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Rats on the rampage

November 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Home Maintenance, Pest Control

Rats on the rampage: Vermin boom blamed on cuts in refuse collections

Britain’s rat population is soaring to record levels.

The abolition of weekly bin collections, a succession of mild winters and the summer floods are to blame for the rising numbers, rat catchers say.

The fast-food culture which sees towns and cities covered with half-eaten burgers and pizzas most Friday and Saturday nights is also fuelling the epidemic.

Yet despite the threat to public health, a growing number of town halls are discouraging households from complaining about rats by charging up to £80 a visit for pest controllers.

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The warning follows a 20 per cent rise in pest control call-outs over the last year.

In the worst-hit cities, such as York, the number of reported infestations has more than doubled in the last 12 months. Exeter City Council reported a 66 per cent rise in vermin call-outs last year, Salford a 40 per cent rise and Carlisle a 142 per cent increase.

There are no official figures for the UK’s rat population. Estimates vary from 15million to 100million.

However, Iain Turner, a director of the National Pest Technicians Associations, which represents pest controllers, said: ‘What we do know is that in the last two years there has been a significant increase in sales of rodenticides to professionals.

‘Almost certainly that is down to the fact we have had two very mild winters. You need cold winters to kill off rats. There has also been a big increase in the amount of food litter. You go into any city or town early on a Sunday morning and you see the remains of takeaways everywhere.’

The summer floods of the last two years which saw drains overwhelmed with rainwater have also forced rats to seek homes in gardens and waste ground.

Some experts say the introduction of alternate weekly collections, where food is allowed to rot in bins for up to two weeks before being taken away, has added to the crisis.

Most councils use rat-proof wheelie bins with lids to stop vermin reaching food waste. However, the axing of weekly collections has led to hundreds of thousands of homes composting food scraps for the first time.

While councils are eager to help householders turn food waste into compost, few provide composters with rat-proof wire meshes to stop rodents burrowing in.

Pest expert Peter Crowden said: ‘Just putting extra food scraps on compost heaps means fantastic breeding grounds for rats to spread disease.’

Many councils demand up to £80 to tackle infestations in homes and gardens. Where councils introduce charges, the number of call-outs falls.

Water firms are also failing to tackle infestations by routinely baiting sewers and drains, experts say.


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