New Horizons in Rodent Management

In today’s climate of globally enhanced food safety programs, are “typical” rodent control programs adequate? Another way of stating this might be to ask: Are conventional rodent management programs keeping up with the numerous changes in food safety risks and corresponding expectations?


At this year’s Sprague Pest Solutions Innovation in Pest Management Conference, noted rodentologist Dr. Bobby Corrigan of RMC Pest Management Consulting, previewed what lies on the horizon when it comes to rodent management strategies in food processing facilities.


Corrigan said legislation such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has raised the bar for meeting the criteria of good manufacturing practices (GMPs). Adding to this, consider the emergence of the various food safety regulations and auditing programs on a global scale. They truly do read as an alphabet soup.


Acronyms and names such as FQPA, GFI, AIB, SQF, FS 22000, BRC and Global Gap are just a partial listing of where things stand these days in food safety and pest (i.e. rodent) management as part of all the food safety requirements.


“Rodent management is a deep science and we are looking at rats and mice much differently today,” said Corrigan. “There is a new horizon for rodent management and pest management professionals and food industry professionals must look further ahead than they have before.”


Corrigan said much has been learned about rodents in recent years and that newly discovered information is influencing how rodent management is being performed.


“Rodents plan and make decisions, they have emotions and laugh, and they regret decisions,” said Corrigan. “What we thought we knew about them has changed. They don’t just run along walls and can flatten themselves to go under a door.”


Corrigan told attendees that rodent management programs of the future will look much different than what everyone is used to seeing.


“More bait won’t get rid of rodents, science will,” he added. “It comes down to skillful and experienced assessments of where to place equipment and make applications.”


Developing A Response Plan


Rodents can arrive via any number of ways to even the best prepared facility. They can scurry from a weedy patch across the parking lot to the first door or hole in the wall that allows them access to the interior. Or they can arrive inside a pallet of finished goods or raw ingredients. The point is a food plant or warehouse is always vulnerable to a new rodent incident.


“Rats and mice come in plants they are carrying all kinds of stuff including bacteria, fleas, lice, ticks and other insects, and those get introduced into the facility,” said Corrigan. “You cannot not rodent proof your facility and expect to be successful.”


Sometimes signs of rodent activity — new or old — is observed within the installed traps or bait stations. Other times, activity is noted from employee sightings of rodents or rodent evidence on pallets, along floors, purlins, rafters, wall sill plates and the like.


Sightings and evidence of rodents can occur far away from any perimeter wall equipment. This means that regular inspections and interpretations of any captures and the monitoring data is a must.


Knowing “what to do next” when, say a mouse, has been captured in trap #73, or when exterior bait station #24 is suddenly showing heavy activity, is part of a proactive program. Simply noting that a mouse was captured in unit #73, and then moving along to the next trap is not a proactive program.


Inspecting for mouse sebum trails (i.e., grease stains) on the nearest door jamb or hole around a penetrating pipe at the squeeze point, checking a ceiling void above the capture area, or noting the nearest improperly fitting door, should all be part of a response plan as part of a proactive rodent management effort.


To ensure inspections are getting to the root cause of the problem Corrigan recommends they include the following areas:



  • Beneath the slabs in warehouses around the bases of support piers that penetrate through the slabs (between expansion joints where cement slabs meet or surrounds piers).
  • In pallets of incoming goods; these pallets may be slotted for virtually any place within a large warehouse.
  • In the damaged goods section (i.e. the morgue).
  • In aisles containing foods highly attractive to rodents (birdseed, grass seed, bags of dry pet food, etc.).
  • In ceilings voids (especially above heat generating processing equipment).
  • In insulated walls near high ceiling areas; along roof-level purlins (especially roof rats).
  • In interior dividing walls (especially concrete hollow block and/or insulated sheet rock walls).
  • In office areas.


Looking Ahead


Corrigan told attendees that food industry managers and their staffs, as well as their pest service providers, are on a knowledge dumping curve right now.


“Human knowledge doubles every 13 months and, according to IBM, the build-out of the “internet of things” will lead to doubling of knowledge every 12 hours,” said Corrigan. “Are we doubling food safety and pest management knowledge at same rate? Are we deploying enhanced IPM rodent management programs that will meet future food safety requirements?”


Corrigan said the most overlooked component of IPM rodent programs is monitoring.


“Facilities must have a formal monitoring program in place and if they don’t, then they don’t have an IPM program,” added Corrigan. “The bar must be set high when it comes to rodent management to protect public health and food supply. A facility that is food safety-conscience must have more investigators versus more applicators.”


Rodents: Rats & Mice