The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been immediate, and long lasting, with businesses having to adjust the way operations take place. While for you and I the impact has been quite easy to see; from wearing masks and carrying sanitizer wherever you go to avoiding contact with others. The one aspect that often is overlooked is the impact the pandemic has had on rodents, as these pesky pests are having to adapt like everyone else.
Rodent Impact on Commercial Areas
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many food service locations shutting down – especially restaurants, food courts and other food service venues. There were plenty of food and water sources when these venues were open, which meant no food competition for these pests. When the locations shut down, the following occurred :
The quiet streets meant freedom for rodents to move around without hesitation. These rodents came out from hiding and roamed the streets in search of food. As a result, there was an increase in rodent sightings and activity. With scarce food options available, fighting and cannibalism amongst rodents became possible – leading to more sighting of dead rodents or fighting noises on streets or nearby.
Because of the additional rodent activity, there may be a correlation between more rodents trying to get into empty buildings and additional rodent damage to structures, gnawing, burrows , etc. being caused. The lack of human activity in commercial facilities also created a quiet environment where rodents will also increase their indoor activities, which will result in damage to stored products and food contamination from droppings and urine.
That increase in rodent activity has also led to an increase in ectoparasites that are found on rats and other rodents such as rodent fleas, mites and ticks, that have the potential to infest areas/buildings. As these rodents migrated to new areas, they may not be willing and ready to go to previous hiding habitats meaning new territories, possibly in empty restaurants or other empty spaces.
Rodent Impact on Residential Areas
Rodents from commercial areas migrated to residential areas in search of food; hence, there was also an increased sightings and rodent population in residential areas. This population influx has led to increased rodent damage, as more rodents take residence in and around homes.
As people produced more waste and food refuse during pandemic lockdown (A survey conducted by research firm Caddle for Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Labs showed that Canadians produced 13.5% more food waste during the lockdown than non-lockdown times) meaning plenty of food for rodents.
Food abundance means high reproductive rates and increase in rodent populations, which is why more people are seeing rodents in their neighbourhoods.
Reviewed by Alice Sinia, Ph.D., MSc on March 3 2021.
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