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Report shows rodents on the decrease

February 22, 2008 at 10:53 am

We have all heard the alarming statistic that, when walking the streets of our major cities, we are never further than a few feet away from a rat (the precise distance depends on who is telling the story). It was no surprise therefore that when councils introduced alternate week collections of household waste, rats hit the headlines. Indeed, a judge in Oxford told a council tax rebel that he agreed that her rodent problem had arisen because of the council’s fortnightly collection of waste.

Just over a year ago, the National Pest Technicians’ Association (NPTA) published a report blaming “recycling mania” for a 39% increase in brown rat infestations between 1998 and 2005. The report declared that if the problem continued to escalate, the UK could face a major public health problem.

The recycling sector was unimpressed with the research and accuracy of the report, and Jeff Cooper of the Environment Agency argued that unless rats were chewing their way into wheelie bins, fortnightly collections could not possibly be responsible for the increase in infestations. Indeed, they could have a positive effect, since less rubbish was being placed in black bin bags, which offered easy pickings for the rat population.

Twelve months on and the NPTA have changed tack, reporting a 23% decrease in the brown rat population. Their report this year concludes that alternate week collections “properly managed and supervised at grass roots level are working fairly well” and lays the blame for rodent activity on excessive amounts of food being put out for the birds, and home composting issues. The decrease in numbers could also be related to the fact that, with some councils discontinuing their free pest control service, some householders no longer report their rodent problems.

The solution to home composters attracting rats, lies in the positioning of the plastic containers. If left on soft ground, rats are able to tunnel up into the composter. If it is not possible to site the composters on concrete, then strong but fine wire mesh can be used to cover the bottom of the container, rendering it impenetrable for rodents. For added peace of mind, the composter can be dug into a six inch deep hole in the ground, and the displaced soil used to bank up around the base.

There are also various things that you can do to make your garden less of a magnet to rats.

  • Do not put cooked food or egg shells into the compost bin.
  • Cover the raw food scraps with other materials such as grass cuttings.
  • Make sure you give the contents a good shake from time to time as the rats like to be undisturbed.
  • There are various compost bins on the market which are guaranteed to be rat proof although these tend to be more expensive than the normal type.
  • If you feed the birds in your garden, do not put bread or cakes out as this will attract rats. Instead, stick to seeds and nuts in proper bird feeders and keep the surrounding area swept.

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