As a grain processing or storage facility manager, it’s important to keep up with – and keep out – pests. An infestation can damage your facility’s reputation, attract negative attention from regulatory agencies and the media, lead to a product recall or even a lawsuit.
Unfortunately, grain handling facilities can attract pests like cockroaches, rodents, flies and stored product pests due to the ready availability of a warm environment, food sources and harborage sites. Stored-product pests can affect the quality of the grain, and other pests like cockroaches, rodents and flies can contaminate raw and finished products by spreading disease-causing pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella. In addition, rodents and even some stored product pests can cause expensive structural damage.
To keep insects and rodents out of your grain facility, work with your pest management professional to implement a comprehensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. IPM programs include the use of non-chemical, preventive techniques that eliminate the elements pests seek: food, water and shelter.
One critical – yet easy to implement – component of IPM is facility maintenance. Work with your pest management professional to identify potential pest entry areas and the conditions that attract and encourage pest activity. Your pest management professional can provide information on facility maintenance techniques that will help address specific concerns where maintenance and housekeeping measures are the solution.
Let’s take a look at a few tips you can employ to keep pests outside where they belong.
CREATE A NO-ENTRY ZONE
Windows and doors are the two easiest places to start when it comes to preventing pest entry. Rodents and mice can fit through tiny openings around doors, so install auto-closers, thresholds and door sweeps at all pedestrian entrances. Plastic strip curtains, screen doors or a second set of doors can provide additional protection. Overhead doors and gaps around dock plates are other potential pest entry areas. Be sure to replace any worn seals to keep pests out. Use weather stripping around window frames and check the integrity of screens at least monthly. Seal any unnecessary openings around feed lines and utility penetrations using an appropriate weatherresistant sealant. Cracks and crevices at floor-wall junctions should be sealed as well. If the opening is large enough to fit a pencil, then it can provide access for pests.
Flying pests can be especially troublesome for facilities that receive deliveries on a day-to-day basis. To help keep flies out, make sure you have positive airflow (air that flows out of your building) to push pests outside. If you hold a small strip of paper near an open door, the paper should blow away from the building. Consider installing additional ventilation fans or work with a Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) professional if needed to modify your system and maintain positive airflow at all times.
You can also install air curtains above doorways that are used on a frequent basis to create a current that flying insects can’t penetrate. Be sure to size the unit appropriately and follow the manufacturers’ directions for installation and maintenance.
Mercury vapor and fluorescent lights can attract flying insects to your property. Replace these bulbs with sodium vapor lights, which aren’t as attractive to pests. To draw insects away from the building, use mercury vapor bulbs in parking lot lights and fixtures at least 100 feet away from the building.
Sanitation will help eliminate pests’ access to food and water sources. Clean up grain spills inside and outside immediately to avoid attracting birds and rodents. Monitor for moisture leaks from fixtures and processing lines and make any repairs as needed. Keep waste as far away from the building as possible and clean and rotate dumpsters frequently to minimize debris and odors that attract pests. Watch for accumulations of grain dust or other residues on equipment and in hard-to-reach areas. Although removing these deposits with a vacuum may be possible, consider installing shielding or re-routing lines to limit accumulations.
Tools like fly lights and pheromone monitors are not only indicators of a pest problem that may have arrived in a commodity shipment. These devices also pinpoint weaknesses in your facility maintenance program. Many stored product insect pests can fly and will readily enter from outside if doors are left open or vents and windows are not screened.
DON’T NURTURE NATURE
Rats and mice like to take cover under plants and flowers, so landscaping is another easy way you can help prevent pests. Trim back vegetation from the side of the building so you don’t create a "bridge" that provides pest entry. All shrubs and plantings should be at least two feet away from the building perimeter. Install a 30-inch wide gravel strip around the perimeter of your building. This open space helps prevent rodents from approaching your facility and creates an uneven surface for crawling insects.
Once pests get inside, infestations can go unnoticed and cause problems in the future. These steps will help prevent pests from entering your facility. The most important thing to remember is that facility maintenance is not a onetime occurrence. Be prepared to modify your master cleaning and maintenance schedule to ensure that needed repairs are made in a timely fashion. By maintaining your facility through a comprehensive, ongoing program, you can prevent pests proactively, rather than facing costly problems down the line.
Patrick Copps is technical services manager for Orkin’s Pacific Division. A Board Certified Entomologist in urban and industrial entomology, Copps has more than 35 years experience in the industry. For more information, email Mr. Copps at