Plant room – what Pests may be Lurking and why?

Plant rooms may not necessarily by the first place that you consider when thinking of pest activity. But just because plant rooms aren’t particularly hospitable for humans, it doesn’t necessarily mean pests feel the same.

Consider what a pest typically requires to survive. Two of the key requirements are warmth and harbourage (a safe place to live that is relatively undisturbed). Think of a plant room in that kind of context then it starts to become a more attractive proposition. Place that room in an environment that offers a nearby food source, such as a production line, manufacturing plant, rubbish area or kitchen, and we have a real viable living are for pests.

But what about the noise and moving parts present in a plant room? Surely these will discourage pests? Well, possibly not. Pest species such as rodents are skilled adaptors. They will overcome obstacles such as noise if the prize of safety, warmth and food source can be obtained. The less human disturbance the better as far as species such as rats are concerned, so a plant room which may be secured to prevent human access is perfect. Remember plant rooms with vents and louvers are often open to the intrusion of pests such as rodents. Mice are fantastic climbers and will have no problem gaining access to plant area from high level if the rewards are great enough.

Risks from rodents
If species such as rats and mice do become resident in plant areas, there are a number of risks to be considered. Rodents can be incredible destructive to plant and machinery if infestations go undiscovered and unchecked. This is due to rodent habits of gnawing and chewing. Rodents front incisor teeth grow constantly and so must be worn down by gnawing on hard surfaces. Their incredibly strong teeth can chew through wire, cables, wood, cement and even brick. A chewing rodent amongst plant machinery can cause serious damage to equipment and hours of down time as faults are tracked down and repaired. Fire is a real risk if cables are damaged. Destruction can also be caused by rodents nesting amongst warm machinery if debris from the nest becomes entangled in moving parts.

Insect pests
Maintenance staff that enter plant rooms on a regular basis should also be aware that these locations are often just as attractive to a number of insect pests as they are to rodents. Cockroach species such as the German and the Oriental cockroach are both extremely comfortable warm areas such as plant rooms. If the sites you work on offer a combination of high temperatures, accessible food source, moisture and hiding places, it could be perfect for cockroach activity. The fact that cockroaches feed on anything organic, including animal and human waste, makes them just as likely to spread disease as rodents, and because insect breeding is temperature dependant, a warm plant room can encourage cockroach population explosions which will rapidly spread to high locations due to the cockroach’s excellent climbing ability.

Fly activity is also a serious cause for concern for anyone who needs to access plant rooms. Species such as the common house fly transmit a number of pathogens due to their unsavoury breeding habits. Whilst feeding they defecate and vomit, causing even more contamination. House fly can go through a full life cycle from the point where they lay an egg to becoming an adult in 5 to 7 days in favourable temperature conditions as you would expect to find in many food manufacturing sites. Because of this, exclusion of flying insects is absolutely essential. Opening doors and windows should be screened against insect intrusion, and electronic fly killing devices should be considered to capture any fly that manages to get through any proofing measures. Scrupulous hygiene in plant room areas will also remove potential breeding sites for fly and other insect species that prefer warm, damp conditions.

Bird pests
Birds also have a habit of accessing plant rooms for warmth and shelter if they have the opportunity to, again this can also cause health issues for staff coming into contact with residues. Pigeons for example carry a number of diseases that can be transmitted to people, some of which can be deadly. Bird droppings also contain a number of diseases and infections such as salmonella that if contracted by staff can be devastating.  When dry, pigeon droppings can become airborne in very small particles, continually contaminating any employees in the area and leading to a number of respiratory complaints such as psittacosis. If you have had birds in a plant room and the debris has not been cleared, it is essential that you investigate a means of removing the waste. But remember, birds in the United Kingdom are protected species, you can only deal with them if they are causing certain issues using approved methods. Always consult a bird management company for advice before undertaking any control measures.

Removing unwanted pests
Often, the key to pest eradication is early detection. If you are aware of pest activity in your employers or customers plant rooms, don’t sit on your laurels. Inform the site and get a pest control professional to inspect and clear the pest problem. Pests like rats in a plant room will eventually cause serious damage to equipment and may impact on the health of staff, so ensure they are dealt with promptly and professionally before it is too late.

British Pest Control Association (BPCA) members are qualified, insured, are committed to Continual Professional Development, and have access to industry leading Health and Safety consultants to ensure they are working safely and responsibly. They benefit from the support of a world renowned not-for-profit trade association that is available to support them, and their customers with pest prevention advice and awareness training.

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