Booming Vermin Populations

Overflowing bins and pest control cutbacks are causing Britain’s vermin population to boom.

vermin populationsIn many areas around the country, the council has cut back its pest control services to divert resources to "priority" causes, most notably recycling. Rubbish is collected every week but unfortunately in areas such as London, overflowing bins are a common occurrence.

The result is rats – and lots of them. Recent estimates put the UK rat count at between 60 million and 100 million and climbing. After three successive mild winters and warm summers, rats have become fitter, stronger and much more numerous.

A female rat is capable of producing litters of 10, 10 times a year, and they have thrived as rat-catchers have been made redundant and rubbish collection has become less frequent.

There is huge anger out there, and it will only get worse as more councils switch over to fortnightly collections.

We think of it as a thing of the past – the last known outbreak in Britain was more than 300 years ago – but yersinia pestis, as the bubonic plague is correctly termed, is still with us. More than 38,000 cases have been reported recently to the World Health Organisation by 25 different countries in Asia, Africa, South America – and the United States. In fact, there are believed to be more rodents infected with plague in North America than there were in Europe in the Middle Ages.

Of course, rats don’t only carry plague. Two out of three carry cryptosporidium (a cause of gastroenteritis); only slightly less common are salmonella, listeria (which causes septicaemia), toxoplasmosis (blindness), Q fever, Hantaan fever, and the lethal Weil’s disease.

Britain has long been perceived as the "dustbin of Europe" by its continental neighbours. Householders dump nearly 18 million tons of domestic rubbish and nonrecyclable waste each year in landfill, covering an area the size of Warwick (109 square miles).

Now, however, EU recycling targets mean local authorities have to change. At present councils are expected to recycle 25% of their waste, rising to 40% by 2015. Failure to meet the targets will result in severe financial penalties of up to £150 a ton. Adding to their woes is the spiralling cost of landfill, currently £24 a ton, rising to £32 a ton in 2008.

The solution, for many councils, has been a combination of fortnightly collection and investment in recycling. Described by experts as "alternate weekly collections", they involve recyclable waste being picked up one week and domestic refuse being picked up in the next.

Another big issue is sewers, where water companies do little to eliminate rats. In most areas, barely a fifth of sewers are inspected as a matter of course. The rest are checked only if something goes wrong. It’s not unknown for retired engineers to be called out in emergencies and asked where pipes run.

Similarly catastrophic is the decision by 67% of local authorities to cut back on rodent officers. According to the National Pest Technicians Association, the result of councils charging for pest control – and people declining to pay – is an increase of 69% in the rat population over seven years.

Attack Pest Control are the number one provider of 1st class pest control for the south-east region, and specialise in the operation of integrated pest management solutions. Contact us for further information.