The Summer of Pests

Graphic of common hotel pests.

New Zealand’s summer has been warm and drawn out, in some places reaching record temperatures.

“December and January have been warmer than normal. Last summer (2017/18) was the hottest on record for NZ, and although we are not tracking as warm as that, some records were broken last week,” said Lisa Murray, consultant meteorologist, MetService.

For example, Wellington broke its temperature record on January 29 which had stood at 30.3 °C since 1927.

While most visitors will have enjoyed the hot weather, pests and rodents have also been loving the good conditions.

Heiko Kaiser, founder and owner of pest control service ALPECO said while it’s all part of a natural cycle, this particularly warm weather makes for ideal pest breeding conditions.

“Because of the warmer weather, the breeding and eating is faster. Certainly, warmer weather helps them provide shelter, better areas to breed. Growth rates are far higher than in colder areas,” said Kaiser.

Kaiser also noticed this summer that flies arrived later than normal, “We had a late fly season from our point of view, and now it’s just kicking in.”

During November and December, sales for fly traps were surprisingly low, but he noticed a big spike in the latter half of the summer. This means that flies could stick around and cause problems longer than March or April when the cold weather normally starts to ward them off.

Flies aren’t the only insect giving the hospitality sector a hard time over summer.

“Don’t forget we are the country with the most moths in the world. We have over 4,000 different types so it’s the perfect environment them to just breed. It’s a beautiful summer for them to breed and eat.”

And while this good weather makes ideal conditions for insects, when the weather turns for the worse an influx of rodents is to be expected. Rats and mice need to find a warm dry place to stay over winter, and that is usually indoors.

“If there’s lots of rain then there are lots of rodents. When you have cold winters, they try to find more shelter inside in barns and sheds. But when we have this nice weather everything is in favour of them, so they don’t have to hide.”

This means rats and mice can breed to their heart's content, and when the weather turns cold, hotels and restaurants will feel the effects of an extended rodent breeding season.

Pest specialists agree the best way to deal with pests is by getting ahead of them. Cleaning and regular maintenance to prevent pest entry go a long way, but if the problem is already there, DIY solutions won’t be enough. Integrated pest management (IPM) solutions where an expert comes and deals with it are almost always the only option once it’s too late.