Rodents on the Rampage – a guide for facilities managers

by Phil Taylor
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Pest2Kill Director, Phil Taylor has shared his insights on the pests that cause Facilities Managers the biggest headache of them all – rodents – and how best to deal with these widely-feared furry foes once they’ve made themselves at home in the building you manage. 

Rodents – What you need to know

The number one pest issue we find our Facilities Management clients dealing with is rodents or more specifically, rats. In Australia, the culprits are generally the Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus), the Roof Rat (Rattus rattus) and on occasion, the house mouse. Whichever species is making itself at home a little too close for comfort, a rodent infestation can pose a serious health issue and needs to be dealt with quickly by a professional pest controller. 

Fun fact about rodents: they are the second most successful mammal on the planet, second only to humans! This is partly because of the unbelievable and somewhat terrifying rate at which they breed. Rats begin breeding as early as six weeks of age and following a short gestation time of approximately three weeks, birth a litter of between 8 and 20 pups. The average female rat births six litters each year, so it’s easy to see how a population of two rats can explode into a mammoth infestation very quickly. This is why it’s so important to act swiftly when it comes to controlling a rat issue. 

The Norway Rat is brown in colour and is generally the larger of the two rat species we typically see in Sydney, sometimes referred to as sewer rats or street rats. They are generally as long as a 30cm ruler and have sturdy bodies with long, hairless tails. In search of food, water, warmth and shelter, they tend to make themselves at home in walls, ceilings, beneath concrete slabs, under floors or behind cupboards and boxes. They are so agile they can gain entry to buildings through tiny holes (as small as two centimetres!) and, being nocturnal, they are generally more active at night.

In line with its name, the Roof Rat prefers to nest in high-up places such as rooftops and attics. Also known as the black rat, their fur is generally darker in colour than the Norway Rat and they are slightly smaller and more slender in size, measuring in at approximately 20cm in length when fully grown. 

Both species are common pests in urban areas and once they find shelter, if they can find a nearby food and water source, they are likely to stay put. Facilities Managers might encounter issues in apartment buildings, food handling areas, loading docks and bin rooms. One thing’s for sure – as soon as a building occupant catches wind of a rat or mouse infestation, hysteria is soon to follow. They are, after all, the pests people love to hate!

The rodent risk factor

Rats, mice and other rodents can wreak havoc on all kinds of businesses or buildings and as prolific disease-carriers, they can also pose serious health concerns for residents, staff or the general public. Not many people realise that an unchecked rat population in any home or building can lead to serious illness in both humans and pets. These common pests can spread diseases through their droppings, urine, saliva, bites, scratches and even through the ticks and fleas they transport. In Australia, there are several rat diseases to be mindful of including rat-bite fever, hantavirus,  salmonellosis, listeriosis and asthma, just to name a few. 

Rats, in particular, can gnaw through almost anything and can cause costly structural damage. This is partly due to the fact their teeth never stop growing, so chewing through whatever is available to them helps wear them down. Their powerful jaws can make a meal of soft concrete, wood, pipes, rubber, aluminium, sheetrock, pipes and even electrical wires. The latter can be a fire safety concern as it can cause shorting-out of appliances or lighting fixtures. 

Rodents are also bad news for food businesses or any buildings with food-handling areas. They can easily chew through food packing and contaminate food with their hair, droppings and urine. Interestingly, rats are incontinent and leave droppings and urine wherever they go, which means they spread harmful bacteria wherever they go – not to mention leaving a nasty odour! Their behaviour destroys and contaminates food products resulting in mass food waste and of course an increased risk of spreading diseases. 

Tell-tale signs of a rodent issue

Aside from reports of actual rodent sightings, there are a few tell-tale signs that you might have a rodent infestation in the building you manage. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Rodent droppings are the number one tell-tale sign – hardly surprising considering a single rat can leave 25,000 droppings a year. 
  • Something smells a little off? Rodent urine can smell like stale ammonia and can indicate an active infestation. Cats and dogs might become excited by the smell, so keep an eye out for any strange pet behaviour too. 
  • Gnaw marks or walls that have been chewed through are obvious signs that rats could be present. In food handling areas, look out for bite or chew marks on food packaging. 
  • Scratching, scurrying or burrowing noises might also signal a rodent issue, particularly if you’re hearing noises at night when they are most active. 
  • You might also spot grease marks, fur or even rodent nests made from materials such as paper or fabric. 

How to resolve a rodent problem

With all this in mind, facilities management professionals should engage a professional pest controller for a building assessment and rodent management plan at the first sign of any rodent activity. This should be done quickly before the problem gets out of hand as both rats and mice reproduce rapidly and substantially (keeping in mind female rats birth six litters of up to 20 pups every year!). 

Controlling a rodent infestation relies on blocking entry routes and cutting off access to food. A rodent expert should first focus on sealing identified entry points to prevent rodent access in addition to the installation of rodent bait stations, rodent traps or whichever methods have been selected as part of the plan. Cutting off rodent access to the food source is key; expect to make some necessary housekeeping changes to keep the issue under control, in addition to a well- structured Rodent Management Plan implemented by your selected pest control company.

If you’re experiencing any kinds of pest issues and would like to speak to Pest2Kill for a no-obligation chat about how to manage your problem, call 02 7228 7022 or head to to learn more.

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