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“Oh, rats!” – Why are there more callouts for rats during lockdown?

Image by sipa from Pixabay

Last week we were approached by ITV’s This Morning to talk about lockdown, rats and mice. This comes off the back of several newspaper articles about increases in rodent problems, which is something about which we have been proactively warning both homeowners and businesses since the beginning of lockdown. In the end, other sad news stories put the rodent segment onto the backburner, but they did still ask me to supply them with figures relating to lockdown call-outs for a future item. 

Appearing as an expert in the media is something of which we have considerable experience. From discussing bed bugs with Kim Woodburn to raising awareness about ‘electric ants’ on ITV Meridian News, we can always be called upon by TV, radio and print media to supply an expert who can help the general public get a better understanding of a wide variety of pest problems. 

Lockdown Rodents

The big story in pest control industry at the moment is the increase in callouts associated with rats and mice during lockdown. While preparing for an article in the Guardian, I worked out that we had received a 20% increase in rat-related callouts, in comparison to the same period last year. To read the article, click here.

The main reasons for these callouts were:

  1. Seeing rats in the garden
  2. Noises in the attic during daytime

Does this mean more rats?

Not necessarily. One of the reasons people are reporting seeing rats in their gardens is that they are in their gardens more than usual. During lockdown, the weather has been nicer than normal and, of course, we aren’t allowed to go anywhere. On top of that, people have also been doing more tidying around their homes and gardens. This includes clearing sheds and digging over compost heaps – two quiet and warm places rats love. It is possible the rats were always there and what has changed is us because we are now spending quality time in our homes and so we are seeing things we never noticed before. 

In the case of the noises in the attic, since rats do not really like being in houses with humans, we normally find the problem is actually grey squirrels. This is still a serious problem because grey squirrels can do a significant amount of damage to properties – gnawing electrical cables and eating roof timbers.

Rats, restaurants and take-aways

One thing we have noticed during lockdown, however, is there is far more evidence of foraging. In the ‘before-times’, when fast-food outlets and restaurants were still open, rodents could often count on a meal near these establishments – either through customers throwing/dropping food or waste bags being put out at the end of service. With take-aways being closed during the first weeks of the lockdown, and restaurants still being closed, the rats are suddenly starting to have to search harder for food.

In recent weeks, we have seen more activity around compost bins, especially as some local authorities were forced to reduce bin collections during the early weeks of COVID-19. On top of this, with people being at home, there has also been an increase in the amount of waste food being composted in residential areas. It is possible to surmise, therefore, that there isn’t actually an increase in rats, only a redistribution of where the rats are looking for food. 

How to stop rats?

Prevention is better than cure.

Rats want warmth, security, water, and a good source of food. I’ve written before about the best ways to keep rodents out of your home. To learn more, read my “Seven top tips for stopping rodents entering your home.” 

However, a simple summation of this advice is – remove one of the things they want, and they will look elsewhere. I’d advise you to start with food. Make sure you always place food waste in sealed rodent-proof bins, with the lids on! At the same time, rats like to be left alone and so, ironically, by cleaning out sheds or digging compost heaps and seeing the rats, you are also disturbing them and encouraging them to move home.

As a pest control company with over 25 years of experience, a change it has been nice to see during lockdown is the number of calls we are getting from homeowners wanting us to fit interceptors into their drainage systems. Poison may, if it is used correctly, eliminate a rat infestation but it won’t stop the next one. By making your home rat-proof, you are stopping the problem from ever returning. It will also stop the accidental poisoning of wildlife, something that has unfortunately recently been reported in Norfolk.

If you have a problem with mice, rats, squirrels or birds entering your home, contact us on 020 8668 5477 or click here.


Image by sipa from Pixabay