business person makes predictions for the new year

A new year of pest pressures: pest predictions for 2021

Erin Kelly

Tired of dealing with rodents and bugs in your business? Well, 2021 might not provide any relief.

As if 2020 didn’t present enough challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 could be a banner year for pests around the country and could cause big problems for already struggling businesses.

To help businesses prepare for 2021 and reduce disruption caused by pest problems, entomologists from Rentokil, the global leader in pest control, used field knowledge and data to provide their predictions for trends in the upcoming year. Read on to see what they’re expecting.

Rodents on the rise

With shutdowns across the country, it’s no surprise that rodents are on the rise nationwide. Empty buildings, the scarcity of food and warmer winters have combined to create a rodent apocalypse.

“We’re seeing more rats in urban, suburban and rural settings because of business shutdowns,” said Marc Potzler, Board Certified Entomologist with Rentokil. “Food sources are cut off, and rats are having to travel to scavenge for food. We’ve seen rats out in public during the day, which is highly unusual.”

For businesses, rodents are a threat to reputation. They can also damage property as well as pose health risks to employees and customers. With rolling pandemic-related curfews and closures continuing for the foreseeable future, it is vital for businesses to have a pest management plan in place to protect their property and their people.

Click here to learn about our PestConnect Portfolio, our innovative rodent control technology that can provide 24/7 protection for your business.

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Bed bugs return

The chatter about bed bugs was quiet in 2020, but that’s not because they have gone away.

“As people begin to travel again, we will start to hear about bed bug infestations,” said Eric Sebring, Associate Certified Entomologist with Rentokil. “Bed bugs can be dormant for several months at a time, so they can emerge when a food source, humans, become available.”

Bed bugs are considered hitchhikers, traveling from place to place on people, luggage, clothing and personal belongings. Homeowners and businesses such as hotels, colleges, hospitals, senior living facilities, retail stores, and libraries have experienced problems with the pests.

“Commercial locations should think about a bed bug treatment plan even before an infestation occurs so they can act quickly when problems arise,” said Sebring. “There will be a resurgence in bed bugs as soon as travel is normalized again. Pest management professionals are trained to understand the habits of bed bugs and use their knowledge to detect and prevent re-infestation.”

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Large, fast cockroaches

Rodents aren’t the only pest taking over because of business shutdowns. Large cockroaches, such as American, Oriental and Turkestan cockroaches, will be out in full force in 2021.

In 2020, reports of large cockroach issues were higher than normal, especially in facilities that were closed for a period of time or have limited staff due to COVID-19.

“When businesses are closed or operating at a lower capacity, cockroaches can go up in the drains, breed and move through the drain system,” said Sebring. “Since the drains aren’t being used as much, the cockroach population can build up. It’s important to have a professional survey potential entry points, treat the area and develop a prevention plan.”

For a business, cockroaches can be a reputation risk, but they also carry disease-causing microorganisms on their bodies and contaminate surfaces and food products.


More time outside = more pests

outdoor dining on a rooftop

From outdoor dining to delivery and curbside pickup to enhanced outdoor operations, there is no doubt that the pandemic has forced people to spend more time outside.

For many commercial locations, the outdoor spaces may not have been a priority in years past. As people migrate outdoors, business leaders may be forced to think about pest activity in these typically unmanaged spaces.

As this will continue in 2021, the outdoor pest pressures will also continue:

As mentioned, rodents will be on the rise indoors and outdoors next year, looking for food and nesting locations.

With outdoor dining and more businesses pushed to think about alternative options for opening, the opportunity for pests such as flies increases.

“Flies can be annoying to customers and employees, but they can also cause food contamination, food poisoning and spread diseases,” sad Tom Dobrinska, Board Certified Entomologist with Rentokil. “With more food and drink being served outside, it is important to combat the potential infestation with professional treatment. New connected technology allows 24/7 monitoring options to help businesses stay on top of potential problems.”

Lumnia fly control

Where there is food, there will be birds. Unfortunately, birds can cause property damage, cause an unsightly mess and ruin image and reputation. Pigeons, sparrows and gulls top the list of destructive birds. Some bird species, such as grackles and crows, can cause noise issues that deter people from areas. Bird droppings can also transmit more than 60 diseases and compromise air quality, which is already a health concern during the pandemic.

More time outdoors also means an increased exposure risk to mosquitoes for employees and customers. Mosquito populations have been increasing over the last few years. Aedes species, which are disease-carrying mosquitoes, are also moving to new areas. These mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and Zika virus, among other diseases.

Untamed vegetation:
As businesses shut down or scale back operations, the vegetation and land around those buildings is often neglected. As the pandemic extends into 2021, the number of uncontrolled plots of land around commercial buildings will increase.

Unwanted vegetation is not aesthetically pleasing and can potentially impact the perception of the company. Other risk factors include providing harborage for pests such as rodents, birds and insects, which could infest the nearby facilities. Overgrown vegetation also puts the area at a higher risk for fires and creates slip, trip and fall hazards. Learn more about Rentokil’s Vegetation Management services, here.

Pests making headlines

There are a few pests that will continue to steal the limelight in 2021.

spotted lanternflies on a tree trunk

Stink bugs:
The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is an invasive pest that has been making its way across the country since the first introduction from Asia in 2001. Besides its pungent odor, this stink bug has become a nuisance for business operators. This smelly pest gathers in large numbers on the sides of buildings and enters through cracks in the walls and windows. For commercial facilities, the stink bug can also be a contamination risk. “The brown marmorated stink bug is here to stay,” said Dobrinska. “We will continue to see this species emerge in late spring in large numbers.

Spotted Lanternflies:
The Spotted Lanternfly will continue to wreak havoc across the Northeast and beyond. The invasive pest was introduced in Pennsylvania back in 2014 and has since spread across the Northeast, with New York reporting the first sighting this year. The pest causes significant damage to trees and plants. “The Spotted Lanternfly is becoming a big problem in the Northeast, and it will continue to spread,” said Potzler. “It can be devastating for agriculture and is a nuisance for businesses. This could really affect crops in the near future and can become a contamination factor for facilities if they get inside the building.”

The egg masses look like a smear of mud on trees and outside of buildings. It’s important to scrape the egg mass off and put it in a bag with rubbing alcohol. Throw the bag away and then call your state department of agriculture to report the sighting.

Asian giant hornets:
The infamous “Murder Hornet”, also known as the Asian giant hornet, grabbed many headlines in 2020. Business owners and homeowners alike panicked while trying to decipher the difference between stinging insects and murder hornets. The Asian giant hornet is the largest hornet species in the world, growing up to 3 inches in length. Currently, the Asian giant hornet has only been found in the Pacific Northwest.

“We know that there was one colony found and eliminated in Washington State,” said Sebring. “Unfortunately, if there is one, there will be more.”

While your chances of being stung by an Asian giant hornet are fairly low, the sting can be dangerous as the venom volume is higher, causing more pain. These hornets primarily build their hives underground or in hollows in trees. If you suspect it is an Asian giant hornet or any stinging pests, call your pest management provider to assess the situation as soon as you spot activity.


No matter what pest problems come your way this year, Rentokil is here to help. Contact us today.

Erin Kelly
Erin Kelly

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