To better protect food, place rodent traps near heat, shelter

Rodent traps are more effective when placed near attractive features like warmth and protection – and sometimes using fewer overall traps can help food manufacturers and pest managers better protect food supplies and save money, a new Cornell-led study found .

Rodents cause billions in food supply losses each year and carry pathogens that can make and kill humans, including salmonella, E. coli and leptospira. In the 1940s and 50s, scientists estimated that mice would travel only 20 to 12 meters from their nesting sites to feeding sites.

In fact, however, it is more effective to place traps or bait boxes based on the behavior of rats and mice, according to the June 12 article in the Journal of Stored Products, “Assessment of Factors Influencing Visiting to Rodent Management Devices at Food Distribution Centers.” research was published.

Matt Frye, community expansion instructor for the New York State Integrated Pest Control Program, is conducting a nightly operational inspection in 2016.

“From then on, it just became a mantra with no scientific evaluation to see if this worked,” said first author Matt Frye, community expansion instructor at the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYSIPM) -based in Cornell. “For a long time, inspectors actually brought measuring tapes with them and measured the distance between the devices. If it deviated from the guidelines, the institutions would be punished. The scale approach makes it very easy for institutions and auditors to implement programs, but does not really lead to effective pest management. “

In the new study, Frye, Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, Senior Extension Associate at NYSIPM, and three co-authors who work in or advise the pest control industry, discovered that traps were being trapped near areas with attractive features such as warmth and protection Rodents, while more than half of the traps caught nothing.

In addition to smarter trap placements, researchers recommend fewer trap placements – a counterintuitive suggestion that pest control companies and food safety inspectors may shy away from – as both technicians and rodents can develop “device fatigue”. Rodents may avoid devices that have been in the same place for too long because they are no longer interesting to explore. Technicians can be more effective if they spend more time inspecting and less time simply checking traps.

“If you’re a technician and only have time to go from device to device looking for feeding activities or trapping, you can’t spend time inspecting, and effective pest control is all about inspection,” said Frye . “Pest managers should look for evidence of rodents like feces and look for areas where facilities are inadvertently providing food, water and shelter.”

For example, the researchers found that rodents seek warmth, and traps near heat sources caught more pests. The south and especially the west side of buildings, engines and refrigeration compressors all provide warmth and are attractive to pests and should be the focus of pest control measures.

Rodents also seek shelter to avoid predators and have been more commonly trapped on the corners and edges of buildings and near indoor spaces that are in the shade during the day. They also ate more bait near unkempt outdoor vegetation. Effective pest managers should make recommendations on facility setup and sanitation to reduce potential rodent habitat, Frye said.

“There are shelves over shelves of food in these facilities, and sometimes it’s easiest to put food on pallets. Well, now you’ve built a cave: it’s dark, sheltered, with food right over them, ”Frye said. “Once something like this is available for rodents as a home base, it is very difficult to keep the population under control.”

Gangloff-Kaufmann said she hoped this work will help food suppliers adopt the stricter standards of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which emphasizes, rather than just reacting, preventing food contamination.

“In the fight against rodents, refinement of management based on pest behavior is fundamental,” she said. “This work could lead to a reduction in the use of rodenticides while providing better rodent management and a safer food supply.”

The study included rodent management in 12 facilities: seven in the New York area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) and five in the greater Toronto area. Working with the industry’s pest control companies, RK Environmental Services, LLC and Abell Pest Control, as well as noted rodentologist and industry consultant Bobby Corrigan of RMC Pest Management Consulting, was critical in finding real-world facilities for the investigation, Frye said.

The research was supported by a Hatch grant from the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Krisy Gashler is a writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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