Rat invasions are expected to soar in the new few months, due to cooler temperatures and wet weather, as rats abandon summer habitats and head inside for food and shelter.
A national survey, carried out by the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), has revealed the staggering number of pest control call-outs each local authority dealt with last year.
West London rat invasions
In Hillingdon borough, with a population of 304,000, there were 1,183 pest control call-outs last year, 879 of which were rat-related.
Nearly 800 homes in Ealing experienced a rat invasion last year, with 2,788 call-outs to pest control overall - the majority of which dealt with mice.
Richmond , with a population of 186,990, had more than 1,266 call outs, more than half of which were rat related.
The local authority for Brent did not respond to the British Pest Control Association request for information for their survey.
'Rats breed rapidly and create nests'
Dee Ward-Thompson, BPCA's technical manager, said residents should be doing all they can now to protect their properties.
“Rain washes rats out of sewers and other nesting places and, inevitably, they go looking for shelter in higher ground," she said.
“They will try to find some sort of dwelling and that could be lofts, garages or sheds.
“Our members report the number of calls to deal with infestations often rises in the Autumn when the temperature drops often quite dramatically and we’re expecting a similar pattern this time."
A typical home may have more than a dozen potential entry points for the rodents.
The rodents can get through gaps as small as 15mm, often using plumbing pipes and unscreened vents or gaps in the eaves and roof edges.
Mrs Ward-Thompson added: “The first evidence of rats in a home is often noises under the floor, in the walls or loft as that’s where most will head to once they’re inside.
“Apart from the health risks, they’ll foul water tanks and chew on wood or electrical wires which can cause a lot of damage and poses a fire hazard.
“They’ll also do their best to find sources of food, which means they can soon move to other areas of the house occupied by humans.
“Rats also breed rapidly and will create nests in attics or walls, so it’s vital to act as soon as any evidence is found.”
How can I protect my home from rats?
BPCA said it is easier to prevent an infestation than to get rid of one and offered some simple precautions to reduce the risk.
- Inspect properties thoroughly and seal up any external gaps, holes or crevices that could provide rats with a way in.
- Remove potential nesting sites by keeping yards and gardens clean and tidy, cutting back overgrown areas and clearing any piles of wood or debris.
- Ensure doors and windows can be closed properly and that drain inspection covers are well maintained.
- Keep bins well maintained with their lids closed, dispose of rubbish carefully and don’t leave leftover food lying around. Compost heaps should be covered.
Areas around bird feeders should be kept clean and pet food bowls should not be left out overnight.
What if rats have invaded my home?
According to the non-profit BPCA, it is important for anyone who does find an infestation to employ recognised professionals.
Mrs Ward-Thompson added: “Rats must be dealt with by an expert technician who knows the area in question and their likely habitat, and knows how to treat any particular strain.
“Most people simply want the job done right first time and, by employing a company or individual affiliated with the BPCA, they can be sure they are using an expert in the field."
Keep up to date with the latest news in west London via the free getwestlondon app.
You can set up your app to see all the latest news and events from your area, plus receive push notifications for breaking news.