Dr. Harrison

Eco-Friendly Practices

Pest Management During a Renovation

Avoid Unwanted Guests During Your Next Remodel

By Ronald Harrison, Director of Technical Services, Orkin Commercial LLC

In the age when reviews are a Tweet away and websites such as TripAdvisor leave a long trail of guest comments, hoteliers are under increasing pressure to keep properties up to guests' high standards. While a quick coat of paint or a new set of furniture can often keep a hotel looking great for a while, eventually every hospitality professional has to manage a major renovation. Ultimately, renovations will enhance your property's value and improve guest experience, but the process can be chaotic as you try to provide a great guest experience during major construction.

Pest management may not have been on your list of things to check before starting renovations, but pests can always invade, so even though you're concentrated on your renovation, don't let your pest control slip. That's because renovations can disrupt the sanitation, maintenance and pest management programs you have in place at your property. Unfortunately, many pests don't vacate during renovations - they just request a room change. And if a neighboring property is undergoing renovations, that could send pests looking to check into your hotel for shelter. Any disruption of a pest's normal habitat could cause them to be confused and to act differently - a mouse might run through an open door or a wasp that was happy in its tree once disturbed might sting someone. And so on.

Construction sites can create new attractions for pests, such as pooling water, piles of construction materials, or even leftover construction worker lunches. Cockroaches, rodents, flies and other pests are attracted to food, warmth, shelter and water - and construction sites often have plenty of those. That's why it's so important to keep up good pest control management practices during construction.

Which pests are introduced during renovations depends largely on where your property is located and seasonal conditions. However, no matter which ones check in, they can damage your property, your reputation and your bottom line. Roaches, rodents and other crawling pests can carry pathogens, which can cause disease. Termites can quickly erode your hotel's foundation and turn renovations into a full-blown re-build. Mosquitoes can breed in pooled water.

By taking preventative measures and working with your contractor and pest management professional, you can help keep pests away from your hotel, and subsequently, out of your online reviews.

Before Renovations Begin

Preventive measures can make a world of difference when it comes to keeping pests away during renovations. To start with, meet with your licensed pest management professional to go over construction plans and work additional preventive steps into the construction process.

  • Use the opportunity to clean up or pay attention to parts of the property that normally no one can get to and do preventive maintenance in that area.
  • When furniture is removed and rooms are empty for an internal renovation, you can do proactive work for long range pest control such as a fertility disrupting product. This kind of product is nonpoisonous, but when rodents eat it, they can no longer reproduce. Therefore, the population would be reduced prior to starting construction, rather than having to react afterwards. Preliminary treatments really help cut down on pest infestations in the long-run.
  • Establish pest monitoring systems to assist in determining which pests are located around your property and how large of a population lives there.
  • If a neighboring property is going under construction, it's important to monitor at the property line for any pests that might get disrupted and run to your property for a new habitat. Constantly monitoring at the property line can result in quick action that could prevent new infestations.
  • Assess pest activity before construction begins in order to identify which measures should be taken to decrease pest populations.
  • If a concrete foundation is going to be laid in high termite areas, it's important to pre-treat for termites.
  • Plan to begin construction during the driest season of the year. This will help decrease the chance of pests infesting wet building materials and insects from feeding on the fungus that can accumulate on wet wood.

During Renovations

During construction, conditions are very atypical. There are new people, new materials, new tools and often new pests. It's important to be aware of the change in conditions that may attract unwelcome visitors to your front door. To help keep pest disturbances at a minimum, take these steps:

  • Grade your property so that puddles do not form around the foundation. Standing water can attract mosquitoes and moist conditions and disturbed soils can attract termites.
  • Install LED lights outside your building rather than mercury vapor or florescent lights. Pests are less attracted to LED bulbs, so this will help keep flying visitors far away from your doors.
  • Place baits around the perimeter of the property to help prevent pests from finding shelter in your hotel.
  • Use non-cellulose building supplies to decrease your chance of termites, and apply a preventive termite treatment to any new structures. Ask your licensed pest management professional for product recommendations.
  • Keep the construction site as clean as possible. Pests can be attracted to food dropped out of lunch pails, so ask construction workers to dispose of food, wrappers and drink cans in the appropriate waste receptacles as soon as possible.
  • At the end of each work day, cover up all building materials to protect them from the elements. Wet building materials, especially wood, can be the perfect home for certain pests.
  • Look out for fire ant hills after heavy rains. Wet conditions can quickly increase ant numbers, with some colonies numbering in the millions.

Renovations can actually be the perfect time to make changes to your building that will help deter pests. Consider the following upgrades to help deter pests in the future:

  • During interior renovations, consider pre-treating for pests on walls and under carpeting.

  • Install double sliding doors at your major entrances. The second set of doors provides an extra barrier to prevent pests from flying or crawling into your hotel.

  • Create positive airflow in your hotel by working with an HVAC professional. With his or her help, you can ensure that flying insects are pushed out when doors open, rather than sucked in.
  • Install air curtains (fans mounted above doorways) at entrances to create a "wall" of air that flying insects would find hard to penetrate.
  • Install plastic strips at entrances that are kept open for long periods of time, such as at loading docks.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are flush against frames and install weather stripping to prevent small, crawling pests from slipping into your building. Remember, some pests only need a millimeter of space to let themselves in.
  • Fruit-bearing plants attract various pests such as flies and yellow jackets. Plant flowering vegetation away from places where guests are often found, such as doorways, sidewalks, patios or pools.
  • Use steel mesh in your wall sealant to ensure that rodents have trouble gnawing through. If they can get inside walls, rodents then can gnaw on your electrical wire and create serious fire hazards.
  • Vegetation should be at least two feet away from your building. When branches or leaves touch the hotel, it creates a bridge for insects and pests to climb across. Plants and shrubbery can also hide pest activity and retain moisture.
  • Try to avoid thick mulches and remove old mulch before laying down new mulch. Otherwise, the mulch bed could become very thick, creating a perfect bed for a variety of pests.
  • Talk to your pest management professional about bird repellants and exclusion techniques. Birds can carry viruses and the acidity of their droppings can affect metal, marble, cement and other surfaces on your building.

After Renovations

Once construction has wrapped up and you're ready to admire your beautiful new space, you're ready to start all over with a regular pest management routine again. And before you furnish the upgraded area or have your first guests check in, it's a great time to let a pest control professional assess the situation and create a new program. Keep up the good fight against pests with the following suggestions:

  • Inform staff of the pest prevention steps you took during construction.
  • Work with your pest management professional to update your current IPM program. Thanks to your pest activity monitoring, he or she should now be up to speed on which pests are native to the area and which newcomers to watch for.
  • Ask your pest management professional to train your hotel staff on prevention and inspection techniques and then notification protocols. This is incredibly important with housekeeping staff, as they are typically the first to find signs of infestations.

Pest management should always be considered a top priority. One experience with a bug or rodent issue during a stay can send a guest packing and Tweeting. If you maintain stringent sanitation during renovations and keep pests under control during all stages of construction, your guests - and workers - are much more likely to leave rave reviews.

Ron Harrison, Entomologist, Ph.D., is Director of Technical Services for Orkin. With more than 20 years of industry experience, Dr. Harrison serves as Orkin’s Technical Director, overseeing the research, development and implementation of Orkin’s residential and commercial services and providing technical expertise to its training programs. He also assists all Orkin departments with any product or pest-related technical issues. Prior to joining Orkin, Dr. Harrison was an associate professor of science for Mercer University in Macon and Atlanta. He currently serves as an adjunct professor for Mercer’s graduate level environmental science courses. Dr. Harrison can be contacted at rharriso@orkin.com Please visit orkincommercial.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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