Sending Pests Down A Different Path

Pests do not start out living inside your facility, they come from the outdoors or are brought in with incoming shipments.


The natural environment for pests including rodents, cockroaches, ants and occasional invaders is in the great outdoors. They will, however, use landscape features (i.e. trees, plants, mulch, water features, vegetable gardens, green roofs, etc.) on the exterior of your facility to establish nests, provide  food and water, and give them a close-in position to gain access to your facility. And as winter draws near pests – like humans – will be looking to access the warmth and potentially abundant food sources inside your facility.


At the Sprague Pest Solutions Innovation in Pest Management Conference, Pat Hottel, BCE, technical director for McCloud Services, outlined how facility managers can effectively deter pests with appropriate landscape design, proper plant and tree selection, and regular landscape maintenance practices.


“A manicured lawn provides the lowest risk from a vegetation standpoint although that may not always be the only landscape features a facility wants or needs,” said Hottel.  “There can be corporate guidelines, municipality requirements or public relations considerations that require a certain amount or type of landscaping.”


Not all fruit bearing trees, plants or flowers have the same level of pest attraction and there are plants that will rank higher in these categories than others.


Hottel said where trees and plants are in relation to a structure can make a significant difference in the potential pest threat level.


“Some areas of a facility are more of a concern than others in where the choice of landscaping is made,” said Hottel. “For example, trees 20 ft. from truck loading docks are more of a problem than if a tree is located 20 ft. along the side of the building with no doors or vents.”


What type of trees and plants are most attractive to pests and pose the greatest threat to a facility?



  • Fruit and nut producing trees and shrubs can attract birds, stinging insects and  rodents. Acorns, for example, can be an issue in encouraging rodent activity as they are an attractive food source.
  • Flowering plants will attract pollen and nectar feeding pests including stinging insects and certain stored product pests.
  • Dense shrubs and trees can create a harborage for rodents and birds if located near loading docks or other common routes for bird entry into plants.  Birds will go to these areas for cover (staging area) and nesting.  Even hedge rows can provide cover for pests.
  • Ground cover and low growing shrubs provide cover for rodents and other pests, and are difficult to inspect, clean up and maintain.
  • Ivy and other climbing plants on building exterior, although rare in newer food processing and distribution facilities, climbing plants can provide access to the structure for ants and rodents, and concealment for pests like spiders and wasps.
  • Agriculture crops can a ready source of food for a variety of pests. Sometimes there is no getting around the issue because of where a facility is located, but it can be part of the decision-making process on where to build or relocate a facility. Plants can have orchards, grain fields and animal grazing areas, adjacent to their facility that are home to rodents, night flying insects, and certain stored product pests.


Hottel said she once worked with a client who had a vegetable garden on their property to grow food for a local food bank and ended up having a serious rat problem that threatened their facility.


“Facility and property managers need to minimize the pest attracting landscaping features on the exterior of their structures to reduce the threat during peak summer pest season,” said Hottel.


When deciding on what plants and flowers to include in your landscape plan, consult with the experts at Sprague before having your facility maintenance staff or landscape contractor start turning the shovels. A moment of consideration and research on plant and flower selection can save you pest-related headaches and money down the road.


Nine Fine Landscape Design Tips to Reduce Pests



  1. Proper guttering and soil grading to move water away from buildings and parking lot.
  2. Switch to automatic irrigation systems to avoid excessive moisture. Regularly check systems to make sure they are not overwatering and leaving standing water.
  3. Use pea sized gravel (1 to 3 inches deep and 12 to 18 inches wide) around the perimeter of your building to create a pest “unfriendly” zone.
  4. Keep grass low and limit the use of plantings and mulch on the exterior.
  5. Plant shrubs and trees 3 to 6 feet away from the facility.
  6. Avoid Pachysandra and juniper plants that promote burrowing and digging by rodents.
  7. Avoid azaleas and other plants that promote aphids, scales, or other honeydew-producing insects.
  8. Prune all branches and vines away from the roof and exterior walls to keep ants and rodents from gaining access to the roof.
  9. Remove all leaf and limb debris as they drop and accumulate, especially from gutters and flat roofs.




Commercial Properties