Pest Paths: 10 Common Ways Pests Gain Access to Your Facility

Pests can run, crawl, fly and hitchhike their way into your plant. Some paths are obvious — like a door which is left open or poorly sealed — and some not so obvious. Here is a list of the ways pests can enter your facility and the methods for preventing entry.

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Patricia Hottel, Technical Director, McCloud ServicesPatricia Hottel, Technical Director, McCloud Services

Pests can run, crawl, fly and hitchhike their way into your plant. Some paths are obvious — like a door which is left open or poorly sealed — and some not so obvious. Here is a list of the ways pests can enter your facility and the methods for preventing entry.

1. Dumpster Compactors

Not only can dumpster compactor chutes provide entry points through poorly sealed chute designs, but the dumpsters themselves can attract and serve as breeding sites for pests. In fact, the dumpster box can be transporting pests to and from the waste disposal site depending on how the box is handled. If the garbage is merely emptied and not cleaned, fly maggots and other insects can continue to thrive inside the box. If the old dumpster is dropped at the waste disposal site and a new box delivered, it can bring pests with the recycled dumpster. This is one of the reasons that monitoring this area is so important to make sure that rodents or insect pests are not being transported to the site. Food facilities should have a program in place for cleaning dumpsters, and dumpster pads, especially during the warm weather months and sealing around dumpster compactor chutes to prevent pest entry. If there are interior doors to the compactor chute, they should remain closed at all times when the chute is not in use.

2. Trailers and Totes Held for Animal Feed and Farms

Although a great way to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfills, the holding food for animal feed can potentially provide a path for pests. Traditionally, feed trailers are not routinely cleaned which means that residues inside the trailer can support food for pests. If the food waste is dry, it could provide an area for stored product pests to develop. If the food waste is moist, flies can be supported. They may be transported to sites which are less sensitive to pests and have poorer onsite sanitation. We have traced rodent infestations in food plants to the handler of feed totes. In one case, mice were brought into the facility on the totes. In another, rats were introduced to the site via trailers returning the totes. Trailers may be backed in to dock doors for several days while the trailer is being filled. In these instances, the dock doors should be closed at all times except when loading the trailer.

3. Employees

Several urban pests are excellent at hitch-hiking. These include the German cockroach and the common bed bug. We routinely find that when these pests inhabit workplaces, they arrive on the belongings of employees. Having a separate area for employees to store their belongings, including lunches, is critical. Monitoring these areas for pest activity is also important with regularly scheduled employee locker clean-outs a part of the monitoring and inspection process. Facilities should have a policy in place to deal with employees who have been found to be the sources of pests such as bed bugs. These policies should be established prior to the first incident since it will require the involvement of multiple departments including human resources.

4. Trailers Used for Pallet and Cardboard Storage

It is not uncommon for facilities to use a trailer to store pallets or other items as a way to increase warehouse storage space. However, often, it is difficult to completely seal around the warehouse door frame/ trailer door juncture to exclude pests. Often these doors are left open to allow forklifts easy access to the stored items. Unfortunately, it also provides easy access for pests. These gaps, particularly along the base of the trailer can be six or more inches wide. Most food facilities would not allow a 6 inch gap in a warehouse wall, yet they allow these imperfect seals around storage trailers. These trailers are an extension of the warehouse when used for routine storage. The use of trailers with roll up doors tends to provide a slightly better seal against the dock than trailers with double doors that swing open. The double doors on the trailer create additional space between the dock and trailer and should be avoided when possible. The best remedy is to keep the dock doors closed while not in use.

5. Incoming Shipments

Just like pests can hitch-hike on employees, pests can hitch-hike on raw ingredients and other materials coming to the building. A good inspection of incoming goods is required to make sure that hitch-hikers are excluded. Once the product has been accepted into the site, it can be difficult to establish responsibility for the pest infestation. An infestation can also go unnoticed until populations have reached critical numbers. A good example of this issue is pallet mice which can be harboring in the center of a palletized product stack. Pallet mice can remain inside that stack where food is available and begin to infest neighboring products. Numbers can build up quickly and compromise food safety. A proper inspection program can help reduce this risk. Check between the top and bottom decks of the pallets while elevated on the forklift to look for droppings at a minimum.

6. Negative Building Pressure

One of the most expensive structural deficiencies to correct is a negative pressure situation yet it can be responsible for bringing in a wide variety of insects into a structure. In worse case scenarios, negative building pressure can make it almost impossible to open a door because of the force of the outdoor air pressing towards the door is so strong. Negative pressure can pull insects into a building whether they want to come inside or not. Insect attractive lighting, building temperatures and food odors emanating from the structure, can add to the complexity of the issue.

7. Improperly Functioning Air Doors/Curtains

Air curtains can provide a false sense of security when it comes to preventing pest entry, if the right air door is not selected and maintained. Overtime, these doors may not function as well as originally installed or may not have been installed correctly in the first place. The proper air stream should be 2-5 inches wide at the nozzle and a minimum air velocity of 1600 fpm of air, 3 feet above the floor and across the entire span of the door opening. Food facilities should periodically check their air doors for proper function. An improperly functioning or installed air curtain can do more damage than no air curtain by pulling insects into the building. The direction of the air flow should be slightly toward the exterior of the building for maximum effectiveness. If a building has a negative air pressure issue, it may be difficult to find an air door or curtain strong enough to compensate for the force from the outdoor air. Negative air flow must be considered in selecting the right air curtain.

8. Dock Plates

Just like pests can hitch-hike on employees, pests can hitch-hike on raw ingredients and other materials coming to the building. A good inspection of incoming goods is required to make sure that hitch-hikers are excluded. Once the product has been accepted into the site, it can be difficult to establish responsibility for the pest infestation. An infestation can also go unnoticed until populations have reached critical numbers. A good example of this issue is pallet mice which can be harboring in the center of a palletized product stack. Pallet mice can remain inside that stack where food is available and begin to infest neighboring products. Numbers can build up quickly and compromise food safety. A proper inspection program can help reduce this risk. Check between the top and bottom decks of the pallets while elevated on the forklift to look for droppings at a minimum.

9. The Wrong Screens Used for Doors, Vents and Windows

Most insects will be excluded using normal sized window screens. The average mesh is designed to exclude pests like house flies and mosquitoes. However, some insects like fungus gnats and thrips, will get through normal window screening and require a smaller mesh screen. In the search for zero insect activity, these smaller mesh screens may be necessary, depending on the type of exterior pest pressures. Bio Quip and U.S. Netting are two suppliers of finer mesh netting for small insect exclusion. In addition to the right size mesh, all screens should be tight fitting and repaired if tears occur. Screens also need regular cleaning and maintenance, especially the smaller mesh screens, to maintain the air flow and prevent pest entry through holes in the screens.

10. Floor Drains

Our sewer system can provide an ideal harborage for pests like small flies, cockroaches and rats which then travel into our facilities. Drains which are seldom used for water management can be particularly problematic. Maintaining drains through cleaning and proper grating is essential in helping keep pests from migrating into structures through sewer highways. If a drain is not needed for waste water management, consider capping it. If it is needed and supporting pest entry, consider using special caps or screened “socks” which will allow liquids to flow down the drain but help keep pests out. Some of these exclusionary devices are designed for insects only and not rodents. Liquid Breaker Green Drain is an example of a one-way valve insert for insect exclusion.

About the Author

Patricia Hottel is technical director at McCloud Services and has over 35 years of pest management industry experience. Hottel is a board certified entomologist and a member of the National Pest Management Association’s Commercial and Fumigation Committees. She is also a former member of the board of directors of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the Illinois Pest Control Association (IPCA). She has served on the board of directors for the professional pest management fraternity, Pi Chi Omega, is a past chair and current member of the Copesan Technical Committee, is a past chair of NPMA’s exam review board, and the NPMA Technical Committee. Hottel holds a bachelor’s degree in entomology from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in instructional technology from the University of Central Missouri.

About McCloud Services

Founded in 1904, McCloud Services is a leader in integrated pest management solutions. Dedicated to providing the highest level of pest management services and customer care, the company’s programs are designed to target immediate pest concerns with the least possible threat to people, property and the environment. McCloud Services embraces the latest technology innovations and remains at the forefront of the pest management industry. The company’s mission is to protect its customer’s health, property, food, and the environment while providing the highest level of safety for its employees and the general public. McCloud Services is a regional service provider with locations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

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