One of the last things a hotel or restaurant owner wants is to have negative publicity in the media. These days there are so many ways this can happen. Stories can appear in the local news because food hygiene inspectors found signs of mice or cockroaches in the kitchen, or disgruntled guests can post comments in Tripadvisor about getting bitten by bed bugs.
Trying to save money on pest control measures can escalate costs to the business in the longer term, through:
- loss of reputation;
- higher costs of treatment to eradicate pests;
- loss of business;
- replacement of damaged stock — whether food or other items such as bedding;
- prosecution for breaching food safety regulations and even closure of food operation.
The best remedy to avoid these situations, or at least minimise the risk, is to have a robust policy in place to prevent them happening in the first place. This can be done by:
- maintaining your premises to prevent pests entering through weak spots;
- training staff to be aware of and look out for signs of pests at all times;
- implementing suitable hygiene and food handling practices that prevent pests getting access to food sources;
This will mean any problems can be dealt with as soon as possible and the business will save on costs in the long run.
So what specific measures can a hotel and restaurant owner do to keep these unwanted guests away? Here is a list of straightforward measures you can take yourself to deal with the main pests that are likely to cause problems.
Top pests in hotels and restaurants
It is virtually impossible to prevent bedbugs from getting into hotels because they are mainly brought in by guests in their luggage. They can, however, also be brought in by staff and contractors, laundry, electrical devices (attracted by the warmth) and used furniture.
Signs of bed bugs
- Bed bug bites: tend to occur in a line on exposed bare skin, especially legs, arms, face, neck, hands. The bites tend to come in threes, which are sometimes called ‘breakfast, lunch, and dinner’.
- Guests complaining of bites: the best way to verify if bites are from bed bugs is to look for other signs of the insects in the rooms. If staff members have bed bug bites at work they have probably been sleeping on the job! Bed bugs need their host to keep still for a while so they can climb onto some exposed skin, feed and then go back to their shelter.
- Bed bug droppings: small patches of dark/black stains on a mattress and surrounding areas.
- Small red or rusty spots: dried blood on bedding caused by a sleeping hotel guest inadvertently squashing a bed bug while sleeping;
- Live bed bugs: adults are easily visible at 4-5mm long; eggs are 1mm and whitish; juveniles are around 1.5mm and straw coloured on hatching;
- Shed skins of bed bugs: juvenile bed bugs shed skins at each of the five stages of growth, so finding shed skins means there is a growing population; they will be found mainly where the bed bugs congregate or feed;
- Sickly, sweet smell in a room: this is detectable in heavy infestations; dogs can be trained to recognise the smell and sniff out bed bug locations.
Locating bed bugs
Bed bugs can hide and breed in tiny places, but will most likely be near a suitable food source, which means a handy sleeping body in a bedroom. There are numerous places in the room structure and furnishings where there are small spaces suitable for bedbugs to hide.
Hotel staff should make a systematic and thorough search in order to locate all the potential bed bug hiding places. Here is a list of places to inspect:
- Behind skirting boards, especially near beds: top, cracks, crevices, underneath;
- in cracked or broken plaster;
- In/ on sheets and blankets;
- sides, top and bottom of mattress and along stitch lines/ seams;
Furniture and fittings
- Carpets and underlay;
- around and inside frames of pictures and paintings;
Bed bug elimination
Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to suck up visible bed bugs and catch fine particles that are allergenic. Dispose of the bag carefully to prevent the bed bugs escaping.
Seal holes and cracks where they could be hiding. Cover mattresses in encasements to prevent bed bugs getting in or out. Put infected items such as clothing in sealed plastic bags and remove them from the room for treatment or disposal.
Bed bugs can be killed by high or very low temperatures. They are killed when their body reaches 55°C and freezing temperatures below -13°C will also kill them, but only after several days.
A hair dryer can be used to direct heat into small areas — and can be effective if you look in all the right places!
Whole-room heating will eliminate the bed bugs from all the bedding, furniture, carpets, cracks, and crevices, etc, but needs to be done with a professional service to ensure every part of the room reaches the critical temperature.
Careful spraying of a residual insecticide in the right places after other control measures have been used will help prevent a bedbugs infestation returning. Indiscriminate spraying of household pesticides on visible bed bugs will not eliminate all of them or and may end up poisoning guests and staff. Pesticide spraying really needs to be done by a professional to be effective.
Flies are basically airborne disease carriers. There are many species that can carry numerous diseases into areas handling and serving food, including fruit flies, drain flies, house flies, blow flies and flesh flies.
Flies are attracted to rotting food, faeces, drains, dead animals where they pick up a wide range of disease-causing microbes and can later deposit them on surfaces and food in kitchens and restaurants.
Common diseases that can be carried by flies include Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and various parasitic worms — all of which are unpleasant experiences for guests or staff.
The most important way of preventing flies from contaminating food is cleanliness:
- Food preparation and serving areas: keep them clean and free of food deposits, grease and spills, including equipment, surfaces, floors, walls, cupboards and shelves. Cracks and crevices can accumulate tiny amounts of food, but enough to attract and feed a fly or two.
- Supplies: make sure food supplies are packaged and stored properly, and fresh foods are of good quality with no rotten parts that could attract flies.
- clear waste away from food preparation and storage areas promptly.
- store waste in suitable containers that shut properly.
- keep garbage containers and the surrounding areas clean so that rotting food deposits do not build up and attract flies and other pests.
- Drains: keep drains free of organic matter and clean regularly to prevent biofilms that are breeding grounds for drain flies.
Put up barriers to prevent flies from getting inside you property:
- put screens on doors and windows;
- keep doors and windows shut when not in use;
- maintain the building to prevent gaps appearing that could allow entry.
- Use UV light traps to catch flies hygienically in food preparation and serving areas. Find out how the Luminos UV fly traps prevent fly debris from contaminating food.
- As a last resort use insecticides, but these must be suitable for use near food and applied correctly by trained personnel.
Rats and mice
Rats and mice are the pests that are likely to create the most alarm among guests if encountered in your hotel or restaurant, and show you have a serious food hygiene problem! They can increase in numbers rapidly once they have found a food source so it is important to control them effectively as soon as possible to minimise costs of control.
There are many reasons to exterminate rats and mice from your property, including:
- Diseases: Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis, Toxoplasmosis, Lyme disease, rat-bite fever, to name a few;
- Parasites: ticks, fleas, lice and mites, which carry their own range of diseases;
- Damage to food: contamination of food and packaging making it unfit for consumption and causing loss of stock;
- Damage to buildings and fixtures by gnawing, including electrical cables;
Apart from seeing a live animal scurrying around or dead animals, there are several signs to look out for:
- dirty smudge marks along runs caused by their oily fur on walls and along pipes and wiring;
- noises: squeeks, gnawing sounds, scurrying sounds;
- gnawing around holes, on electrical wiring, food and packaging;
- tracks in dust or powder put down to indicate their presence;
- urine stains are left along trails by both rats and mice and can be detected using UV light;
Rat and mice control
The basic means of control is preventing rats and mice from having access to food, water and shelter on your property.
Remove or block places where rats and mice could shelter in and around buildings. A building structure can offer many places of access, such as doorways, windows, screens, pipes, vents, cracks, drains and holes. These need to be maintained or altered to remove any gaps that are large enough for rats and mice to run or squeeze through.
Trapping and poisoning
The use of traps and poison needs expertise to conform to legislation, including food safety laws and regulations, health and safety, environmental and wildlife laws. When a business involves food there are detailed requirements for documenting the pest control measures that have been carried out, such as:
- maintaining maps of all bait stations and traps;
- records of sightings;
- records of staff training of staff;
- monitoring activities.
It is best to use a professional service to protect your business from a rodent infestation. The Rentokil RADAR mouse trap captures and kills mice humanely (using carbon dioxide), safely and hygienically.
Cockroaches scurrying around restaurants and kitchens are a sure sign that food hygiene practices are not up to scratch. They can feed on a wide range of foods and even organic matter such as cardboard. Because of their size they only need small amounts of food such as crumbs and spills to feed on.
There are thousands of cockroach species worldwide but only a few are likely to be pests in hotels and restaurants:
- German cockroach (Blatella germanica): the adult is 12-15 mm long and light brown. It is the most common species infesting food businesses and buildings worldwide.
- American cockroach (Periplaneta Americana): the adult is 35-40 mm long and reddish brown. It prefers warmer climates and warm, humid places such as drains, storage rooms and waste storage areas.
- Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis): the adult is 20-25 mm long with a dark brown or black body. It prefers cool, damp places such as basements, drains, and storage rooms.
Cockroaches have a number of nasty habits:
- they feed on faeces and other organic matter in sewers, faeces from rodents and birds, garbage and animal carcasses, picking up, like flies, a large range of disease-causing microbes internally and externally;
- they defecate and excrete saliva wherever they crawl, contaminating food and surfaces and leaving stains and a foul odour;
- cast skins and egg cases also contaminate food and packaging;
- droppings and shed skins contain allergens that cause asthma.
Cockroaches, like flies, only need small quantities of food to live on, such as from spills and accumulated residues in dirty kitchens and drains. They have biting mouth parts so can also eat through some types of packaging such as paper and cardboard.
The same good sanitation practices as described for flies will work for cockroaches. In addition, remove food from paper and cardboard containers, if possible, and store it in hard plastic or metal.
A number of pesticide treatments are available to kill cockroaches, including sprays, dusts, and bait, but you will need to comply with food safety regulations to use them near food handling areas.
Stored product insects
Stored product insects (SPIs) is a catch-all term that includes a large range of insects and mites (which are actually arachnids) that infest dry food ingredients and processed products. The food types include flour and grains, dried beans and peas, coffee and cocoa beans, dried fruit and vegetables, nuts, confectionary and pasta.
Some of the insects and mites that can infest stored food are:
- Warehouse moth (Ephestia elutella): larva 10-15 mm;
- Tropical warehouse moth (Ephestia cautella): larva 12-14 mm;
- Mill moth (Ephestia kuehniella): larva 15-20 mm;
- Copra beetle (Necrobia rufipes): 4-6 mm;
- Biscuit beetle (Stegobium paniceum): 2-3 mm;
- Confused flour beetle (Tribolium confusum): 3-4.5 mm;
- Merchant grain beetle (Oryzaephilus mercator): 2.5-3.5 mm;
- Rice weevil (Sitophilus oryzae);
- Grain weevil (Sitophilus granarius);
- Cheese mites: Tyrophagus species and Acarus species (some are used intentionally to age certain cheeses).
- Flour mite (Acarus siro): 0.5-0.7 mm.
Signs of SPIs in food
SPIs can be detected by inspecting the foods, packages, containers and storage rooms for:
- larvae, pupae or silken webbing — in food packets, cupboards and around food stores;
- live or dead insects or mites on food or in food containers;
- small holes in nuts and grains;
- insects caught in traps.
Control of SPIs
Due to the size of some of the insects and mites it can be difficult to spot an infestation, but by following some basic practices you can spot an infestation early and prevent further spread:
- inspect food on delivery for the presence of pests;
- store food in containers that close tightly;
- use older stock first;
- clean food storage and handling areas thoroughly to prevent build up of food spills and residues;
- have monitoring procedures to identify signs of infestation;
- dispose of infested foods.
Keeping the pests away
The key to keeping pests away from your business is training staff and implementing monitoring procedures as part of normal practice. The investment will pay for itself in reducing the costs of controlling infestations, protecting your reputation and maintaining your flow of customers.
However, it is also important to know when to call a professional service to deal with a pest outbreak safely and comply with all the relevant regulations and laws. Contact Rentokil to get more information on the professional pest control services and training available for your needs.