Keeping rodents out of garden centres

Rats and mice are always in search of warm, dry harbourages and new food sources, particularly during periods of inclement weather. Garden centres offer the perfect place for rodents to hide, thanks to the numerous areas of shelter and food sources they provide. Given their open layout, many garden centre managers may find keeping them out a real challenge, particularly as mice are capable of squeezing through tiny gaps, and like rats are also good climbers. A rodent infestation can represent a major health and safety risk as rodents are known carriers of diseases and can damage the reputation of any business as well as impacts its bottom line. It is therefore vital garden centre owners and employees are clued up on how to spot and deal with a rodent infestation and know how to prevent the pests from returning in the future.

How can I recognise the signs of a rodent infestation?

Rodents are nocturnal, so can be difficult to spot in your garden centre during business hours. However, there are a number of tell-tale signs that can indicate an infestation. These include:

  1. Smell and sound: Rats and mice have a very strong ammonia smell. On top of this they are often very noisy, making audible scrabbling noises as they move around premises.
  2. Droppings: Rats excrete about 40 dark, pellet-shaped droppings per day, which are up to 14mm long, while mice can produce 80 oval shaped droppings, that are typically 5mm long. These can be found near any harbourages or entry points.
  3. Smears: Rodents use established routes along walls due to their poor eyesight. You may notice grease marks where rodents brush up against walls and surfaces.
  4. Footprints: Rats can leave foot and tail marks in dusty, less-used areas of your premises. Shining a strong torch at a low angle should reveal tracks clearly. To establish if an infestation is active, sprinkle fine flour or talc along a small stretch of floor near the footprints and check for fresh tracks the next day.
  5. Damage: Rodents can chew through electric cables, which is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of an infestation as it causes a fire hazard, while also being very difficult to spot. Gnaw marks, shredded paper and damage to storage containers are also common signs of rodent activity.

You might not think that one mouse sighting warrants immediate attention, but a problem can quickly escalate into something more serious if left untreated. Mice typically like to stay hidden out of sight as it helps them feel safe, so seeing just one mouse could still be an indication of a larger problem. They also have a relatively quick reproduction cycle, so failing to act could create the conditions for an isolated issue to turn into a full infestation.

How can I stop rats and mice from seeking solace in my garden centre?

If you do identify a rodent problem, there are a number of simple steps that can be taken to minimise the risk of a full infestation from developing in your garden centre:

  1. Seal any gaps: Mice are capable of squeezing through gaps the width of a biro pen, so seal holes in the exterior of the premises with wire wool, caulk, metal kick plates or cement. Rats are also known to enter premises through damaged drains, so it’s important to make sure that these are well maintained and checked regularly. If you’re unsure how rodents could be entering your garden centre, don’t hesitate to ask pest control experts to analyse the site and advise on the potential causes of the issue.
  2. Declutter and clean: Keep clutter to a minimum and move objects away from walls to ensure you can check what’s hiding behind them. Less clutter means less places to hide. Ensure refuse on site is kept in closed bins, and clean pipes and drains regularly.
  3. Quick detection: Non-toxic monitoring blocks are another way to detect rodent activity as early as possible, while ensuring toxic substances aren’t deployed unnecessarily onsite. Some of these blocks contain fluorescent materials which reflect UV light, highlighting rodents’ droppings and making it easier to identify their presence.

What are the risks of a rodent infestation?

Rats and mice can pose a significant risk to the health and safety of customers and staff, as they are carriers of diseases such as Hantavirus, Salmonellosis and Weil’s disease. Mice are also hard-wired to gnaw hard objects to help keep their teeth at a manageable size, so they chew on just about anything they can sink their teeth into. This could result in damaged stock or electrical equipment and an increased fire risk.

The cost of replacing this equipment can also be exacerbated by other financial penalties resulting from a lack of health and safety compliance and also on the food hygiene rating if there is a customer café or food outlet within the garden centre. Failure to meet the required environmental health standards could result in a garden centre being subject to fines or even temporary closure by the local authority which could have a huge impact on a centre’s finances and reputation.

Prevention is always better than a cure when it comes to rodents, so adopting a proactive pest management strategy is vital to your business’s reputation and safety.

Whether you’re dealing with a pest problem or are simply looking to prevent one, it’s important you know who to contact. It’s the role of external contractors to be fully up-to-date on the latest legislation changes in their area of expertise. Pest controllers are no different, so if you’re in unsure of best way to prevent mice or rats in your centre then it’s always best to check with the experts.