Winning the War on Pests

Five simple tips for gaining cooperation and commitment from residents.

As a property manager, you work hard to attract residents to your property and, once they’re there, to keep them happy. Amenities like a pool and fitness center may be highlights of your property for a prospective resident, but the fact is—not even a wide array of attractive amenities can counteract the reputation of a property that has been skewed by pest sightings.

Pests are more than just a nuisance. They can carry and spread diseases, contaminate food and even cause expensive structural damage. Unfortunately, many properties provide the conditions necessary for these undesired occupants to survive.

The characteristics of a multifamily environment, with its varying resident lifestyles, lack of uniform cleaning standards and the close proximity of units, can present unique challenges in detecting and remediating pests. Unsanitary conditions in one unit may attract pests that can quickly spread to other parts of the community. In addition, frequent arrivals of new residents offer additional opportunities for pests to make themselves at home in your property.

A successful Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program seeks to limit chemical usage by reducing conditions that attract pests. IPM techniques like facility maintenance and proactive sanitation practices are crucial to restricting pests’ access to sources of food, water and shelter.

An IPM program also relies on a partnership among you, your pest management professional and your residents. But because your pest management professional isn’t at your property 24 hours a day, seven days a week—your residents play an integral role in the early detection and proactive prevention of pests. As a result, it’s important for property managers to encourage residents to be a part of the pest management efforts. Having residents on board can go a long way in preventing infestations and upholding a reputation for quality.

Education is the first step in empowering your residents to make an impact. Look to a qualified pest management provider to help educate residents and develop treatment protocols. The following are five ways your residents can help become part of your property’s pest management efforts:

1. Help Detect Signs of Pests

One of the most important ways to help prevent pests at your property is to educate residents on what to look out for. There are several tell-tale signs of pests, from droppings to bite marks. Early detection can help your pest management professional catch a problem before the infestation gets out of hand.

• Droppings: Rodents try to conceal their presence by scurrying around in hidden places, but fecal matter is one sure sign that they are active. Rodent droppings are approximately the size of a raisin, and mice droppings are the size of a grain of rice.

• Teeth Marks: Rats and mice are constantly gnawing, so look for chew marks around utility openings and along base boards and door frames.

• Cast Skins: Cockroaches shed skins that have proteins that can aggravate allergies and asthma.

2. Fight Food Sources

Because pests are so attracted to food odors, it’s imperative that residents keep their food properly stored and cleaned up.

• Stress the importance of putting away food and cleaning dirty dishes—even food that has been sitting out for a few hours can attract pests.

• Clean refrigerators weekly and dispose of old food in dumpsters.

• Keep non-perishables tightly sealed, especially sugar, flour and other items that may not close well in their original packaging.

3. Keep It Clean

Sanitation is a critical component to pest prevention. Encourage residents to follow these simple sanitation tips to help keep their space free of pests.

• Clean any spills immediately, even if it’s just water.

• Wipe down counters and other surfaces daily.

• Regularly remove trash. What’s trash to you is a delicacy to pests. Line all trash cans tightly. Cockroaches are known to thrive in dirty, moist conditions—such as in and around trash cans.

• Vacuum regularly in the spaces beside refrigerators and in any cracks and crevices to clean out any food that may attract pests. Vacuuming can also eliminate pest allergens and even pests themselves.

4. Don’t Invite Pests In

Residents may unintentionally invite pests in or bring them inside themselves. Remind residents of the following prevention tips to help keep pests outside where they belong.

• Keep doors and windows closed when not in use.

• Inspect second-hand furniture for pests before bringing it into the home, because furniture can be a transmitter.

• Thoroughly inspect grocery bags, boxes and potted plants before bringing them inside to prevent pests such as ants from hitching a ride.

5. Report Pest Problems

• Establish a sighting protocol with your pest management professional and share it with your residents. They are the eyes and ears of your property and can be the key to early detection.

• Communicate the new protocol with fliers and make sure your current and new residents understand what’s expected of them and why their involvement is so important.

Remember, residents are your most powerful weapon in the battle against pests. No matter how much work a community puts into keeping pests outs, if residents aren’t cognizant of the prevention tips above, the property’s efforts will go to waste. Be proactive about reminding residents of these five easy ways to keep pests out. One way you can help educate your residents about pests is by offering them prevention tips in your monthly newsletter. Check with your pest management professional to see if they can provide you with relevant materials. Encourage your residents to get on board with your pest management program today and help prevent pest problems before they begin.

Ron Harrison, Entomologist, Ph.D., is director of technical services for Orkin.