Your office has been taken over by an army of mutant rats

Your office has been taken over by an army of mutant rats

“The main genetic mutation we’re concerned about is the one that causes them to be resistant to our poisons – that can be passed from the mother, father or both,” says Blackhurst. There is resistance to not just the poison that exterminators were using in the early part of the 20th century, but also to the second-generation ones that have been used more recently. “This has been going on for quite a while, but there’s not enough data in the UK to say which areas have this mutation,” Blackhurst adds.

There may not be data to show exactly where poison-immune rats exist, but in a recent study from the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use, 74 per cent of the rats analysed carried a rodenticide-resistant gene. That’s a problem for employers, who could open up their offices to discover a rat infestation. Ratcliffe says the usual way to get rid of rats is to identify where their rat run is, lay bait and, when they have succumbed, remove their bodies. If genetic mutations prevent them from succumbing another solution has to be found.

Rentokil believes it has found that solution: a “rodent burglar alarm” called PestConnect. The system – which has identified that rats are most active in UK commercial premises at 12.24am – uses a number of devices connected through the Internet of Things to monitor rodent activity, activate a range of humane traps and alert a pest controller when a caught rat needs to be disposed of.

Supermarket chain Tesco uses the system across its network of warehouses and stores. The supermarket’s pest control head Tony O’Donovan says it has enabled the organisation to reduce the amount of poisons it uses by 40 per cent, something that fits with its overall commitment to “tackling the global climate change threat, protecting important ecosystems such as forests and marine environments, and advocating for sustainable agricultural practices that protect soil health and biodiversity”.

Even with technology to help identify the source of the problem, a rodent infestation is never going to be easy to deal with, particularly in a modern office block. Knowing where rats are getting in and exterminating them when they do is one thing; sealing entry holes that are hidden under floor boards or concealed by cavity walls is another entirely.

“The bigger the building the more complicated it is to deal with because you need to find the root-cause of the problem,” says Bungay. “If you’ve got a building with 10 floors and offices on each floor it will take time and money to solve. You have to figure out where the rats are coming from. You have to monitor and pinpoint where they are coming in – it could be a fault in the sewer system – then you have to fix that or you will have a constant feed of them.”

The good news for anyone working in a shiny new office complex is that, even with next to no humans going in over the past few months, rats are unlikely to have moved in en masse. As a species that is naturally suspicious of humans, the sounds and smells of facilities managers turning on lights, sending in cleaners and keeping the air-conditioning going will have been enough to hold them at bay.

Employers who rent lower grade space that has less money spent on its upkeep are likely to have a problem, not least because rats who have been left to their own devices will have been using those offices as a breeding ground. And, with a rat’s gestation period lasting just 21 days, that can mean only one thing: potentially huge numbers of rodents waiting to ruin the office reopening.

Published at Tue, 20 Apr 2021 05:00:00 +0000

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