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Outside, In: Mapping Food Processing’s Pest Hot Spots

pest management pest control integrated pest management orkin IPM

Due to their abundance of food, shelter and water, food processing facilities are an ideal place for pests to live and breed. Unfortunately, the presence of pests in your facility threatens the safety and quality of your product. These pesky intruders can slow your operations by contaminating food, causing equipment damage and potential disease transmission.


Knowing your site’s pest hot spots and taking a proactive approach to pest management can help prevent pests from chewing away at your reputation and bottom line.


An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is one of the most effective ways to be proactive with your program. Not only does this help defend the facility against pests, an IPM approach ensures you are meeting essential government, industry and audit requirements. Knowing the hot spots and responding appropriately around your facility is critical to pest prevention.

What Attracts Pests to Your Facility


While food processing facilities provide ideal conditions for pests to thrive, each attractant poses its own set of challenges. From the incoming and outgoing products to the environmental conditions in your facility, these are the main pest attractants that can affect your operations:

  • Raw ingredients: Many pests are fond of a multitude of ingredients being introduced to the site. Finding an insect or rodent in your ingredients can lead to major damage to your food supplies, resulting in lost product and profits.
  • Spills: Failure to clean spills quickly creates a food source, odors and potential residue that attract pests.
  • Moisture: Water leaking, mildew/mold and musty odors are all signs of a moisture problem. If left untreated, moisture can lead to pest infestations and structural damage to your building.
  • Structure: Depending on your structure, there may be plenty of entry points that allow pests in. Remember, a full-grown mouse only needs a space the size of a dime (1/4 inch) to squeeze in!
Exterior Hot Spots


As well as addressing interior spaces for signs of pest activity, look to the outside too:

  • Lighting: Some types of exterior lighting can attract insects that fly at night. Install sodium vapor or LED lights for minimal pest attractiveness.
  • Trash areas: One of the most popular places for pests to capitalize on is your waste removal spaces. Keep these clean!
  • Landscaping: Trees, bushes and other landscaping provide food and an ideal nesting place for birds, rodents and other insects. Trim back shrubbery to keep it neat and low.
  • Low spots and parking lots: These areas should be frequently inspected for standing water, which creates a moist environment, perfect for pests.
Common Entry Points


When pest problems build up on the outside, the chance of these pests getting indoors increases significantly. While every facility differs in size, layout and surroundings, they all share the same common pest entry points:

  • Roof: While often overlooked, your roof is the perfect place for insects, birds and roof rats to enter your facility. Don’t neglect vents and HVAC systems on the roof.
  • Dock plates and doors: Doors need to seal tightly when closed and any gaps on dock plates need to be minimized. This is an easy spot for pests to slip inside.
  • Personnel doors: Ensure doors close tightly and are not left propped open for any reason.
  • Receiving: Most facilities operate 24/7 and receive shipments almost as often. With every shipment comes a potential pest threat, so ensure all incoming shipments are inspected.
Interior Hot Spots


While it’s better to prevent a problem than respond to one, it’s not always possible to stop pests from entering your facility. Be sure to monitor these interior hot spots for signs of pest activity:

  • Storage areas: These rarely checked spaces, such as maintenance areas, electrical rooms, boiler rooms and utility closets that provide a great hiding place for pests.
  • Equipment: Processing equipment is often hard to address since it is in operation 24/7. Checking around and monitoring near equipment will be an alert system for pest.
  • Break rooms: Another great place for pests to find a meal, your breakroom should be kept as clean as your production floor. This ensures there are no leftovers to feed pests.
  • Clutter: It can be hard to maintain a clutter-free space; however, stockpiles of old product, equipment and packaging provide pests with ample hiding places.
Preventing Pests from Disrupting Your Operations


The safety of the product is top priority, which means pest management is vitally important. Implementing proper sanitation and exclusion techniques is one of the most effective ways to prevent pests, particularly in the hot spots discussed. Key practices include:

  • Cleaning and sanitizing
  • Removing trash daily and ensuring dumpsters are not overflowing
  • Closing dock doors between shipments
  • Storing products in designated areas, off the ground, with space to adequately clean underneath and behind
The Importance of Monitoring


Continuous monitoring is critical to preventing pest activity and can help to identify pest hot spots. Ensure monitors are placed correctly (consult with your pest management professional) and site maps are up to date. Use the data collected from these monitoring devices to quickly identify developing pest hot spots. Additionally, ensure employees understand the IPM program and speak with your pest management provider about complimentary staff training.


Pests will always be a threat to food processing facilities. But, by working as a team to execute a robust IPM program which includes sanitation, exclusion and monitoring, you’ll be staying ahead of the issues that pests can pose to the company’s integrity and bottom line.


Author Biography


Chelle Hartzer is Technical Services Manager for Orkin. She is a board-certified entomologist and provides technical support and guidance across all Rollins brands in the areas of operations, marketing and training. For more information, email mhartzer@rollins.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com.


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