Editor's note: This is the second installment of the Orkin Seasonal Pest Control Series. Orkin experts will provide Food Manufacturing readers with information and best practices for protecting food facilities from pests during each season of 2015.
In food processing and manufacturing, it’s best when suppliers, manufacturers and distributors strive toward a common goal for a particular product. The results can be more profit and fewer headaches along the way.
On the surface, ants and cockroaches may not seem similar at all. But these pests have more in common than you think — they share a common goal of getting inside and making your facility their home. This ambition and objective pose a threat to food facilities.
Both ants and cockroaches are active across the country in almost every commercial industry. They are apt survivalists can adapt to several environments and are tough to control.
Ants in particular use their anatomy, and numbers, to their advantage. When ants forage for food and get into a building, they leave an invisible pheromone trail for others in their colony — which can be home to hundreds of thousands of ants — to follow toward a food source. Ants can also signal a warning via pheromones to the colony to disperse and relocate if they sense a threat.
Both ants and cockroaches can squeeze through the tiniest of openings and tend to nest out of sight — they are often better at hiding than you are at finding them. They can enter your facility in many different ways, such as through cracks and crevices, vents, and sewer and drain pipes. They also can catch a ride into your facility on incoming shipments, ingredients or even on your person, clothing and other personal belongings.
Even if you know your facility is facing pressure from roaches or ants, controlling them is no small task. Fortunately, there are tactics you can put in place to give your facility a fighting chance.
The best way forward is Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a customizable, sustainable form of pest control that can help control ants, cockroaches and other pests. Work with your pest management professional to implement an IPM program that keeps ants, cockroaches and other crawling pests from marching on your facility.
Here are a few IPM strategies to consider:
Close Off Entrances
It takes much more than a deadbolt to keep cockroaches and ants from sneaking through entrances. Because ants and roaches pose the biggest threat from the outside, your facility’s entrances, exterior walls and windows are the most vulnerable gatekeepers.
You can use door sweeps and weather stripping to close gaps around doors and windows — ants and roaches need just the slimmest of margins to enter the building. The same goes for windows, where screens and additional weather stripping should be used.
Loading docks also fall under entrances, and they are often more accessible for pests because exterior receiving doors can remain open for lengthy periods of time. To limit your risk, make sure that exterior receiving doors seal tightly when closed and that your staff closes the doors after the shipments have been received.
Speaking of the loading dock, inspect all incoming shipments for signs of pests. Keep your receiving and storage areas clean, well-lit and free of unnecessary stockpiles — crawling pests see clutter as a perfect hiding place. Containers with ingredients or grains should remain closed with airtight lids and stored at least six inches off the floor and a foot and a half away from walls.
Cardboard boxes should also be thrown away as soon as possible, as ants and roaches can use them for harborage. In fact, when faced with no other options, cockroaches can even eat the glue in the boxes.
Aside from existing entrances and the loading dock, remember there is more to the equation. Pests can also get into your facility through cracks or any imperfections that may develop on the exterior of your building. You should seal any cracks in your building’s foundation, floors and exterior walls with weather-resistant sealant, adding metal mesh around pipes and drains before sealing. Remember to check utility penetration points, including on roofs, for additional cracks and crevices to caulk.
Cut Back Attractants
Pests need food, water and shelter to survive, which can be found throughout food processing facilities in production areas. For example, product collection in equipment and machinery often goes unseen and can attract pests. To optimize the sanitation and cleaning of your equipment and machinery, avoid squeezing equipment into tight areas. The best floor plans have machinery in wide open spaces. This way, equipment and machinery are easily accessible from all sides and can be cleaned thoroughly.
But pest hot spots go beyond the production line. Employee break rooms, offices and locker rooms can provide ants, roaches and other pests with everything they need to survive.
To keep these potential hot spots cool, ensure these areas stay clean and sanitary. Inform your staff of the measures outlined in your IPM programs to make sure they are doing their part to keep these areas that way. In fact, some pest management providers offer a complimentary customized training for your staff to learn how they can help keep pests away.
Ask for your staff’s assistance to empty trash cans often and clean up any spills immediately. You can remove greasy buildup with an organic cleaner that will have a minimal impact on the environment. Organic cleaners can also be used to clean underneath dumpsters, which is a popular hot spot for both ants and cockroaches.
Treatments Don’t Have to be Toxic
Entire aisles are dedicated to pest control products at grocery and hardware stores, and many of the products target ants and roaches. But not all of them are effective, and some contain toxic chemicals. Further, doing your own pest control at your facility can seem like the most economical decision, but in some cases it may cost you more long-term in comparison to outsourcing your pest management program to a professional. In the food processing industry, there are more proper and environmentally responsible remedies that a pest management professional can implement in your facility.
For instance, pheromone traps can use crawling pests’ own biology against them by incorporating a synthetically reproduced version of their own natural pheromones to lure pests into a trap. These traps can then be used to monitor volumes of pest activity in different areas of the facility to identify hot spots that may have been overlooked.
By the same token, insect growth regulators employ man-made hormones to stunt insect growth and prevent reproduction and population growth. These can be used against ants and roaches without posing any health hazards to non-target pests and other animals.
If ants and roaches cross your action thresholds to the point where your pest management professional determines chemical treatments are necessary, an untargeted spray treatment generally applied all over your facility is not the answer.
Instead, non-volatile and non-repellent gel baits can be applied directly to cracks and crevices where pests feed on them and can take them back to the colony. Additionally, bait pucks and containerized baits can be used in damp, dark areas.
Using these IPM tactics can help keep your ant and cockroach problems in check. As pest pressures decrease, you may just see other positive results too, such as higher profits and audit scores. The only ones who won’t reap any benefits from your program will be pests.
Dr. Zia Siddiqi is Director of Quality Systems for Orkin. A board certified entomologist with more than 35 years in the industry, Dr. Siddiqi is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.orkincommercial.com.