2020 pest predictions

2020 pest predictions: What pest challenges will businesses face in the new year?

Krissie Callahan

The old adage says that hindsight is 2020. But at Rentokil, we’re looking into our crystal ball to flip that adage on its head and help our business customers get ahead of costly pest problems in 2020. 

We sat down with five entomologists from across our U.S. business to talk to them about what they think the major pest trends will be in 2020. To come up with this list, they used a blend of proprietary company data, field observations from their local markets, and industry trends to identify the most pressing concerns for businesses in the coming year. 

Use these seven pest predictions to help evaluate your business. Is your operation at risk due to any of these trends?

Underground picture of mouse

Mice become more of an issue year-round.

Historically, issues with mice spike for businesses in the winter months. However, over the past several years, populations of mice have increased year-round. The trend of overall warmer winters is likely to blame. Natural population loss does not happen without an extended period of cold. “Across North America, we are seeing more mice proliferating in structures throughout the year, not just in the cool weather months,” said Godfrey Nalyanya, Ph.D. and Regional Technical Services Manager for Rentokil in the Northeast. “The food retail sector has been particularly hard hit by mice in recent years.”

What business operators can do to avoid problems: 
Problems with mice can arise quickly, even for businesses that have not historically had problems. To keep mice from getting inside, ensure that you’re conducting regular exterior inspections. Seal holes, gaps, cracks, and openings larger than ¼-inch with rodent-proof material such as copper mesh, hardware cloth, or metal flashing. Also, be sure you have a rodent monitoring program in place, such as Rentokil’s PestConnect, to alert you at the first sign of activity.

A rat against a brick wall,

Rat problems continue in urban centers.

An economy ripe for business, a growing number of city dwellers, affordable housing crises, construction and development, and the garbage that all of these factors create have led to skyrocketing rat populations in cities. Major cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago battled rat invasions in 2019, and you can expect these problems to continue in 2020. 

What business operators can do to avoid problems:
Just as with mice, putting exclusion measures in place to keep rats out of your business is critical. Ensure that there’s no vegetation that overhangs your rooftop to prevent nimble rats from climbing trees to access your structure. Involve your pest management professional at the first sign of a problem, because rats can multiply quickly.

a fly rubbing its legs

The fly pressure is on.

There are three main factors contributing to increased problems with filth flies – house flies, bottle flies, flesh flies – for many businesses. Those factors are increasing populations, waste management practices that haven’t kept pace, and a general trend toward a warming climate. “Flies are more abundant and we’re seeing them become issues for a wider range of businesses,” says Claudio Salem, West Market Technical Director for Rentokil. “More food production and waste combine with warmer temperatures to create a perfect environment for flies.” 

What business operators can do to avoid problems:
Taking simple steps to keep flies out can make a big difference. Ensure doors and windows have undamaged screens. Use air curtains for loading dock doors that must remain open. Install insect light traps, such as Rentokil’s Lumnia devices, to act as another layer of defense. Remember, flies can be attracted to odors (both pleasant and unpleasant) from up to 4 miles away, so it’s very important to practice good waste management. Have trash picked up weekly at a minimum. Keep dumpsters as far from the structure as possible. If you have other odor issues that can attract flies, you may want to look at an odor management solution.

architects and engineers discussing work progress between concrete walls, scaffolds and cranes

Booming construction can mean more pest issues.

The economic outlook in the U.S. has held steady over the last few years, leading to an abundance of construction projects in many areas. Construction can dredge up hidden rodent and insect pest issues, as well as push pests out of their habitats and straight into nearby businesses. If the economy slows, the pace of construction on existing projects may also slow or even stop. Inactive construction sites will likely lack pest management, which can also spell trouble for neighboring properties. 

What business operators can do to avoid problems:
Be aware of what’s happening in the immediate vicinity of your business. If there’s construction or land being developed within a mile of your facility, let your pest control provider know. They can take extra precautions to protect your facility. If you notice a sudden change in pest pressures, alert your pest management professional.

bed bug on corrugated recycle paper

Bed bug activity will tick up in all types of commercial environments.

Although bed bugs have been an established problem for the hospitality industry for nearly two decades, other non-hospitality businesses are seeing more frequent encounters with these biting pests. In 2017 and 2018, Rentokil conducted more than 55,000 bed bug services in businesses alone. Multifamily complexes, hospitals, long term care facilities, transportation centers and public transportation, municipal buildings, and even offices have all seen bed bug activity. “The good news is that awareness of bed bugs has increased and problems are being reported earlier. The bad news is that we’re seeing introductions in more and more places,” says Bobbie Orr, Board Certified Entomologist and Technical Services Manager with Rentokil. “The best thing businesses can do is train employees on how to spot a potential bed bug problem and what to do if one is suspected.” 

What business operators can do to avoid problems:
Short of inspecting every person and item that comes through your business, there’s not much that you can do to stop bed bug introduction. However, business operators should have a bed bug defense plan and teach their staff members to identify bed bugs and ensure that everyone on their team knows what to do if bed bug activity is expected. In other words – your staff is your first line of defense. Need bed bug training? Rentokil is offering a free bed bug training session to any interested business. Schedule your free training session today.

Top view of spotted lanternfly

The spotted lanternfly spreads its wings in new areas.

Haven’t heard of the spotted lanternfly? It’s only a matter of time before you begin to see them. This invasive species from Asia was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014. Despite an aggressive quarantine effort, it has slowly inched its way across state lines to spread into neighboring Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia. While the spotted lanternfly poses the most risk to trees and fruit crops, it can also be a serious concern for any facility where contamination is a concern, as the pests can land on buildings and make their way inside. 

What business operators can do to avoid problems: 
If you’re within the quarantine area, talk to your pest management professional about what you can do to reduce your risk. Always follow quarantine protocols – we must work together to stop the spread of this invasive pest. If you are in a neighboring state to a quarantined area, learn how to identify spotted lanternfly. Most importantly, report spotted lanternfly sightings to your state’s department of agriculture.

bird nests in store sign

Bird problems on the rise for grocery and warehousing facilities.

In some areas of the U.S., birds have become increasingly problematic for businesses, especially grocery stores and warehousing facilities. Small birds, such as sparrows, can create a number of issues when they fly into stores or nest on the exterior, including contamination of food and products, aesthetic issues, and safety and fire hazards. Larger birds, such as pigeons, can pose some of these same risks, as well as more significant public health and air quality concerns. 

What business operators can do to avoid problems:
If your structure’s design supports bird activity, talk to your pest control professional about what can be done to safely and humanely exclude birds to prevent them from landing on your structure. Simple steps, such as using signs to remind employees not to feed birds, cleaning up spills on the exterior, keeping loading dock doors closed when not in use, and keeping trash areas at a safe distance from your structure may also help to decrease activity. 


“Implementing proactive pest management measures is the best way to prevent pests from disrupting your business,” says Lorri MacHarg, Vice President of Operations for Rentokil. “With these predictions, businesses now have actionable information to help evaluate their operations and see where they may have risks in the coming year.” 

Want to get a head start on 2020 planning to defeat pests? Contact us today to obtain a free inspection and evaluation or learn more about our products and services.

Krissie Callahan
Krissie Callahan

As the Communications Manager for Rentokil North America, Krissie specializes in writing, editing, and shaping both internal and marketing messages for the company. When she's not at work, you can usually find her taking in a live music performance in her hometown of Charlotte, NC.

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