroaches, pest infestations are a constant risk because facilities unknowingly provide the food, water and shelter they need to survive. Without an effective pest management program in place, facilities suffer the consequences. Products and structures can be damaged or contaminated, which ultimately bites into the bottom line and deals a blow to the business’s reputation.
But pest management efforts don’t need to be weighed down by the potential negative side effects of pesticide products. Sustainable pest management is not only achievable – it’s also a best practice. More often than not, pests are a symptom of underlying sanitation, housekeeping, storage or maintenance issues. By addressing these conditions to help rid the property of pests, you will naturally ﬁnd yourself taking a greener approach, as reactive use of pesticides takes a backseat to more proactive and environmentally friendly techniques.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs focus on strategies to eliminate conditions that attract pests and manipulate pest behaviour, biology and environment to proactively prevent the pests. By focusing on sanitation, maintenance, habitat modiﬁcation and other less toxic control methods, IPM programs are cost effective and safer for your facility, food products and employees.
Without an IPM program, pest control is always reactive, by which time problems can get out of hand and cost money, time and reputation. With a customized IPM plan, resources are more intently focused on speciﬁc challenges. One logistics provider that we work with said this about the effectiveness of their IPM program: “We have no pest problems – that’s the biggest result. We all realize the importance of food safety and pest control and how they intertwine. It’s great to know that our pest control program meets our industry standard.”
Inspection, implementation and monitoring
Storing food products up off the floor and on wooden pallets will help keep pests away.
An effective IPM program involves three principles – thorough inspections, proactive implementation and ongoing monitoring.
To get started, work with a licensed pest control provider to inspect your facility, including stored products. During the inspection, look for actual pests, signs of pest activity (body parts, droppings, cast skins, trails, gnawing), and other conditions that could attract them. In addition to evidence of pests on the property, here are a few things to look out for or note during the inspection.
Sanitation issues – Poor sanitation can turn your property into a pest haven. Note any issues (dirty equipment, product spills, buildup in hard to reach areas and improper waste management) so that you can address these items in your pest management plan.
Structural conditions – Leaks, worn-out door seals and sweeps, unscreened vents, torn window and door screens and gaps around utilities, windows and doors can attract pests and let them inside your building. The age of your building can also contribute to pest problems.
Hot spots – Map out the hot spots around your facility that might attract pests. This includes employee break rooms, locker rooms, equipment storage areas, decommissioned equipment, silos, food storage areas and garbage or recycling rooms.
Location – Your facility’s surroundings can impact the types of pests that will inﬁltrate it. Ask your pest management provider how geography, climate and other businesses and buildings in the area will affect your pest risks.
After the inspection, work with your pest management provider to create a plan that is customized to your facility. By addressing the issues noted in the inspection, you can tackle pest weak points head on – before they become a problem.
Make it a habit
Incorporating pest management efforts into your employees’ daily routines is the easiest way to ensure the effectiveness of your program. Sustainable pest management practices prevent pest problems by eliminating conditions that attract pests in the ﬁrst place. In addition to remedying speciﬁc concerns, here are some best practices to use.
Line trashcans with strong, leak-proof lining and ﬁt them with tightly sealed lids. Take out the trash at least daily and regularly wash the bins.
Mop up spills and sweep up crumbs immediately.
Instruct employees not to leave open food in break rooms or locker rooms.
Clean hard to reach areas like overhead ledges, equipment footings, voids in equipment and under vending machines regularly, as these areas are often overlooked.
Regularly clean floor drains by dislodging the drain and cleaning the rim and basket.
Repair torn window and door screens.
Seal cracks and gaps around windows, doors and utilities with caulk. Also pay attention to gaps along wall-floor junctions. (This also will help prevent heat from escaping and make your building more energy efﬁcient.)
Repair leaks immediately. Pests will take advantage of the moisture.
Screen or cap floor drains.
Ensure electrical circuits, duct works and overhead ceilings are free of debris or buildup.
Make sure the building, including the exterior, is free of litter, pallets, dense vegetation and other clutter that could attract pests and provide harbourage.
Install a gravel strip (at least 46 centimetres) around the perimeter of the building to deter crawling pests.
Install and maintain door sweeps for all exterior exit doors.
Keep exterior exit doors closed as often as possible.
Inspect incoming shipments for signs of pest activity and develop a plan for quarantining or rejecting infested items.
Use air curtains at entrances to create a positive airflow that pushes flying pests back out the door.
Other best practices
Use the “ﬁrst-in, ﬁrst-out rule” for food products. The ﬁrst items to go on the shelf should also be the ﬁrst to ship from distribution centres.
Store food items on wooden pallets that are raised off the ground.
Install exterior lights away from the building instead of against the building façade. Position the lights to shine on the building. Employees will still be able to see, but pests will be attracted to the source of the light – which is now a safe distance away.
With an effective IPM program in place, it’s crucial to monitor pest activity and maintain proper documentation. Through continuous monitoring, you can adjust your IPM plan over time as you identify pressure points and trends. This will not only alert you to any new issues but also help predict the likelihood of a pest occurrence so that you can prevent it.
To maximize the sustainability of your pest management efforts, set action thresholds with your provider. An action threshold is the point at which a pest’s population becomes a nuisance, poses health hazards or causes economic damage. While a zero tolerance for pests is unrealistic, deﬁning action thresholds ahead of time can help focus the scope and intensity of your efforts. If a pest population reaches the threshold, use non-toxic treatment strategies ﬁrst. If unsuccessful, use pesticides products that have the least impact and focus them on the problem areas.
In an industry where sustainability and food safety are top priorities, an IPM program is the best strategy. Over time, your business will conserve resources, save money and leave a smaller environmental impact.