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Is Global Warming Going To Create An Urban Rat Population Explosion?

29 Aug 2017

Posted by John D. Stellberger

EHS Pest Rodent Expert

Of all of the possible impacts of a warming climate, one that’s probably not considered too often is the potential for an enormous explosion in the number of urban rats throughout many parts of the world.

That’s unfortunate, though, as the potential is certainly there for urban rats to become an enormous problem as temperatures continue to climb, particularly with regard to the spread of many dangerous diseases.

Signs are that things are already veering dangerously close to the point of urban rat populations becoming completely unmanageable. As it is, most attempts to control growing rat populations in heavily urbanized areas of the US have proven expensive and effective only over the short term. This being the case … how much worse can things get?

One of the top experts out there on urban rats, Bobby Corrigan, was recently quoted as saying: “I travel all over the world with this animal, and the amount of complaints and feedback and questions I hear right now are all, ‘We’ve never seen rats in the city like this before,’ he said. ‘They’re all expressing the same concern: Our rat problem is worse than ever.’ ”

Rat populations seem to be growing rapidly, in other words, but individual rats are also “ballooning to the size of human infants” — primarily due to rising temperatures, but also due to growing urbanization and the accompanying profligate human waste of resources.

Something that should explained up front here, by the way, is that resistance to common poisons amongst urban rat populations has been growing rapidly in recent years. That’s another one of the advantages of high and growing population numbers: an ability to rapidly develop resistance to “control methods.”

The New Republic provides more: “What they don’t know is how this all will end. Houston, Texas, is seeing a rat spike this year, and so is New York City. In Chicago, rodent complaints for the early part of the summer have increased about 9 percent from last year, forcing city officials to start sprinkling the streets with rat birth control. Philadelphia and Boston were recently ranked the two cities with the most rat sightings in the country. And it’s not just this year; as USA Today reported last year, major cities saw spikes in rodent-related business from 2013 to 2015. Calls to Orkin, the pest control service, were reportedly ‘up 61 percent in Chicago; 67 percent in Boston; 174 percent in San Francisco; 129 percent in New York City; and 57 percent in Washington, D.C.'”

Those figures are something, aren’t they? Well, we can apparently expect more of the same for the foreseeable future.

Corrigan continues: “Breeding usually slows down during the winter months.” With warming winters, however, the rate of breeding and population expansion surges. “They have an edge of squeezing out one more litter, one more half litter,” Corrigan explained.

The New Republic coverage continues: “One more litter or half litter makes a serious difference when a population boom is not only a nuisance, but a public health and economic crisis. Rats breed like rabbits; as this alarming Rentokil graphic shows, two rats in an ideal environment can turn into 482 million rats over a period of three years. Urban rats caused $19 billion worth of economic damage in the year 2000, partially due to the fact that they eat away at buildings and other infrastructure. Imagine how much they’re costing now.”

So, even not considering the fact that rats are carriers for all sorts of diseases that are dangerous to humans, there’s also the direct impact on infrastructure, which, as revealed above, is shockingly substantial.

So, why isn’t more being done to deal with urban rats? Because it isn’t particularly cost effective to do so. Even New York City’s $32 million program hasn’t and isn’t expected to curtail population growth for more than a few years.

Corrigan noted: “Rats are very incredible, wildly intelligent mammals, and human beings keep going around trying to exterminate (them) as if it’s the opposite. These cities are up against one of the most incredible mammals on the planet, which only stand to increase in number.”

That reminds me of what I read about a relatively recent attempt to reduce urban coyote populations in the Chicago area: even after dropping millions of dollars on the project, and being fairly aggressive in the use of dangerous poisons, the impact on coyote numbers wasn’t substantial. The population was expected to recover completely within only a few years. So, several million dollars down the drain in other words.

The reality seems to be that some animals (those in a position to do so) have become adapted enough to urban environments that doing away with them would be either cost prohibitive or completely impossible. There are some urban regions in the US where this certainly seems to be the case as regards rats, coyotes, and perhaps crows as well. Many insect pests are, of course, in a similar situation.

With antibiotic resistance a looming issue, it seems likely that diseases that have become much less common in the developed world over the last century will be making a comeback, partly on the backs of surging populations of organisms that have become well adapted to human-created urban environments.

Something to keep in mind as you continue watching temperature records being broken — every year for the rest of your life.

For more information about rats, call EHS Pest.

Source: cleantechnica.com

Cartoonist Finds Niche in Pest Control Advertising

28 Aug 2017

Posted by John D. Stellberger

EHS Pest Services

In the days of modern advertising, savvy consumers have learned to skim over advertisements when they feel the advertiser is pandering to them. This can lead to an unsatisfactory ad campaign — which strays far from the intended result.

This is partially what led Mark Anderson, a cartoonist, to his profession of choice. After dabbling in the art form, contributing cartoons to his high school and college newspapers, he eventually picked up enough traction to quit his day job and become a cartoonist full time. His drawings don’t just show up in the funny pages of local papers, however. They appear in advertisements and in business newsletters, serving clients ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Good Housekeeping.

“Here’s the great thing about cartoons: they are sort of a Trojan horse as far as marketing goes. Basically no one can, or wants to, ignore a cartoon,” Anderson said. “It’s so benign and it’s so inviting, and it’s giving you a little something. It’s telling you a little joke that you can share, forward to a friend or hang up on your refrigerator. You’re being marketed to but you’re also being given something.”

Source: PCT Magazine

America is on the Verge of Ratpocalypse

24 Aug 2017

Posted by John D. Stellberger

EHS Pest Services, MA, RI

Warmer weather is fueling a rodent surge, straining public health systems and the economy. It's time for the federal government to step in.

Bobby Corrigan is the rat master. Some call him the rat czar. To others, he is simply a rodentologist, or as NBC recently described him, “one of the nation’s leading experts on rats.” Call him what you want; he is mostly alarmed. “I travel all over the world with this animal, and the amount of complaints and feedback and questions I hear right now are all, ‘We’ve never seen rats in the city like this before,” he said. “They’re all expressing the same concern: Our rat problem is worse than ever.”

What they don’t know is how this all will end. Houston, Texas, is seeing a rat spike this year, and so is New York City. In Chicago, rodent complaints for the early part of the summer have increased about 9 percent from last year, forcing city officials to start sprinkling the streets with rat birth control. Philadelphia and Boston were recently ranked the two cities with the most rat sightings in the country. And it’s not just this year; as USA Today reported last year, major cities saw spikes in rodent-related business from 2013 to 2015. Calls to Orkin, the pest control service, were reportedly “up 61 percent in Chicago; 67 percent in Boston; 174 percent in San Francisco; 129 percent in New York City; and 57 percent in Washington, D.C.”

It’s no surprise that rats thrive in cities, where humans provide an abundance of food and shelter. But experts now agree that the weather is playing a role in these recent increases. Extreme summer heat and this past winter’s mild temperatures have created urban rat utopias.

“The reason the rats are so bad now, we believe, is because of the warm winters,” said Gerard Brown, program manager of the Rodent and Vector Control Division of the D.C. Department of Health, at a 2016 rat summit.

Rat pro Corrigan agrees. “Breeding usually slows down during the winter months,” he said. But with shorter, warmer winters becoming more common—2016 was America’s warmest winter on record—rats are experiencing a baby boom. “They have an edge of squeezing out one more litter, one more half litter,” Corrigan said.

One more litter or half litter makes a serious difference when a population boom is not only a nuisance, but a public health and economic crisis. Rats breed like rabbits; as this alarming Rentokil graphic shows, two rats in an ideal environment can turn into 482 million rats over a period of three years. Urban rats caused $19 billion worth of economic damage in the year 2000, partially due to the fact that they eat away at buildings and other infrastructure. Imagine how much they’re costing now.

What’s more, every new litter increases the risk of a rodent-borne disease. A 2014 Columbia University study showed that New York City’s rats carry diseases like E. coli, salmonella, and Seoul hanta¬≠virus, which “can cause Ebolalike hemorrhagic fever,” according to the Washington Post. Rats also carry the rare bacterial disease known as leptospirosis, which recently killed one person and sickened two in the Bronx.

Clearly, the coming ratpocalypse is no longer a city-centric problem. It is threatening the health of millions across the country, costing billions of dollars, and is being fueled by global climate change that the U.S. primarily created. And yet cities—which are expected to hold 70 percent of the world’s population by 2050—are largely dealing with their rodent crises on their own. Why isn’t the federal government stepping in?

The federal government wasn’t always silent on rats. From 1969 to 1982, the Center for Disease Control awarded cities grants under what was known as the Urban Rat Control program, championed by then-President Lyndon Johnson. The program started small, servicing only 19 communities across the country, but eventually grew to serve 65 communities with an annual budget of $13 million, which was matched by state and local governments. While the program did experience some hiccups, it was widely considered successful. Quoting the CDC, the Associated Press reported in 1982: “As a result of the efforts, 7.7 million people now live in rat-free, environmentally improved neighborhoods.”

But President Ronald Reagan eliminated the program, saying the rat problem should be dealt with by individual states. That irked former CDC Director of Environmental Health William Houk, who told United Press International at the time that the program was “one of the more worthwhile projects of the federal government.” Reagan’s decision to cut it, Houk said, “is a classic example of the government doing something with the people instead of for them.”

Rat-plagued cities are now left to their own devices. And they’re not exactly doing a great job. In part, that’s because rats are elusive. As Linda Poon wrote this year for CityLab, “no one really knows how many rats there are. Not in New York City, nor Washington, D.C., nor Chicago—all three of which rank among the most rodent-infested cities in the U.S.” Rats in these urban areas depend on humans for food and shelter, meaning their environment only improves as more and more humans cram into cities with every passing year. And as researchers noted in the Journal of Urban Ecology this year, rats rapidly evolve to resist poisons, the most commonly known form of extermination.

Still, the biggest roadblock, Corrigan said, is that rat eradication programs are just plain underfunded. “It’s been my experience watching cities that people are not willing to pay what it takes to get rid of all the rats affecting a property or a building,” he said. And even when cities are willing to pony up, it’s still not enough. Even in the best-case scenario, New York City’s staggeringly large $32 million program to kill rodents would reduce rat populations in the city’s most infested areas only by 70 percent.

Federal funding could help to close the gap. Officials at the CDC may not be paying much attention now, but they should be, if only because the public health cost of rat infestations has never been fully studied. It’s hard to quantify just how much money rats are costing health systems, Corrigan said, because most people sickened by rats have flu-like symptoms, and many don’t know they’ve been exposed to a rat.

Public health is not just a local issue, and neither is climate change. Researchers admit that it’s extremely difficult to study rats, but many are confident that if temperatures continue to rise, rat populations—and the problems that come with them—will continue to grow. “I personally feel there is a connection with climate change, just because of logic and the biology of rats’ reproductive cycle,” Corrigan said. “Global climate change fits into this discussion in some measurement. How much, I’m just not sure.”

But the Trump administration doesn’t need to accept that climate change will make rodent infestations worse to step in and save the cities from their rats. As the administration has eliminated federal programs to fight climate change, cities have stepped up, aggressively funding their own efforts to slow carbon dioxide emissions. Cities are already fighting battles that shouldn’t be only theirs to fight. The least the federal government could do is chip in for some rat control.

Maybe the best way to get Trump’s attention and sell him on reviving the Urban Rat Control grant program is to stress that there is glory to be had, and for relatively cheap. “Rats are very incredible, wildly intelligent mammals, and human beings keep going around trying to exterminate [them] as if it’s the opposite,” Corrigan said. “These cities are up against one of the most incredible mammals on the planet, which only stand to increase in number.” For a mere $13 million (plus inflation), Trump could stop the ratpocalypse before it begins.

To learn more about rat control, call EHS Pest.

Source: newrepublic.com

Fleas in Arizona test positive for plague

15 Aug 2017

Posted by John D. Stellberger

TAYLOR, Ariz. - The infectious disease that killed millions during the Middle Ages has been found again in Arizona.

Fleas in Navajo County have tested positive for the plague, KTVK reported. One week ago, fleas on prairie dogs in Coconino County tested positive for the disease.

EHS Pest - Arizona Plague Video

Click here to play video

Properties are set to be treated and officials will monitor the region to see if they need to take additional steps.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the plague is caused by Yersinia pestis.

Normally people get the illness from being bitten by a rodent carrying the bacteria or by handling an infected animal. Antibiotics can treat the illness, but without prompt treatment it can cause serious illness or death.

There are three types of plague that doctors can watch for: bubonic plague, septicemic plague and pneumonic plague. In all types, patients can have fever, headache, chills and weakness.

To learn more about Arizona Plague and how to prevent this infectious disease, contact EHS Pest.

Source: fox25boston.com

Man orders a cappuccino, gets a side of cockroach

14 Aug 2017

Posted by John D. Stellberger

A Manhattan man claims in a lawsuit his cappuccino at a swanky Upper East Side steakhouse came with a nasty addition: a large cockroach.

The insect was a nightmarish way to end a meal at The Arlington Club, where dinners can easily hit the $500 mark, said Steven Fleming, who brought friends to the eatery in April.

His pals were interested in opening a restaurant, so Fleming wanted to show them the place launched by star chef Laurent Tourondel in 2012.

They chowed down on salad, steak, and a glass of wine before ordering dessert and coffee, he said.

“I took a sip of my cappuccino, I felt something disgusting in my throat, and then something crunchy,” Fleming, 43, told The Post. “And then I spit it out and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’”

Fleming, who is now suing The Arlington Club in Manhattan Supreme Court, snapped a couple of pictures before running outside to vomit on Lexington Avenue, he said.

He claims he then spent 12 hours in the emergency room with a variety of symptoms, including nausea and high blood pressure.

“We want to make sure we hold this restaurant accountable, and that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” said his lawyer, Michael Joseph. “For the prices they’re charging the very least they could do is make sure the customers don’t have bugs in their food. We think New Yorkers deserve better.”

Fleming, who runs the executive search firm Wall Street Options, said the incident “really grossed me out.”

“On the surface, it looks like a very nice place,” he said. “I thought this would be a good example of something relatively trendy and with above average food. … I’ve been going to restaurants for 20 years in New York City and nothing like this has ever happened to me.”

A manager at The Arlington Club, where Tourondel is no longer the chef, declined comment, adding he was unaware of the lawsuit.

To learn more about cockroaches and how to safely get rid of them, call EHS Pest.

Source: nypost.com

Dry Ice (CO2) may help our environment and change Pest Management

09 Aug 2017

Posted by John D. Stellberger

EHS Pest Management, MA, RI
Dy Ice Proponents and collborators, left to right Norm Soep, John Stellberger, Bobby Corrigan, John Meaney and Rich Pollack

Doctor Robert Corrigan took Dry Ice to The Environmental Protection Agency and they approved it's use for open air rat control and with the help of Bell Laboratories it may very well hold the record for the shortest time from submission to approval. This White Paper is why I think it happened.

The Use of Dry Ice (CO2) For Controlling Exterior, Non-building Area Burrowing Norway Rat Infestations: A Case of Some Things Old Are Smart Again?

Overview

Rats and their associated ectoparasites occurring within the structured environment have been repeatedly shown by epidemiologists over several decades to be important public health pests (1, 2, 4, 6).

Traditionally, city public health rat infestations are addressed via integrated pest management programs employing sanitation, exclusion, and when necessary, the use of traps and poisoning campaigns (3, 7, 10). Interestingly, over the past six decades of rodent control work, not too much has changed with the exception of advances made in rodenticide technology. Some materials and approaches have always remained in vague areas as to their use to control rodents—especially homeowner materials and approaches (e.g., drowning yard rats with a water hose, pouring caustic materials down the rat holes, carbon monoxide from car exhaust and so on).

One material used during the 1940’s and 50’s (but never listed as a pesticide), was dry ice pellets inserted into rat burrows to asphyxiate the rats (3, 7, 10). But, with the advent of ready-to-use rodent baits beginning in the late 1940’s, dry ice was either overlooked thereafter, or used only for very specialized applications. Some zoological parks for example, (from their experiences of euthanizing various animals at the zoo using CO2 ) employed dry ice for exterminating zoo park rat infestations because they did not want the worry of secondary poisoning risks associated with the anticoagulant and non-anticoagulant baits on the market.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colorless, odorless gas and is a by-product of everyday daily respiration by most animals. It is also a naturally occurring gas in the atmosphere (about 0.03 percent), and is necessary for photosynthesis in plants. Dry ice is the solid (frozen) form of carbon dioxide. Dry ice sublimes (i.e., changes from a solid directly into a gas with no liquid phase) at temperatures typically occurring outside (e.g., in rat burrows) regardless of the season or temperature. One pound of dry ice sublimates into 8.3 ft3 of carbon dioxide gas.

Euthanizing animals via carbon dioxide is considered an acceptable humane method by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and this technique, via the use of CO2 chambers, is approved by nearly all states for urban wildlife control (via permits in some states). Carbon dioxide is also utilized in medical laboratories the world over to euthanize millions of lab rats and mice every year in medical research.

The Benefits of Using Dry Ice (CO2) For Burrowing Rat Control.

Pilot trials of dry ice (CO2) for exterior burrowing Norway rats over the past two years by several pest professionals, revealed that dry ice offers potentially strong advantages over the conventional uses of rodenticides for eliminating the public health threat of city rat infestations when they occur in earthen spaces away from building foundations about distances of 3m or more). Such spaces include park spaces, landscaped yards, backyards, empty lots, and so on.

Barring any possible forthcoming technical revelations/clarifications from toxicologists and/or veterinarians, there are five benefits to the use of dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) for eliminating exterior rat infestations that occur away from buildings:

  1. Dry ice is non-toxic to humans and pets when used in the manner as prescribed for exterior rats;
  2. Dry ice is an environmentally green approach (e.g., no secondary toxic threats to hawks, owls, foxes, dogs, cats, and others) as compared to the second generation anticoagulant baits currently allowed by label to be applied directly into rat holes that occur in yards, parks, etc.);
  3. Dry ice (CO2) is an asphyxiate, not a fumigant. Thus, as per above discussion, it is a humane treatment to the rats themselves. Rats enter slumber first, and then succumb within the slumber without re-awakening;
  4. Dry ice (CO2) is highly effective on controlling burrowing rats—especially considering that some rats in urban environments will not (for various reasons) consume professionally–applied poison baits even when they are placed directly into active burrows. When such bait-aversive rats are present and pregnant females, the infestation goes on and on continuing the public health threat and causing all parties frustrations and extending the costs of achieving control.
  5. And finally, during and after the rats die in the burrows, their associated ectoparasites (e.g., fleas, lice, mites, and ticks); many of which are public health disease vectors themselves (5,8,9) also succumb to the carbon dioxide eliminating the need for follow-up “insecticidal dusting” campaigns to reduce or eliminate these potential arthropod vectors.

It is important to note that the conventional burrow baits, of course, have no insecticidal properties, and thus, will not kill rat ectoparasites. These medically important parasites can leave the burrows seeking alternate hosts such as humans, dogs, cats and/or local wildlife which, in turn, may further spread disease organisms to a community or a local ecosystem.

So, the question is : “What (ecologically speaking) is not smart about the use of dry ice and it’s specific use in this regard?”.

It should be noted that homeowners everywhere can buy dry ice at will by simply visiting their nearest local ice dealer in town. No permits are required and no labels accompany its use. Dry ice is used for parties, for cooking, for decorations, for custodial cleaning of buildings and, as mentioned earlier, by laboratory animal facilities the world over. A simple on-line search for dry ice vendors and dry ice equipment quickly reveals how pervasive the use of dry ice is to homeowners and commercial entities alike. Homeowners, if they wished, could apply dry ice to their own yards for various reasons. In fact, when homeowners are finished with their dry ice use, they typically dispose of it by spreading it out on the ground of their properties.

Additional Input Needed

There are two, and possibly three critical inputs needed to “weigh-in” on the possible future use of dry ice for rats (DIFR), both of which would prove helpful to all parties involved (EPA, State Regs, PMPs, and property owners).

First, a toxicologist(s) needs to "weigh-in" on the relative non-toxic threat of dry ice when used at the recommended: a) concentrations; b) locations and, c) application techniques, as would be done for exterior Norway rat burrows away from buildings. Although earlier research on this topic has been conducted (as cited with Meehan (1984), the work is dated and perhaps needs to be re-visited. Obviously should any toxicological issues emerge ( as per the three aspects just mentioned) that have been overlooked, then reconsiderations among all parties on the use of DIFR are obvious.

Second, for veterinarians to weigh-in as to why carbon dioxide used in this manner is such a "smart" (i.e., humane) method of killing (since presently, we still must kill these public health pests when they move into or around our yards, parks, schools, and exteriors of restaurants, housing complexes, offices, etc.).

And third, for an environmental lawyer to be consulted as to alternate “work-arounds” pending a lack of toxicological and/or humaneness concerns as is currently suggested.

References:

  1. Battersby, S. A., R. Parsons, and J. P. Webster. 2002. Urban rat infestations and the risk to public health. Journal of Environmental Health Research 1: 57-65.
  2. Easterbrook, J.D., J.B. Kaplan, N. B. Vanasco, W. K. Reeves, R. H. Purcell, M.Y. Kosoy, G.E. Glass, J.Watson and S.L. Klein. 2007. A survey of zoonotic pathogens carried by Norway rats in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Epidemiol. Infect. 135 (7): 1192.
  3. Federal Security Agency. 1949. Rat-borne disease. Prevention and Control. Public Health Service. Communicable Disease Center. Atlanta, GA. 292pp.
  4. Firth, C., M. Bhat, M A. Firth, et al. 2014. Detection of Zoonotic Pathogens and Characterization of Novel Viruses Carried by Commensal Rattus norvegicus in New York City. September/October 2014 Volume 5 Issue 5.
  5. Frye, M., C.A. Firth, M.J. Bhat, M.A. Firth, and W.I. Lipkin. 2015. Preliminary Survey of Ectoparasites from Norway Rats in New York City. J. of Medical Entomology. Short Communication.
  6. Himsworth, C.G., Parsons K.L, Jardine C, Patrick D.M., 2013. Rats, cities, people, and pathogens: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of literature regarding the ecology of rat-associated zoonoses in urban centers. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 13:349–359.
  7. Meehan, A.P. 1984. Rats and Mice. Their Biology and Control. Rentokil Ltd., E. Grinstead, U.K. 383pp.
  8. Meerburg, B.G, G.R. Singleton, and A. Kijlstra . 2009. Rodent-borne diseases and their risks for public health. Crit. Rev. Microbiol. 35:221–270.
  9. Mullin G. and L. Durden (Eds.) 2009. Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 2nd Ed. Academic Press. San Diego, CA. 597 pp.
  10. Southern, H.N. (Ed.). 1954. Control of rats and mice. Vol. III. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 225 pp.

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