August is best time to prevent winter pest invasions
DEARBORN — The city last week dispatched 15 inspectors to beef up rodent control efforts across the city, and to educate residents about eliminating conditions that could lead to pest problems.
Ongoing road, sewer and building construction projects throughout Dearborn have dislodged rodents from their underground homes, which has aggravated the usual warm weather increases in rodent activity.
In addition, property owners may be unaware of the steps they can take to control the rodent population, which could lead to more pest activity.
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. directed field inspectors to concentrate solely on visiting homeowners who have asked the city for help with rodent issues.
Normally the field inspectors are resolving problems with property maintenance issues in the neighborhoods, as well as rodent control requests, but were instructed to focus on rodents so that every household with a request into the city was visited.
Based on the field inspectors’ reports, rodent control supervisors will then follow up with property owners in need to further action, including the application of rodenticides that only can be used by certified professionals.
“While we help our residents every day with pest problems, it became clear that we could make a much bigger impact by hitting this issue hard and well across the city with all of our resources,” O’Reilly said.
“We’ve seen an increase in people contacting us, and at the same time, had some staff turnover that impacted our response time,” O’Reilly said. “I directed today’s action to make sure our residents with rodent issues understand we are here to assist them.”
Inspectors were assessing individual property conditions, such as the existence of food for rats and places for them to hide and reproduce. At every property with a call for service, inspectors left education material.
Rodents love areas with great hiding places, such as sheds, porches, and garages; and easy access to food, including bird seed, vegetable gardens, dog droppings and garbage scraps.
An effective rodent control program starts with the elimination of conditions that the pests favor.
Here are some guidelines for successful rodent abatement.
Eliminate food sources for rats
• Keep trash in the designated carts with lids closed.
• Remove and dispose of animal feces daily.
• Eliminate all food sources on your property, including pet food and bird seed. It is a violation of city ordinance to ground feed animals.
• Pick up and remove daily any fruit from trees, bushes or vines that fall to the ground, and remove vegetables from gardens as soon as they ripen.
• Keep yards clean.
Avoid creating hiding places for rodents
• Keep all materials stored inside a garage.
• Woodpiles, when stored on an unpaved surface, should not be less than 9 inches from the ground.
• Compost must be containerized and kept at least 18 inches off the ground.
• Seal cracks, holes or breaks in foundations, and repair holes around pipes, screen doors, windows, vents, and other openings in the home.
• Outside steps should be made of masonry/concrete. Keep the space beneath wooden porches clean and free of clutter and debris.
• Keep grass cut below six inches in height, remove weeds, and keep low hanging trees and bushes trimmed up off the ground at least 12 inches to prevent rats from hiding there.
What not to do
Do not use commercially available rodenticides. Rats can become resistant to them, which can result in the rats becoming more difficult to eradicate.
Also, rodenticides that are improperly placed or used may be a danger to children, pets and non-target species. Such poisons are to be handled by professionals only.
Residents seeking the city’s assistance may contact Vector Control at 313-943-2099. City inspectors will evaluate a situation and proceed with professional techniques, as required.
Be aware that the city’s role has limitations, but residents are encouraged to call if they believe they have a problem on their property.
Sometimes there are complications when reporting a rat sighting. A rat could be crossing through one yard to get to another yard, for example, and not actually living on the property. So there may be no action that can be taken on the caller’s property, because there is no rat infestation on their property.
Although some restrictions apply, there are laws that restrict inspectors from entering adjacent property without getting that property owner’s permission to look for signs of rodents.
Cooler weather concerns
As the city deals with the current situation, the cooler weather on Michigan’s horizon could lead to even more complaints from residents, experts at Rose Pest Solutions said.
The upcoming cold weather motivates rodents to seek warm shelter. The National Pest Management Association reports that mice and rats invade an estimated 21 million homes each winter.
“Just like us, rodents would love nothing more than to pass time during the colder months of the year in the confines of our warm and cozy homes,” said Mark VanderWerp, manager of education and training at Rose Pest Solutions.
VanderWerp said the best way to avoid becoming a statistic — and a rodent boarder — is to pest proof your home so that pests physically cannot enter.
“It can be difficult work to find the correct areas to repair and seal, but if done the right way it will pay dividends for years to come and may also help you save money on your heating bills.”
Here are some tips from NPMA and Rose Pest Solutions for homeowners to keep rodents out of their houses.
• Small cracks. Seal small cracks and holes on the outside of the home using silicone or other elastomeric sealant.
• Large openings. For openings too large for caulking or for openings that are needed for air circulation, watch the videos at the top of this story for some affordable and easy tips using household items such as scrub pads and insulation foam.
• Chimneys: Install chimney caps
• Keep dry: Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry
• Doors and windows: Install door sweeps on exterior doors and repair damaged window screens.
• Gutters: Clean leaves and other debris from gutters, which can serve as perfect pest harborage sites.
• Landscaping: Keep shrubbery and tree branches trimmed 6 to 8 feet from the exterior walls and roofline; use “tear drop” shaped bushes instead of sprawling ground covers in landscaping as the latter offer rodents protection.
• Firewood: Store firewood on a raised structure such as concrete blocks at least 20 feet from the home.
If you suspect an infestation, don’t attempt to take care of the problem yourself with poisons and other methods that may harm pets or children, VanderWerp said. Contact a local pest professional.