Surveying Britain’s Rodent Control

City of LondonThe last national rodent control survey published by the National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA) sparked a flurry of media interest and headlines screaming ‘Rat Population Explodes.’

This year the same survey reported rodent control by local authorities was down by 51%. Great news, but scratch beneath the surface and there’s a far more worrying story lurking beneath the statistics.

The national rodent control survey outlined how the credit crunch has bitten public services, with local authorities seeking little alternative other than to charge for pest control. Peter Crowden, Chairman, NPTA, states that “failing to ensure adequate levels of local rodent control can be a seriously false economy given the cost of enforcement action under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 as well as statutory public and environmental health obligations.”

The national rodent control survey received responses from just over half of the Chief Environmental Health Officers or officers responsible for pest control in each local authority. The report assesses the number of rat and mouse control treatments being carried out by local authorities, and can also serve as a useful tool for estimating the UK’s rat population.

The majority of local authorities have traditionally provided rodent control free of charge as part of their core public health responsibilities. The latest National Rodent Survey shows that over 60% are currently charging for some of their rat control services and nearly three quarters for house mouse treatments. This could rise to rise to 80% over the coming year.

Those local authorities who charge for some or all of their rat control work, for instance, recorded a 28% year-on-year reduction in treatment levels. In contrast, those continuing to offer rat control services free of charge saw treatment levels fall by just 9%. There were 164,000, total professional brown rat treatments in 2009/10, down by 51% on the 337,000-plus reported the previous year.

An estimated 445,000 local authority rodent treatments across the UK took place in 2010, 27% beCommon Brown Ratlow 2008/9 and the lowest total level since the survey was introduced 11 years ago.

When cash is tight DIY pest control is sometimes the only option. But in some cases, particularly if an infestation is established, reactive pest control is more costly and ineffective. Poorly managed amateur practice can result in growing rat and mouse problems. The NPTA also outlines the negative implications of undertaking home pest control measures stating, “DIY treatments also suffer from the fact that they are invariably undertaken on an individual premises basis. This allows many rats to survive because their entire territories are not covered by the baiting, leaving more survivors to multiply and rapidly re-infest their immediate neighbourhoods and encouraging the development of rodenticide resistance”.

Only time will tell if the rodent population will explode or go into decline but we’ll keep you posted. It’s our ethos that prevention is better than cure. Take precautions not to encourage rodents. Simple measures like not leaving excess bird food out, seal up gaps to make sure rodents don’t enter your home and storing rubbish in rodent proof bins will go a long way to keeping the rat and mouse population down.

Full details of the survey and questions asked are available at

  1. Herman Cloete
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