The fact remains that pests have always been the dominant factor in causing death, disease and damage down the centuries. Almost half of the European population was wiped out by plague in the medieval age alone. Malaria and other vector borne diseases still account for high mortality rate in developing nations. Millions of tonnes of grains are lost worldwide to pests, pre and post-harvest.
Insects arrived millions of years before humans and are more than likely to outlive us. The cliché´ about cockroaches surviving a nuclear holocaust is no joke; rather, the joke is on us! While on the one hand, pests are a constant and real threat, on the other, pesticide usage itself is facing severe restriction on global environment concerns. That is where Integrated Pest Management takes the centre stage.
What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
The good news is everybody talks IPM now. The not-so-good news is, few understand what it really is. An IPM process is mostly applied common sense. The challenge lies in making it work with diligence and skill. Remember that IPM is not to be taken as Immediate Pest Management. To state simply, IPM is a dynamic confluence of:
Prevention: A good pest management programme seeks to eliminate sources of entry, availability of food, water and harbourage within the premises. It is a good idea to have a building inspected by a professional Pest Manager right at the completion stage or, at least, before moving in, to identify potential entry points and harbourages. Regular pest audits will help eliminate availability of food and water.
Right pesticide choice: Pesticides have the dubious distinction of being the only toxic contaminants intentionally used in the environment to serve their purpose. It follows that only formulations that cause least risk to the environment and humans should be considered. Gel baits, nontoxic traps and solid formulations should be given precedence over sprays and dusts. Routine spraying, either smelly or odourless, should be avoided. Merely using approved pesticide is not sufficient; judgement of where and how much is important.
System restructure: Pest management cannot be sand-boxed into an island programme. Coordination with various departments such as maintenance, engineering, quality assurance, housekeeping, etc is a compelling pre-requisite. Review of the system between you and your PCO (Pest Control Operator) has to be a constant exercise. The programme itself should be fluid enough to accommodate quick changes and improvisation. It would be prudent to say that IPM begins with people. After all, each department involved has to be co-opted in the programme and each person trained in his responsibility.
Comprehensive Pest Management
In the urban scenario, Property Management & Housekeeping professionals face bigger challenges in keeping pests out. Each building has its own specific needs and should be treated accordingly.
Pest Sensitivity Index (PSI): The nature of business within the premises is itself the single largest contributive force in attracting pests. Every facility has a common pest denominator such as rats, roaches, ants, etc; yet, each business process will attract specific pests – a hotel has concerns of bedbugs, whereas a healthcare facility would have additional concerns of microbial infection. PCO has to take into account PSI of the premises and the IPM rotates around this PSI. Besides the nature of business, there is a whole list of other factors that influence pest susceptibility. Neighbourhood, geographic location & climate, age of the building and sanitation are some of them.
The judgement then is to devise a unique package that is tailor made for each property. The initial joint inspection of the facility with your shortlisted PCO should be followed by discussion of findings and listing all potential pest problems. Ideally, the service package should comprehensively include every pest likely to be found. Have the PCO make a detailed presentation on findings, solutions, chemicals proposed to be used and evaluate how IPM-friendly the proposal really is. Your confidence level in the programme matters most. Choose a PCO who will be your partner and will ensure your peace of mind. As always, it is finally the result that will decide the value for your money.
The following business sectors face constant pest pressure:
Some pests a hotel may host are cockroaches, rats, houseflies, ants, mosquitoes, lizards and bedbugs. Other pests include termites, pest birds, spiders, garden pests and light attracted insects. Occasional invaders like snakes and cats are not uncommon. Hotels with vast landscaping and gardens should expect insects like bees and hoppers. Strong illumination attracts flying insects in the evenings. Tolerance for pests on a hotel property is understandably minimal but there should be a clear distinction between pests and harmless creatures that are part of the local ecosystem.
It is common to see a pest control technician bustling around 24×7, spraying pesticide in most areas on a daily schedule. There is no point in unnecessary overload on the quality of indoor air. Excessive pesticide usage does not imply good control. A rational approach is regular monitoring of each area. IPM begins with identification of the key entry points – those that can be closed should be, and others that are inevitable have to be closely monitored. Rooms are best treated with gel bait for cockroaches. Ants can be tackled with controlled crack and crevice application. Bedbugs are back in a big way but can be managed with early detection systems and immediate preventive steps. The room identified should be isolated for a thorough treatment and all linen should be simultaneously washed at more than 70ºC. Re-treatment is must after 10-15 days.
Hotel kitchens are most vulnerable to cockroaches and rats. Raw supplies, soft drink crates and LPG cylinders are the culprits. Staff should make it a routine procedure to screen incoming supplies for signs of infestation. Storage areas should be thoroughly cleaned, sanitized frequently and made available for service. Meat and fish supply vehicles normally bring in houseflies; close monitoring and preventive action help in exclusion of these pests. Insect light traps (ILTs) placed strategically will help in trapping flies that have entered the kitchen. Washing of the kitchen areas should be augmented with regular dismantling and cleaning of equipment, drain scrubbing, jet cleaning (breeding points of drain flies). Garbage has to be disposed off everyday or more often depending on the waste generation.