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Originally published in Interiors & Sources

01/25/2013

Pest Control for Birds and Rodents

How to prevent and address these unwanted guests

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    A single bird can carry up to 60 disease-causing microorganisms, including fungi that can induce a respiratory reaction, salmonella, and E. coli. Make sure workers wear protective clothing and use proper disinfectants when removing bird droppings.

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Are birds leaving unsightly droppings on your facade? Are mice and rats threatening the safety of your kitchens? Are bats circling your building at night?

While bug infestations are common, furry and feathered critters can also create lingering pest problems. Like any other animal, birds and rodents carry diseases and parasites that can be harmful to humans and their feces produce unsightly conditions.

“Aside from the health risks, their presence creates an unacceptable work environment. These creatures are a nuisance to employees and can present a negative first impression to clients and visitors,” notes Chrissy Hansen, creative content manager at Bird-X, a provider of pest solutions. “They are also known to cause damage that compromises safety and production quality – chewing through wires and cables, building nests that create fire hazards, and contaminating products stored on the premises.”

Bird and rodent infestations are best treated with integrated pest management, which emphasizes prevention and environmentally sensitive approaches for removal.

“We need to move away from conventional treatments,” says Ron Harrison, director of technical services with Orkin. “Pulling up to a complex and dousing a facility with chemicals is old-fashioned. You need to assess and create a plan that uses the least toxic, most environmentally friendly options first.”

Unlike insect infestations, it’s rare for these pests to be carried into a facility by humans. Pest proofing, exclusion devices, and humane traps will be your weapons of choice.

A Fowl Problem
A single bird can be a welcome sight in urban areas, but a flock of pigeons won’t do your maintenance team any favors.

“Birds can cause property damage, health risks, and slip and fall liabilities to property owners,” says Shaun Johnson, a sales spokesperson for Bird-B-Gone, a manufacturer of pest control products. “Their droppings are acidic, can permanently stain buildings, carry over 60 diseases, and can become extremely slippery when wet.”

Pest Profiles: Do's and Don'ts

THE TARGET APPROVED METHODS PROCEED WITH CAUTION
RODENTS
  • Deploy mechanical kill traps, which are humane and provide a body count.

  • Seal any gaps or cracks and scale back landscaping.
  • Avoid bait traps with poison – you can’t control where the rodents will die.

  • Glue boards, while cheap and effective, cause death by starvation.
BATS
  • Use small netting (1/4-1/6 inch) around exclusion points so bats can escape but not return.

  • Seal entry points with caulk, mesh, or cloth after the bats are gone.
  • Delay any exclusion methods during the breeding season so the young are not harmed or left for dead.

  • Avoid extermination practices unless handled by a trained professional – some species are protected under federal law.
BIRDS
  • Install anti-roosting devices, such as spikes or electric strips.

  • Design out ledges and perching spots.

  • Place netting over openings and skylights.
  • Pigeons, sparrows, and starlings are considered invasive species and can be exterminated, though you may garner unwanted attention.

  • Neurotoxins in bird feed are a temporary solution that may result in bird deaths from erratic flying and overdose.
Even after you free your building from birds, you can remain at risk for ectoparasites such as bat bugs and bird lice, cautions Stoy Hedges, senior technical professional and entomologist with Terminix. Bat bugs are in the same family as bedbugs, and while they can’t survive without their animal host, they can still cause alarm among tenants.

The rise of glass facades has also seen an accompanying spike in bird deaths as they have difficulty distinguishing structures from the sky, Johnson says. A pile of dead birds won’t go unnoticed, creating unwanted media and tenant attention that makes the presence of birds a negative one.

It’s easy to visually confirm if you have a bird problem, but also look for specific areas of your building that encourage birds to linger.

“Birds are attracted to convenient rooftop perches, ledges, window sills, or any space that offers sheltered nesting areas,” Hansen explains. “They are also likely to get inside of a facility via large openings such as loading docks, garage doors, and semi-enclosed warehouse spaces.”

For new construction, you can head off bird problems with a few tricks. One of the latest approaches for glass facades is to use a reflective solar coating or a screen pattern to help birds see the walls as solid.

“You can also angle all ledges at 45 degrees, which makes them inhospitable for birds to land on,” advises Douglas Stern, managing partner for Stern Environmental Group, a pest management firm. “Use smooth metal, glass, and plastic building components, which discourage roosting. Avoid porous materials like concrete and masonry, which are inviting to birds.”

For existing flocks, several retrofit options are available. All are designed to keep birds alive but make your building an unsuitable breeding ground. For example, some devices use a mild electronic shock that gives birds a harmless yet annoying jolt whenever they land on it.

“You can also use sonic bird repellers that emit warning sounds to condition pest birds to stay away,” recommends Hansen. “Bird spikes can be applied to ledges and sills to prevent perching. Other humane tactics include bird netting, predator decoys, and taste aversions.”

Stern cautions that spikes should only be used on flat surfaces, otherwise birds are at risk of being impaled. This can be a problem if spikes are used on signs or curved areas where the angle becomes a threat if birds build nests on the spikes.

Another approach that should be used with caution is Avitrol, a chemical used in bird feed to disorient birds by causing a minor seizure. The affected bird scares off the rest of the flock by emitting distress calls. According to the manufacturer, proper administration causes no lasting side effects to birds.

Because Avitrol affects the nervous system, however, it can cause birds to fly erratically into structures and an overdose may result in death, cautions Stern. In most cases, the chemical offers a temporary solution at best as birds will eventually flock back to your site. It’s up to you to evaluate whether this product is in line with your pest control approach.


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