The top 10 pests in retail establishments

Retailers are in the midst of their busiest season of the year, so pest issues may not be top of mind. However, with many stores facing steep competition in the face of online services, there’s never been a more important time to focus on the details of your in-store experience – and that includes pest control.

To help our customers stay on top of potential problems, Rentokil Steritech recently analyzed more than 315,000 services conducted at both food and non-food retail locations in 2017 to determine the top 10 pest issues retailers face. As you begin looking at where to invest in your in-store experience in 2019, knowing these high-level concerns may help. You’ll be better able to identify specific areas where you should be investing your pest management budget.

top pests in retail

Integrated products allow for a wide spectrum of pest issues

Lines are blurring more and more in the retail space. Retailers are beginning to blend their product offerings to deliver even more convenience to in-store customers. Recently, Walgreens announced that it would add Kroger Express locations in select stores, selling dairy, meat, and produce, as well as prepackaged meal kits. Budget grocery brand Lidl, which is taking off in many areas of the U.S., sells a clothing line designed by supermodel Heidi Klum in its stores. And many convenience stores are expanding to offer more freshly prepared foods to cater to busy, on-the-go consumers.

These product integrations and expansions mean that there are increasing ways for pests to enter stores, whether being introduced via suppliers or on product returns, or because the new products create new pest attractants. Retailers may find themselves facing pest issues they haven’t in the past.


What pests do retailers battle the most?

Rentokil Steritech’s analysis of 2017 data reveals some expected issues – rodents, flies, and German cockroaches, for example. But there are also some emerging trends and eye-opening surprises in the list that may help retailers work with their pest management professionals to develop proactive plans to help protect against pest activity, or mitigate it quickly if it does occur.

So what are the pests that retailers battle most? Here’s a quick look at what we found:


It probably comes as no surprise that mice and rats were at the top of the list. Rodents can destroy product and easily frighten customers if seen in a store. Rodents were cited as an issue in more than 40% of services – and that threat may be growing. Rentokil Steritech experts have seen a dramatic boom in mouse and roof rat populations through the Central Plains states. To help stave off rodent issues, be sure you have a proactive rodent monitoring plan in place.

Bed Bugs

Coming in second as a problem at nearly 20 percent of locations: bed bugs. In retail stores? That’s right. As bed bugs have re-established themselves in North America, they’ve become an increasing problem for many types of businesses. The good news is: most retail stores don’t offer an environment conducive to full-blown bed bug infestations. But, they can get introduced via customer and employees, on personal belongings, returns, and more. Rentokil Steritech’s experts advise retail stores to educate their employees on what bed bugs look like and common areas of introduction. Having a policy for isolating returns can also help reduce risk.


Spiders give plenty of folks the creeps, so it’s probably not a surprise that they are at the top of the list. Rentokil Steritech identified spiders in a full 10 percent of services. In retail stores, spiders are often found hanging out in undisturbed corners, or inside boxes of product. Eliminating clutter in stock rooms and storage areas can help decrease spider issues.

German cockroaches

German cockroaches are the most versatile and resilient of pests – and populations can grow quickly. So when it comes to German cockroaches, the best defense is a good offense. In employee break rooms and food prep areas, make sure that your cleaning and sanitation protocols are always followed. To eliminate the likelihood of introducing cockroaches on supplies, be sure to have a receiving and visual inspection protocol in place and make sure that every employee understands the importance of following it. You can also reduce problems with German cockroaches by having a separate, dedicated area for employee personal item storage, and making sure that it is serviced by your pest management professional regularly.

Miscellaneous Flies

This category encompasses a variety of fly pests other than house flies. Bottle flies and blowflies are also in this group and can carry and spread harmful pathogens. Often times, these pests make their way into retail establishments from exterior sources associated with extreme decaying matter (animal carcasses, rotting food in trash areas, etc.). Reduce issues by installing prevention devices in and around entrances and dock doors. Your Rentokil Steritech representative can recommend a range of solutions suitable for your facility, including air curtains, vinyl strip doors, and insect light traps. Also, be sure to educate employees not to prop exterior doors open when taking breaks or performing outside tasks. In the time it takes to take garbage to the dumpster, pests can easily enter the propped-open door.

Fruit flies

Most likely to be a problem in food retail operations, fruit flies and other small flies are a recurring, pesky annoyance for many. These pests are often attracted to molding product, build-up of food debris (including fruit juices), and drains with organic debris accumulations. To prevent issues, it is absolutely critical to have impeccable cleaning and sanitation practices in place. Food prep areas should be thoroughly cleaned, practicing First In, First Out rotation for all products, but especially produce. It is also important to have drains professionally cleaned regularly. This, in concert with the other practices can all help reduce small fly issues.

House flies

House flies are a common issue for both food and non-food retail establishments alike. Their presence can immediately turn off customers, giving the perception of an unclean facility. However, they can be one of the hardest pests to control. As with miscellaneous flies above, speak to your Rentokil Steritech representative above the best fly control measures to put in place at your facility. Managing odors that are attractive to flies is also important – house flies can travel up to four miles to find the source of an odor attractive to them. Check out our best practices for maintaining trash areas for 10 tips that you can put into place today.

Night Flying Insects

Moths and other insects that are active at night are attracted to lighting, which is often plentiful in retail areas – parking lots, exterior building lighting, etc. From lighting, these pests make their way inside through open doors – whether receiving/loading dock doors or entrance doors.

Pavement ants

These ants get their name from their likelihood to nest near or under sidewalks, asphalt, and foundations, all of which are plentiful around retail stores. From parking lots and sidewalks, they can make their way inside buildings very easily. They can also be present in large numbers in highly visible exterior areas, which could be concerning to some of your customers. Solving ant problems is tricky business. Control methods vary based on the species, and you must always find the source to truly eliminate an ant issue. That’s why it’s critical to work with a pest management professional to resolve ant issues.


Gnats and other similar pests can be a problem outside, especially in warmer weather months. No one wants to walk through a swarm of gnats to get inside a store. These pests can be present for a number of different reasons; your pest management provider can recommend the best solution for your business.


Know your high-risk areas to develop a proactive pest management plan

Many of these pest issues can be reduced drastically by having a proactive pest management plan in place. Using an integrated pest management approach includes putting in preventative measures. These may include rodent bait stations, insect light traps, and pre-season treatments, helping to establish a perimeter defense around your retail facility.

top pests in retail

For retail stores, a best practice for creating a proactive pest management plan is to identify high-risk areas for pest entry. Do you have frequent deliveries that require your loading dock door to remain open for long periods of time? That may mean that you need to bulk up rodent and flying insect devices in these areas. Does your store process a lot of clothing returns? To avoid bed bug issues, it may be best to have a quarantine process in place. Returned items can be placed in sealed, see-through bags to monitor for activity before they are returned to shelves. Do you share ceilings and walls with neighboring properties such as restaurants that can attract pests? If so, consider amplifying defenses in those shared ceilings so that you’re alerted at the first sign of an issue.

By working with your pest management provider to identify your high-risk areas, you can develop a truly proactive pest management plan to protect your customers, employees, products, and your brand.

Learn more about Rentokil Steritech’s pest management services for food retail and non-food retail stores or contact us for more information.


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