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5 Signs of a rat infestation

Top tell-tale signs that you have rats

1. Seeing a live (or dead) rat is an obvious sign – however it is rare to get one on its own!!

2. Seeing a live rat in the daytime, often indicates a large population is present

3. Rat Poop, also known as Faeces, Droppings – rats will go the loo in one place, but dominate rats will spot mark a chosen point

4. Scratching, or scuttling noises, usually when things are nice and quiet. Rats are most active at night when humans are generally not around.

5. Gnawing marks, commonly on electrical cables or water and gas pipes

PestWise offer a short course on Pest Awareness which covers what to look for and where.

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Rat Behaviour & Biology

What is the lifecycle of a rat?

Rats typically have between 6 and 8 young per litter and they can have 3-12 litters per year; add to that the fact that they can start re-producing at 12 weeks old and you can see how quickly 2 can become 200!

Can rats swim?

Brown rats are incredible swimmers, able to swim non-stop for 72 hours as well as being capable of holding their breath underwater for 3 minutes.

Can rats climb?

Rats have an amazing climbing ability, making them particularly tricky to control.

Can rats jump?

Rats are able to jump up to 3 feet upwards and around 4 feet horizontally, like other animals they can also fall from great heights without injury.

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Do rats live in sewers?

Brown rats are also known as sewer rats and will frequently be found living in sewerage systems.  It is a great advantage point through which they can find their way into properties especially if pipes and drains are not well maintained and proofed.

Can I get rats in the garden or office?

Rats in the garden are common, they can usually be identified by rat holes, rat burrows, rat nest, rat runs. The same is true of offices, car parks, social spaces or even roof top terraces.

Where do rats nest?

Rats generally nest in self-made burrows either in the ground if it is possible for them to dig a hole or internally will nest in insulation around a property. The tell-tale sign is an entrance hole about the size of a tennis ball in the ground near a solid structure or where they enter or exit a building.  The key is knowing where to look!

Do rats spread diseases?

Rats mark their territory by urinating as they travel along their runs and in places where they stop to eat or nest. Every time they do this they are potentially spreading harmful diseases.

Brown rats can transmit leptospirosis also known as Weils disease.  This is a bacteria excreted in their urine (which is not visible to the naked eye) and contact with this bacteria can lead to infection. 

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Why do rats need to be controlled?

Rats are a serious threat to public health as they carry many unpleasant diseases some of which can be fatal, a few of the risks are:- Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease), Hantavirus, Listeria and Salmonella

Rats also pose a serious threat to damage of property. Rats can be a fire hazard if they gnaw electrical cables, there is also a risk of flooding from them chewing on water pipes.

Rats are potentially a huge problem to businesses posing a risk not only to their reputation but in severe cases of a rat infestation establishments can be forced to close by Environmental Health Officers from the Local Authority.

Businesses also face financial implications from not following their legal obligations under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949, fines for non-compliance can be hefty. PestWise can review your pest management procedures and work with you to ensure best practice and check you are complying with pest control legal requirements.

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How to get rid of rats

Do it yourself products such as rat poison (generally referred to as rat bait or rodenticide) for getting rid of rats are available, but due to the adaptive nature of rats, they are not always easy to control with a simple feed bait.

Amateur use rodenticides can be purchased over the counter, but will generally be more expensive and often in smaller quantities.  Professional quantity baits now require a Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) certificate. PestWise can provide all the necessary training and advice required to purchase rat bait.

Additionally many rats have now developed resistance to rat poison meaning that the bait is ineffective.  PestWise works with Reading University into the geographical development of rodenticide resistance.

When trying to control rats some of the common methods and products used are:-

  • Rat Cages (Live Catch) used for humane rat control

  • Mechanical Rat Traps

  • Rat Glue Trap

  • Rat Poison (also known as Rat Bait or Rodenticide) and should always be used in conjunction with tamper resistant rodent bait stations (bait box)

  • Rat Sonic Repeller units

  • Electronic Traps

For more information on how to control rats complete one of our pest awareness courses

Other key things to be considered other than extermination of rats are some more pro-active methods:-

How to prevent rats:-

  1. Fill gaps around pipes and building, ideally with a material such as wire wool or concrete.  Use expanding foam with caution – often in combination with another filler material.

  2. Keep open spaces and communal areas clear of clutter and debris and especially food related rubbish.

  3. Choose bird feeders carefully to avoid feed dropping to the ground.

  4. Keep refuse areas clean and tidy and ensure that bins have tight fitting lids and are emptied frequently.

  5. Avoid leaving food in accessible areas.

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Rat Common Questions

Is it a mouse or baby rat?

A young rat can easily be mistaken for a large adult mouse, they can also be mixed up with shrews and voles. It’s important to correctly identify the species you are dealing with to ensure correct & proper treatment, especially as water voles and shrews are protected species.

Rat vs Mouse Droppings, what is the difference?

Rat droppings have blunt ends and will be around 2cm long whereas mice droppings have a more pointed end and are less than 1cm long.

What size gap can rats fit through?

Rats only need a small hole of around 15mm to squeeze through, but 10mm will allow the rat to gnaw a hole big enough to pass through.

Can rats see?

Rats are generally active at night, so their vision is quite blurry and they do not see colour the same way as humans.  At close range they rely on their whisker and guard hairs to touch and their sense of smell to identify objects, as well as food and water.

Are rats neophobic (fear & avoidance of new objects)?

Depending on where rats are living, levels of neophobia may vary, understanding rat behaviour is critical to successful control.

Can you hear rats?

You may hear rats scratching or gnawing in their surroundings.

What do rats eat?

Rats will eat pretty much anything depending on the environment they are living in, cereal and grains are a favourite.  They are very adaptable to their environment and will learn how to survive quickly.

Do you get black rats in the UK?

The black rat (Rattus Rattus) also known as the ship rat is rarely found in the UK these days, generally confined to ports and coastal locations.  The common rat found in the UK is the brown rat (Rattus Norvegicus) which is more dominant and aggressive than the roof rat.

Are rats nocturnal?

Generally rats are most active at night and so not seen in the daytime; however during the colder months they may become bolder as they look for food and warm places to nest or where the rat population has out grown the nest.

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Dealing with rats and the importance of rodent control on farms

Farm rodent control is a big topic whether it be rat control in poultry farms, pig farms or rats in grain stores.  A rat infestation on any farm can multiply quickly and cause significant damage to property and equipment. Farms are often the perfect place for rodents to take hold, offering food, water, warmth and harbourage; understanding the risks and putting the correct procedures in place for managing pests is key to help minimise risk and all associated costs.

When it comes to control of commensal Rodents there is much more to understand than simply putting down bait, PestWise will train you to understand the day to day onsite pest control requirements and develop a comprehensive strategy for farm management using the 90/10 rule – 90% prevention, exclusion, monitoring  proofing and non-chemical options and 10% using pest control rodenticides.

This multi-point approach ensures best practice for stewardship in the safe use of rodenticides, demonstrate environmental protection and also take into consideration bio security on farms and compliance with farms completing more On-Farm Rodent Control, rather than using a pest control contractor.

Integrated Pest Management and evidence of how it is implemented is now required in the manufacturing standards guidance for pest prevention by many leading supermarkets and farm assurance schemes.

Often farmers are best placed to do their own pest control, PestWise offer a range of pest control training courses including an online (e-learning) rodenticide course for rat bait or rat poison licence (Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) certificate) we recommend this course is completed in conjunction with our on farm rodent control course for a more comprehensive approach to rodent prevention and control. Our lead Tutor Oliver Madge wrote the initial Lantra Rodent Control on Farms and Lantra e-learning course.  

If you are looking for a local pest control company to take care of rat extermination we can advise on either independent pest controllers or pest control contractors in your area; we also offer independent contractor management and independent audits (farm assurance audits) and reporting.

For further information regarding pest control on farms get in touch

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