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Rat problems in Britain are almost always due to the brown or common rat, Rattus norvegicus; the black rat, Rattus rattus, being virtually extinct now.  Traditionally associated with farms, sewers and refuse tips, the brown rat population has increased markedly
in recent years and is now a frequent pest of domestic dwellings and business premises, especially those containing food or feedstuffs.
As well as fouling with their urine and droppings, and causing damage to foodstuffs in the house, there is a danger of rats damaging wires or pipes in the loft or walls, which could lead to fires or floods.

 In businesses involved in food manufacture, storage or sale, damage to stock from rats can cost thousands of pounds. The greatest danger to people is the potential infection with Weils Disease (Leptospirosis), which is carried by rats and excreted in their urine.  Although such infection is not common, the disease can be fatal.

Rat control is very much a job for the professional pest controller and involves a comprehensive  baiting programme using poisoned bait. The nature of the bait and its active ingredient  being tailored to the specific infestation.  In domestic premises, this will normally involve an initial thorough inspection and baiting, and follow-up visits.  The pest controller will also advise on proofing of the building to minimise the possibility of further rat entry.  For commercial premises, especially in the case of food businesses, a regular rodent prevention contract may be more appropriate.


Mouse infestations are usually due to the house mouse, Mus domesticus, although occasionally  due to the wood or field mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus, or the yellow-necked mouse,  Apodemus flavicollis.  Mice are normally nocturnal and infestations are usually detected
by finding the (rice grain-sized) droppings or hearing them scurrying around in the loft,  walls or under floorboards.  They will cause damage to foodstuffs, foul cupboards and working surfaces with their urine and droppings, and can cause damage to wires and pipes. They gain access to buildings through airbricks, gaps around pipes and under roof tiles.

Although the occasional mouse can be caught in a trap, effective eradication requires a comprehensive baiting with suitable poisoned bait.
Treatment by a properly qualified pest controller will ensure this work is done safely and effectively, and that any repairs needed to prevent further entry can be recommended  to the clients and carried out for them if required.


Ants are probably the most common household pest. The Black or Garden Ant is the usual culprit.  This ant, which normally nests in the garden, will often invade houses in Spring, through gaps around doors and fuel pipes, windows, pipes or through airbricks.  When a foraging ant finds a source of food such as a few grains of spilt sugar, it will leave a chemical trail on its way back to the nest  which many other ants, sometimes hundreds, will follow back to the food source.  Occasionally ants will have nests under houses and that can lead to swarms of flying ants entering the house  and covering the windows in their efforts to get out.  These swarms are a mixture of young queens  and male ants which would normally fly up to mate high in the atmosphere, before the young queen descends to start a new nest.

Ants can sometimes be dealt with by the householder. Firstly it is important to ensure that food  preparation surfaces and floors are kept free of any food debris and that food is stored away after use.  Effective insecticide treatments included powders based on bendiocarb, available in puffer packs (Several Brands).

Treatment by a professional pest controller would usually involve a barrier insecticide spray around the inside and outside of the external walls of the house plus other possible entry points such as fuel pipes leading to the boiler.  If you have a regular ant problem, calling in a professional pest controller would be well worthwhile.


Several species of wasps build their nests in our homes and gardens, but most are produced by the aptly named Common Wasp.  This often builds the nest in the roof space, behind fascia boards or in the wall cavity via airbricks. Nests in the ground are usually due to the German  Wasp.  Hornets are also a type of wasp but are quite rare and, although very large, are usually less aggressive than the common wasp.  A recent invader is the so-called European or  Median Wasp, which usually nests in hedges or bushes and can be very aggressive,  particularly if threatened by a hedge trimmer!

The young queen wasps leave hibernation to start building a nest and raise the first brood of  workers in late spring.  Wasp numbers increase rapidly during the summer and it’s the  increasingly heavy traffic to and from the nest which usually reveals its presence.
 In the case of the common wasp, as many as 30,000 wasps may be produced in one nest over the course of a summer, but the life of a worker is short and so there is a rapid  turnover.  As the autumn approaches, young queen and drone wasps are produced; these mate  and the young queens leave the nest to hibernate and produce the nest year’s nests.

Although do-it-yourself wasp nest treatments are available, this really is a job for the professional pest controller with the proper equipment, proper protection and essential  experience.  Insecticide applied through specialist equipment to the nest itself or, just as effectively, to the entry hole will destroy the colony quickly and totally. Individual wasps causing a problem in and around the home can be dealt with using a space spray aerosol such as Raid Flying Insect Killer.


Flea problems in homes are almost always due to the presence of pets, usually cats, sometimes dogs, and are not a symptom of poor hygiene.  All cats are likely to pick up an adult flea  passenger from time to time, but if the cat is treated regularly with an insecticide
recommended for the purpose, eg Frontline based on fipronil, they are unlikely to survive long.  If the cat has not been treated, the flea may survive to produce many eggs, which will be  shed on to the carpet and soft furnishings.  These develop into larvae, pupae and eventually
adults, which by preference will re-infest the cat but will also bite and suck the blood of  passing humans as a second choice.

Dealing with a flea problem in the house requires a concurrent treatment of the cat  with an insecticide recommended for that purpose together with an insecticidal treatment  of the floor area and soft furnishings.  Again this is a job for the professional with a pressurised sprayer to get right down to the immature fleas in the carpet pile and to ensure a really thorough treatment – essential if eradication is to be achieved.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are an even more unpleasant uninvited guest.  This insect lives in cracks and crevices in bed frames, mattresses and
bedside furniture.  It moves out at night to bite and suck the blood of people sleeping in the bed.  Indeed the presence of blood spots on the sheets is usually the most obvious sign of their presence.

With improved hygiene and effective insecticides, bed bugs had become very rare.  However, they have now developed resistance to many insecticides and cases of infestation around Cambridge have greatly increased.  Usually it is premises with frequently changing inhabitants such as students, tourists or migrant workers  which are most likely to be affected.

Treatment of bed bugs has to be exceptionally thorough to be effective.  Often it is a good idea to remove and destroy the bed and mattress as a first step, followed by a thorough programmed treatment of all surfaces, nooks and crannies  with a variety of insecticides.  Again this requires professional help.


Slightly larger than houseflies, clusterflies will invade buildings  in large numbers in the autumn to hibernate in dark areas such as lofts,
gaining entry through gaps between the tiles.  From here some may find their way  into bedrooms attracted through the ceiling around ceiling lights. Usually treatment involves a combination of surface and space insecticide  spray of the loft plus space treatment of rooms as necessary. Proofing the building to prevent re-occurrence in future years may be difficult, so regular treatments each autumn may be necessary. Cluster flies are an increasing problem and can affect new houses as well as old.

General Advice

If you are buying insecticidal products to use yourself, be careful to read the  label thoroughly and follow the instructions carefully.  If you need the services of a professional pest controller, I recommend you contact a member of the  British Pest Control Association, as this will ensure they are well trained  and adhere to high technical and commercial standards.

Copyright Roger Featherstone
Rats Mice Ants Wasps Fleas BedBugs Clusterflies Advice