rat at night
Like many towns across the Covid-19 hit UK, Henley-on-Thames has seen the inhabitants make some major changes to their behaviour following the lockdown caused by the viral outbreak. The absence of people from the streets of Henley along with the disappearance of a major source of food has seen rats emerge in broad daylight looking for sustenance.. 
The noticeable change in towns like Henley and Marlow is that there is absolutely no food stuffs being throw away into restaurant waste bins, no food deposited in the street bins and food carelessly thrown away after a drunken night out is missing from the streets. Society’s behaviour has changed following the implementation of the lockdown and as rats are scavengers, their behaviour is changing to match. 
Waste bin
Rats are scavengers by nature and with the recent changes and a lack of refuse, the rat’s food supply has been taken away almost overnight and we are now seeing rats beginning to invade homes in a desperate search for food. Households that have never had a problem with rats, now suddenly find themselves with an active rat infestation. In addition to this problem the recent panic buying, where we spent £60 million pounds on extra food, means that many homes in towns like Henley and Marlow are stocked with food. Some of which has been inadvertently stored in places which are within easy access to these rats. 
If we look at rat behaviour, we realise that they live in well-established hierarchical colonies, in a normal situation when food is readily available, small-scale disputes quickly arrange the top tier of dominant rats. Living below these are the subordinate members of the colony, and these lower tiers quickly organise into a well-established pecking order. The alphas eat first and get the best of the pickings, but when we have a situation when the food supply is suddenly cut off, this structured order collapses. 
Rat at night
Initially we’d expect the rats to fight amongst themselves for dominance over whatever food is left and some rats will get killed, these will be eaten by the rest of the group. We trap rats inside of buildings and we commonly find that a dead rat has been eaten by the rest of the group – why waste a good meal? As the food supply on the streets of Henley dwindles, many of the rats will leave the colony in search of an alternative food source and this is why we are now seeing a rise in rat callouts right across the area. 
Once a rat gets to smell food it will do everything it can to find a way to get at it; we’ve seen rats get through a brick wall because of a fault with a piece of missing mortar. In this instance rats gnawed away at the corner of a house brick, eventually rounding the corner until it could squeeze through the gap between the two bricks. It’s easy for rats to exploit old, rotten wooden doorframes and gaps under garage doors, allowing access into the interior. Because of the Covid-19 outbreak some of these garages are stocked with food, and when one rat gets in others will quickly follow to take advantage of this new wealth of food. 
Rat in a pipe
It’s not just door frames and garages that allow rats inside our homes; a large proportion of our internal infestations originate from the sewerage system, nearly every house in the UK is connected by the drains to the sewers. As modern houses built after the 1960’s have their soil pipes built internally; running through the house in a box section and then out through the walls beneath the ground, faults in the drains can quickly lead to rats in the loft. Here rats can go unnoticed for a time, maybe emerging in the kitchen through the space around one of the pipes that cut through to allow water back out to the drains. 
Like all rodents rats have a strong driver for food, when it comes to rats its boom or bust; food is life and any supplies will be hoarded; a plentiful supply of food brings with it the ability for all year round breeding. Once a rat gets inside a building they will explore the area and not just the one room that had initial access into. 
We recently attended an internal rat infestation in a Maidenhead house where the owner had cornered a rat on the upstairs landing inside an empty cardboard box – the initial access point for the rat was the external door to the cellar. This rat had gnawed through the bottom of a rotten wooden door and worked its way up under the kitchen floor. From there it made its way into the cupboard under the stairs to finally emerge out of the airing cupboard on the first floor of the house, we could follow a trail of rat droppings and see other indications in the form of gnawing on floorboards, and the cardboard box? Well, this has previously held chocolate Easter eggs and the rat was either drawn into the box by the lingering scent of chocloate or it was disturbed on the landing and hid inside the box. 
Whilst the current situation with the lockdown in Henley seems set to continue for some weeks to come, it’s now important to take some steps looking at our household hygiene and see what actions we can make to proof our homes and businesses against the inward migration of rats. 
Why is this important? Because the Covid-19 virus can live outside the body for several days there is a real danger of cross - contamination; this virus has been found in the faeces of infected hospital patients. There is a theory that the Covid-19 virus will be found in the sewers, and it may be possible for this virus to find its way from the sewer, into our homes, carried in on the feet of rats.  
Just as we’ve stepped up our hand washing routines because we know that it’s possible to carry the virus, this is a good time to review what we can do to make our homes safer. The first action that should be done is to look at food storage; make sure that any containers are strong, preferably with airtight lids to keep food scents inside. Storing food in sheds, out buildings, garages and lofts is not a good idea unless you have no other place and if you have no other option, try to use a secure outer container like a metal cabinet to keep the boxes in. We have been seeing a definite change in rat behaviour right across the region due to the shortage of food, we are seeing higher than usual callouts for rats on bird feeders where, previously there wasn’t a problem. 
rats in rubbish
When it comes to our rubbish, wash or rinse out food recycling cartons and wrappers to remove those scraps of food that we’d previously ignore, by throwing out even a small residue of food you could be encouraging rats to come up right to the boundary of your property. This in itself shouldn’t usually be a problem, but desperate rats may gnaw through a plastic airbrick or squeeze past a missing piece of mortar and you’ll find yourself hosting a rat infestation. 
Block up gaps under garage and shed doors with a plank of wood; we attend many properties where rats have got in via an adjoining or internal garage. Rats have some amazing super skills and in fact they are nimble climbers with the ability to jump almost a metre vertically from a standing position, many of the internal infestations we see in Henley and Marlow start from inside a garage. Don’t forget a rat will be able to squeeze through a gap the size of the end of your thumb – take the pest controllers size test; a gap the size of your thumb allows in rats and mice it’s the little finger! 
rat on a rope
If you have, or, suspect that you have got a rat problem in Henley then don’t look upon the use of a professional pest controller as a ‘luxury’, a good pest controller will conduct a thorough survey of your property which will include any adjoining building. If you think about it logically, in a semi-detached house with rats then there’s a good chance that half of the problem lies next door. Without conducting an in-depth survey, no amount of rodenticide used inside you half is going to get you rat free for long. 
Additionally a good pest controller will not want to start with a ‘straight to a poison’ approach; instead of using poison we mark up any potential access points and drains to determine where the rat activity is. We confirm the route in by setting traps in places like the loft or under kitchen units; when a rat is caught it will be covered in the tracking dust – the colour of the dust determines the entrance point. Once we know where the rat entrance is we can determine a plan by using more traps or a mixture of traps and poison so, at the appropriate time the entrance point is sealed up – this is how to do rat control at a professional level. 
As the Covid-19 lockdown continues in towns like Henley and Marlow and we remain isolated in our homes, these cunning scavengers have laid claim to the streets and they are the New Kings of The Urban Jungle …. but only for now! Stay safe in these uncertain times but make sure you stay safe from rats as well. 
Tagged as: Rats
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