Rodent infestations have surged during lockdown: Here's what to do if you suspect you have company
The coronavirus lockdown has left many people with unwanted house guests - as reports of rat and mouse infestations have rocketed, according to analysis by an insurer.
Aviva found there had been a 42% increase in rat infestations during lockdown for one company - JG Pest Control - which provides a pest control service for Aviva Home Emergency customers through a collaboration with HomeServe.
The 42% increase was calculated by comparing call-outs from January to March this year with call-outs between April and June.
In total, between March and June, the company saw an increase of 120% in rodent-related call-outs compared with the same period in 2019.
The number of residential rodent cases for the first half of 2020 was equivalent to 90% of comparable cases for the whole of 2019, the figures, given to the PA news agency, show.
Sarah Applegate, head of general insurance insights at Aviva, said: "There are a number of possible reasons behind the rise of rodents.
"Reduced bin collections may have led to new food sources for pests at people's homes.
"Similarly, rats and mice who were used to finding food near to pubs and restaurants may have had to look elsewhere while commercial outlets were closed.
"Or there's the chance that people may have just become more aware of mice and rats because they've been at home and have been able to spot them - when they might ordinarily have been at work or school.
"Most home insurance policies do not cover rodent infestations as part of their standard terms. However there are specialist policies available and certain add-ons which provide cover.
"For example, Aviva Home Emergency cover provides expert help with emergencies including pest infestation of rats, mice, wasps or hornets. If you're in any doubt as to whether you're covered, it's best to check with your provider."
Here are some tips from Aviva for preventing and dealing with rodent infestations:
- Mouse droppings are relatively easy to identify - the droppings themselves are about the size of a grain of rice.
You can also tell whether you have a current or historic infestation by putting on some gloves and picking them up. If the droppings crumble to dust, they are old. If they are soft, it is a sign they are new, and there is more likely to be an active problem.
Mouse urine has an ammonia-type smell and it will be left in a trail.
- You might spot chewed-up nesting materials like cardboard and bitten food containers. You may also hear scurrying sounds in the walls or on the floorboards.
- Find the access point. If you take off the kickboards underneath kitchen units and you can see holes at the back of them, that is probably where the rodents are getting in. So make sure your property is secure, both internally and externally.
- Limit access to food sources. Do not leave food where mice can get it. Clean thoroughly every time you cook, and do not leave any easily accessible food in the lower cupboards of your kitchen.
- Act quickly. You could well make the situation worse if you leave it, because mice can breed very quickly. If you do not have home emergency or specialist cover in place, give yourself a maximum of a week to attempt any DIY remedies before calling a pest control company.
If you do have cover for pest invasions, get in touch with your provider as soon as you find a problem. Alternatively, contact a pest control company privately.
- Once you have got rid of an infestation, make sure mice do not come back. Do not leave food out, make sure access points are blocked, secure your bins, ensure bird feeders are placed up high and away from entrances, and make sure there is no litter around your property.
- The advice for rats is similar. But rats are far bigger and can cause more damage with their gnawing teeth.
Rats can also pass on Weil's disease through their urine, which, according to the NHS website, can cause symptoms in people such as a high temperature, sickness and, in serious cases, shortness of breath and coughing up blood.
- To avoid problems, focus on drainage and sewage pipes. There may be no obvious entry points when you have rats, so experts may advise a drain survey.
- Rats often travel from garden to garden. They are also attracted to litter, so it is important to keep your outdoor space tidy.