Monday, September 6, 2010

Pests and the Canterbury Earthquake

There are many things more important than pests for the people of Canterbury to think about at this time; friends and family, making buildings safe, continuing aftershocks, the clean up etc. However, there should, perhaps, be some thought put into pests. In the case of rodents and flies they can be transmitters of disease, and this is a time that disease is one of the major threats. In the case of borer and ants this would be an opportunity to carry out effective control programs.

The ground in Christchurch and surrounding districts has been given a good shake up. The buildings that many pests live in have also been shaken and many destroyed. Pests that naturally live and nest in the ground or live in buildings with us, such as rats, mice, borer, flies and ants will have had a shake up also. What is likely to happen to the pests? What effect will the quake have on them?

Rats and Mice
Norway rats (sometimes known as water rats) normally live in burrows but often make their homes in sewers, drains and buildings. They are strongly commensal with human activity. Roof rats are naturally arboreal, usually living and nesting in trees, but they often live in the roofs and higher parts of our buildings, as their name suggests.

It seems likely that rats of both types will have been shaken out of their normal routine. While many will have been killed as their nests collapsed, many more will have been induced to leave their ‘homes’ and will scatter, seeking new places to find food sources and shelter. The destruction of buildings and their contents will have broken food storage containers and facilities perhaps allowing access to the food for rodents and other pests.

With broken sewers and water systems there comes a risk of direct contamination of water supplies from sewers, but also of rats that had been living in sewers carrying disease to new areas. The same is probably the same with mice. Rats and mice dribble urine continually and produce many droppings each day.

Take care when cleaning up your home or workplace. Wear gloves and carry out good hygiene to prevent picking up disease such as gastroenteritis, Wiel’s disease, salmonella, E. coli etc. Remove or secure possible food sources for pests as soon as possible. Carry out preventative rodent control.

Ants and Other Insect Pests
The major ant pests in Christchurch are Darwin and Argentine ants. Both these species commonly live in nests in sandy soil. Both also produce ‘super colonies’ where several nests co-operate and act as a single colony. Each nest contains multiple queens, each capable, with only a few workers, of setting up a new nest.

It seems likely that many ant nests have been destroyed. However, as with rodents, it seems likely that many more nests will have been disturbed and the colonies will have ‘budded’ as queens with their own groups of workers leave damaged and disturbed nests in seek of new places to set up home. So there may be an initial reduction of ant numbers across the city but those remaining will be seen more as they move. As warm weather arrives, ant colony size will rise quickly. New ant nests are likely to find new sources of food and shelter quickly.

While ants are under environmental stress from the disturbance of the earthquake it would be a good time to carryout an ant control program around your property to prevent ants setting up home there.

A similar story is likely to be the case for many other insect pests that casually intrude into buildings.

The damage to wooden buildings is not likely to have any impact on the borer larvae within. Many damaged old buildings will have to be pulled down and rebuilt and new timber will be treated and protected from borer attack. Many homes and other buildings will not be damaged to such an extent and will be repaired.

Some thought should be taken about rebuilding. If borer infested timbers such as weatherboards, joists, beams etc. are exposed during repair this is an ideal time to treat the bare timber with borer protection such as NO Borer fluid. You can get up to 20 years borer protection from such treatment.

The temperature reached 21C in Christchurch yesterday, which was pleasant for those living without electricity, but it is an indication of warmer weather to come in spring and summer and immediately encourages flies to breed. The warm weather combined with broken sewers, spilled food and other fly breeding places may see a rapid increase in fly numbers. Flies are carriers of disease and may move from sewerage to your kitchen work surfaces or food. It would be advisable to carry out pre emptive fly control and use surface sprays such as NO Bugs Super and NO Flies to reduce the risks and annoyance of flies.

Kiwicare product will continue to be available from our retailers throughout Canterbury. Kiwicare is a Canterbury company and we wish everyone in the region all the best in this difficult time.

A mouse walks into a bar and asks the bartender “Have you got any cheese?”
“No” says the barman.

“Got any cheese?” Repeats the mouse.
“No, I have no cheese” says the barman.

The mouse: “Got any cheese?”
Barman: “NO. Are you deaf? I said I have NOT got any cheese.”

“Got any cheese?”
“I am cheesed of with you! But I have no cheese and if you don’t stop asking me if I’ve got cheese I’ll nail you to the bar.”

“Got any nails?”

“Got any cheese?”

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