Homeowners warned to be ready for rats this winter
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Rats are threatening to ruin Christmas for Hertfordshire homeowners who are not on their guard.
The cold weather could spark a plague of the undesirable rodents over the festive season, as temperatures dip in coming weeks.
And thanks to an expected polar vortex from the Arctic, weather forecasters are predicting the worst.
Pest experts fear a combination of icy conditions and overflowing dustbins could cause a huge spike in the number of unwanted visitors.
Dee Ward-Thompson, technical manager of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), warns that the double attraction of food and warmth will be especially alluring to rats - causing more critters this Christmas.
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She said: “We have had abnormally mild conditions throughout the UK this year and that is likely to have led to an increase in the number of rats.
“Any cold snaps on the way will drive them into buildings in search of shelter and they’ll also go scrounging for food from bins and bird tables.
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“So the Christmas and New Year period is likely to provide the perfect opportunity, particularly as it’s party time with fewer bin collections.”
Horrifically, a typical home might have more than a dozen potential entry holes for rats, which can transmit a variety of diseases to humans.
They can get in gaps of 2cm and use plumbing pipes, unscreened vents or spaces in eaves and roof edges.
Dee said: “Quite 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 do their best to find sources of food, which means they can soon move to other areas of the house occupied by humans. Rats breed rapidly and will create nests in attics or walls, so it’s vital to act as soon as any evidence is found.”
Signs of rats include noises under the floor or in the walls or loft, as that’s where they often go to once inside your home.
The BPCA advise that it is much easier to prevent an infestation than to get rid of one, and recommend simple precautions such as inspecting properties regularly and sealing up any external gaps, holes or crevices.
Also keep your garden clean and tidy, cutting back overgrown hedges and clearing any wood piles, ensure windows and doors are properly closed and keep drain inspection covers well maintained.
Bins should be looked after too and the lids closed; rubbish or leftover food should not be left lying around and compost heaps need to be covered.
Bird feeder areas are better if they are kept clean and never leave pet bowls out overnight.
You have been warned…
But if you do find yourself the victim of a rat invasion this Christmas, call in the professionals.
Dee added: “Rats must be dealt with by a professional pest controller who knows the area and their likely habitat and knows how to treat any particular issue.
“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’re using an expert.”