Parasitec discusses city pests and rodenticide alternatives

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These days all pest management events have an almost obligatory programme of seminars running alongside the main exhibition. Parasitec was no exception and the programme attracted plenty of interest among visitors with the 120 seater room frequently full to capacity.

Two sessions caught our eye: A multinational session on Pest control in the city and a technical presentation entitled Alternative methods of control in rodents: myth or reality?

Oarasitec 2014 panel
The pest control in the city speakers. From left Metin Acar, Josá©-Maria Camara Vicario,
Takfine Herrak and AndreᯠLá©ca 

Pest control in the city
In the event, the series of presentations about pest control in the city proved quite a challenge for the translators, particularly the first paper. It was from Josá©-Maria Camara Vicario, head of the technical unit for the control of pests for the city of Madrid and proved to be a frantic gallop through a vast number of slides, many full of complicated graphs and maps. It was difficult if not downright impossible for the translators to keep up and my French was definitely not up to that speed. The key message for me was that there has clearly been an awful lot more money and effort expended on rodent mapping and control in Madrid’s sewers than in any city I know of in the UK. Mr Camara Vicario advocated an integrated, multi-function approach to rodent control using population mapping to predict where hot spots were likely to develop and with private companies and the public sector working together. However he did flag up the impact of the economic crisis, pointing out that currently the state has no money and pests in the city are on the increase.

The second speaker was from Morocco. Takfine Herrak from the Ministry of Health emphasised the public health imperatives of pest control in his country. He outlined the key disease threats – malaria, bilharzias and leishmanioses – and the role that insect and rodent pests have in spreading these. The authorities in Morocco are proud that since 2004 there have been no cases of indigenous malaria in the country. Biological controls – fish to eat the larvae – physical barriers and chemical controls have all played their part in eradicating the disease. Bilharzia has also been eliminated but the authorities continue to monitor the situation.

From the Romanian trade association, AndreᯠLá©ca explained how, over the past 20 years, the city has tackled its severe pest problems – in 1995 it was listed by the World Health Organisation as the top city for rats – it was estimated that there were six rats for every inhabitant so the city then was infested by some 12 million rats. Drawing on expertise from manufacturing companies, (LODI France got a specific mention), the Romanian authorities set about appointed a service provider and began an intensive baiting programme. This has been followed by a more targeted programme involving local community organisations, housing associations and so on.

The final session was by way of an introduction to next year’s Parasitec, which will be in Istanbul. Metin Acar from the Turkish association HASKOD described the pest control market in Turkey. He explained that its origins go back to the 1950s/60s when the Ministry of Health developed a malaria eradication programme.

In the 1980s, the municipalities took the lead then, in the 1990s the private PCO sector began to flourish as the big multinational pest control businesses entered the market.

Philippe Dommanget
Philippe Dommanget from the French
pest control magazine, NP&i,
introduced the speakers

Mrtin Acar
Metin Acar gave an overview of the Turkish
pest control market – a precursor to
Parsitec 2015 which will be held in Istanbul

Romain Laaseur
Dr Romain Lasseur had some interesting findings
about the effectiveness of 
ultrasonics and
seismic vibrations 
in deterring rats

In the 2000s this changed and now there is a mixture of small private sector companies as well as the big multinationals and public municipalities. It is estimated that there are today around 900 PCO companies and HASKOD represents some 100 of these. There is a lot of bureaucracy. PCOs work under licence from their municipality but if they want to work in another city they must apply for another licence from that city.

Alternative rodent control methods
Dr Romain Lasseur, director of the Claude Bourgelat Institute picked-up on one of the biggest questions in pest control at present. What if anticoagulant rodenticides are banned tomorrow? He then ran through the well trodden path of the reasons why controlling rats is essential -disease risk, loss of crops, costs associated with electrical fires etc etc. One interesting fact he came up with was that in the US they estimated that a third of all wildfires are caused by rodents

He covered other well worn topics such as the need for rodenticides to be slow acting so that the rats don’t associate eating the bait with feeling ill and the problems of secondary poisoning. He discussed too the changes in the public’s attitude to killing rats – ten years ago it was seen as acceptable but it is now much less so.

He considered a number of alternatives such as:

  • Alphachloralose but it’s fast acting, so, whilst it works for mice, it’s far less effective in rats;
  • Alphacellulose where the animals die of dehydration -but is this a publically acceptable means of killing an animal?
  • Signalling pheromones for example fox pheromones to frighten off the rats ,but doing the research will cost millions;
  • Sterilisation hormones but concerns that these might have long term effects on the human population;
  • Ultrasonics and infrasonics (seismic vibrations)

Of these Dr Lasseur felt that ultrasonics could have a role. He outlined his research which showed that ultrasonics, especially combined with seismic vibrations, will deter rats. It doesn’t kill them, of course, or prevent them from returning once the equipment is turned off, but it can successfully protect vulnerable areas such as kitchens.

Other topics
Also discussed were regulatory issues, mole control, dry rot, termites, understanding animal and insect behaviour and, on the last morning when unfortunately we were already back in the UK, a paper on how many rats per inhabitant live in the city. I wonder what they concluded?

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