The 5 most common pests in retail each month

Mona Latif

For retail stores, pest incursions can be costly. Pest issues can result in material losses, contaminating food products that must be discarded, destroying stock, and causing expensive equipment damage. But the assault on your brand can be even worse. Customers that encounter pests may go running out the door, never to return – and tell their friends and family about their negative experience, too.   

To kick off 2019, Rentokil did an analysis of two years worth of data from our retail pest management services to determine the most common pests encountered each month in both food retail and non-food retail locations. We’ve packaged the information into two eye-opening infographics and break down the common pests in retail that you may want to keep an eye on.

How is this information helpful to you? Knowing the most likely pests your store may encounter in each month is a powerful weapon: it allows you to ensure that the right defenses are in place to prevent issues.

Grouping pests by category

Rentokil provides services that cover hundreds of pest species. However, many species behave similarly to one another, so to streamline this data, we grouped pests into 26 different major categories. These infographic calendars use those groups to determine the most common pest issues in each month.

The most common pests in food retail

Food retail facilities face a myriad of pest issues throughout the year, but the top 10 pest categories encountered are:

The top two pests on the above list accounted for more than half of all services. Rodents represented 34.4%, while large flies made up another 31.4% of the total. This indicates that placing a prominent focus on your rodent and flying insect programs would be an excellent starting point.

For food retail, the presence of pests such as rodents, flies, and cockroaches are a food safety risk, as these pests can carry and spread harmful pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella that can make people sick. Resolving pest problems with these pests should be the utmost priority.

common pests in food retail infographic

Addressing issues with small flies in food retail

Small flies, which includes fruit flies, phorid flies, and other tiny nuisance flies, consistently rank as the number three pest in food retail facilities for every month of the year.

For food retail facilities, small fly issues can persist in areas where organic foods, such as produce, can deteriorate. They can also arise in food preparation areas, including prepared foods departments and bakeries. Ensure that teams in these areas are practicing First In, First Out rotation of product and performing proper clean-up procedures after any food preparation. Eliminating standing water is also critical. Drains can also cause problems with small flies. Consider implementing bioremediation or drain line programs to address concerns.

The battle against night-flying insects

Night-flying insects encompass a group of pests that are more active in the dusk and evening hours, such as moths. The battle against night-flying insects can be seen playing out in a number of different areas in supermarkets because of prominent lighting and open doors.

With their lighted signs, illuminated parking lots, and brightly-lit interiors, supermarkets and convenience stores are a beacon for night-flying insects. Lighting draws these pests close to food retail facilities. From there, all it takes is an open door to let them inside. And that is easy to accomplish. Automatic sliding doors, common for many food facilities, can let pests easily make their way inside. Air pressure, if flowing in the wrong direction, can even “suck” these pests inside when doors open. On loading docks and in receiving areas, doors remain open for extended periods of time, allowing insects to simply fly in.

The solution is to have a strong flying insect protection plan in place around high-traffic areas where doors are frequently opening and closing or must remain open for long periods of time. In loading dock areas, there may be additional solutions, such as strip curtains, that can help reduce night-flying insect traffic. You can also talk to your pest management provider about lighting – some types of lighting attract fewer pests than others.

What are occasional invaders?

Occasional invaders round out the top 5 pests in food retail in every month of the year. This category includes a wide variety of seasonal invaders such as centipedes and millipedes, pill bugs, crickets, silverfish, and earwigs.

This pest category gets its name because they are not likely to infest facilities; more often than not, they are simply a nuisance. Some can damage paper supplies. These pests do not pose a threat to humans, however, seeing one in a food aisle or crawling on a product might result in an unhappy customer.

The most common pests in non-food retail

While the top 10 pests for non-food retail may appear to be largely the same, the frequency with which they encounter these pests is significantly different from food retail. This is largely because non-food retail doesn’t have the same challenges with food attracting pests.

The top 10 pests in non-food retail stores are:

Here, too, rodents make up a significant percentage of the total, outpacing the second most commonly encountered pest group, occasional invaders, by more than 8 times the number of services. Putting an emphasis on rodent control should be a priority for all retail stores.

common pests in non-food retail infographic

Seasonal pest fluctuations

Not surprisingly, retail stores without food have more seasonal fluctuations in pest activity. Ants and spiders both creep into the top 5 for a few months in the year, as do small flies in September. More consistent, however, are cockroach, large fly, occasional invader, and stored product pest pressures.

What this means for non-food retail establishments is that their pest programs may need to be adjusted at several points throughout the year to address seasonal pests.

Stored product pests that create problems for non-food retail stores

Stored product pests include a group of pests that do exactly what their name suggests – they infest and attack stored products. Because non-food retail stores often have large quantities of inventory, these pests can become problematic.

Indian meal moths account for most of the stored product pest activity encountered by non-retail food establishments. Cigarette and warehouse beetles make up the majority of services for stored product pests. Rentokil’s Tips Sheets may help facilities implement practices that can reduce problems with these pests.

Stinging pests pose a human danger

Although they are not represented in the top 5 pests for any month for food or non-food retail, stinging pests pose a real danger to humans visiting both types of establishments. This category includes both flying stinging insects, such as wasps and yellow jackets, as well as fire ants.

Fire ants are a consistent, year-round problem for non-retail food facilities in certain geographies. Fire ants often produce a very recognizable “mound” above nests in the ground. These mounds tend to be larger than typical ant hills. When disturbed, fire ants can swarm, with many ants inflicting stings on their victim at the same time. This can be extremely painful and cause dangerous allergic reactions. Children and the elderly are particularly susceptible.

Flying stinging pests are active in the warm weather months and into the early fall and can be aggressive if they feel their hive or nest is threatened. Their stings can also pose a risk to humans who are allergic, potentially causing life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

Your staff should report any signs of stinging pests to Rentokil or your pest control provider immediately.

The challenge of shared walls and ceilings

More than most segments, retail stores may face the unique challenge of sharing walls and ceilings with other stores, restaurants, or facilities. Retail establishments that are located in shopping complexes, malls, or other large aggregated groups of stores need to have an understanding of how pest issues at one location within a complex can quickly spread to neighboring properties.

Ceiling voids present in these locations are often open across a number of stores, without any barriers. Rodent pests, in particular, can travel from store to neighboring store in ceiling voids, unencumbered by human traffic.

Shared walls can also allow insect pests to quickly migrate from one location to the next, harbor in wall voids, and create issues for multiple establishments.

It’s important to have strong relationships with neighboring businesses in order to facilitate good communication about pest issues.

Protect your customers, food safety, and your brand with a comprehensive pest control program

Whether you operate a food retail or non-food retail operation, the presence of pests is not only unsightly, it is also a real risk to your customers and your brand reputation.  

Use these infographics to help you plan your pest management resources for the year. Need help? Rentokil’s pest management experts can help you design a comprehensive pest management strategy customized for your store’s unique pest pressures and needs. For a free inspection or to augment your existing program, call 800.488.9495 or visit

Mona Latif
Mona Latif

Mona Latif is the Director of Product & Innovation for Rentokil North America. Mona specializes in creating and deploying processes, products and enhancements to improve the overall customer experience. When not at work, Mona is seeking new adventures, taking pictures, shopping and reading.

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