A visitor arriving at your food processing facility probably has to check in at the front desk first. Maybe they even have to get a name tag so they can be identified throughout their visit. Unfortunately, pests don’t give you the same kind of heads-up upon their arrival.
That’s why it’s important for food processing professionals to pay high attention to detail — because pests can quickly settle in and make themselves at home around your facility. Then, of course, it’s only a matter of time before they find their way inside.
A pest infestation can have lasting consequences for your employees, your customers and your reputation, as well as your next audit. To keep your facility protected, let’s examine some of the steps you can take to fortify your pest defenses.
Cut Back On Excessive Landscape Features
It’s ideal for the landscaping around a food processing plant to be “attractively barren.” Eliminate extraneous bushes, vines or ground covers — basically everything except for a well-maintained lawn. If your property does include bushes, they should not be allowed to become large and overgrown. This makes them more attractive for birds and provides ample shelter for other annoying pests.
Don’t let any foliage from trees or bushes make direct contact with the building, as this can provide bridges for ant entry, plus pathways for rodents or squirrels to access the roof. If trees have to be part of the landscaping, nut- or fruit-bearing trees are the least ideal, as these can be attractive to wildlife and insects attracted to rotting fruit.
It’s also wise to install a small stone sanitation border around the facility’s perimeter, roughly three-to-four feet wide. Many landscaping contractors don’t understand the reasoning for this, so they use larger rocks when building a perimeter — but larger rocks provide shelter for rodents and can even encourage burrowing. However, stones about one inch in diameter will fall into rodent holes, helping to prevent them from digging in and establishing a permanent presence. Replacing bark mulch with river gravel systems can also be helpful, as bark mulch tends to be attractive to rodents.
Choose Proper Lighting
Positioning is key when it comes keeping pests at bay. Flies and many night-flying insects are strongly drawn to light. You should place light fixtures away from doors and other openings to attract insects to places away from the building (while still ensuring outdoor areas are well-lit). What’s more, interior light shining outward through openings can also attract insects, so it’s best to shield your interior light sources if possible.
Insects are most attracted to light wavelengths in the ultraviolet (UV) range around 330-360 nanometers wavelength, which are invisible to the human eye. Certain light bulbs that closely resemble sunlight and produce UV wavelengths — like incandescent, standard fluorescent and mercury vapor — are more attractive to various types of insects.
When designing your exterior lighting, look for bulbs that are engineered to emit wavelengths that are less attractive to insects. For example, “black light” bulbs are used in insect light traps because they emit UV light and attract insects. Many modern interior lights and new LED lights can also be configured to varying levels of attractiveness. It’s best to avoid facility lighting that emits UV wavelengths, unless it’s being used in an insect trap.
Minimize Waste Exposure
There’s nothing pests love more than a heaping pile of trash. With that said, make sure your facility has a comprehensive waste management system in place. Eliminate loose waste and other litter by placing it in the proper disposal containers, as any discarded food items can bring pests crawling onto your property.
Oftentimes outdoor waste areas are overlooked and teeming with potential attractants. Keep these areas regularly sanitized and make sure waste items are sealed and unexposed. Any additional spillage — like product blowouts on rooftops and during railcar or truck dumping — can leave attractive waste materials exposed. Outdoor product movement needs to be properly contained, and you should inspect the area frequently to locate any waste lying around.
Don’t Forget About the Interior
When pests come knocking, you don’t want to let them inside — but there’s always a chance they’ll find a way in. Pests always seek favorable environments. For example, when winter arrives, many rodents and insects will seek a warmer place to set up shop. That’s why it’s essential to have the right baits and stop them in their tracks.
Rodents and insects tend to travel along lines, particularly in places where the ground meets the wall, which is why these are ideal spots for traps. Some pests may be attracted to baits on their own, but more often baits need to be placed in their pathway.
Work with Qualified Professionals
All of these tips can help you keep unwanted nuisances out of your facility, but it’s highly recommended that you consult with an expert who can design a pest management strategy. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach will use environmentally-friendly methods to treat any issues, allowing you to focus less on pesky pests and more on running an outstanding operation.
Jerry Heath, BCE, is a Staff Entomologist for The Industrial Fumigant Co., LLC.