Pest infestation

How to spot and prevent pest infestations

Monday, February 3, 2014

What are the early signs of a pest infestation, and what steps should be taken once one is identified?   

Pests can be stealthy creatures, but knowing what to look for and what steps to take when a problem is identified will save property management and owners from dealing with an infestation — and unhappy residents. Partnering with a pest management provider is the best way to reduce the risk of an infestation because they perform a comprehensive inspection to detect any presence of pests or conditions conducive to pests and can proactively address them.

There are also several tips property owners and managers can share with their residents to help them identify early signs of pests.

Bed Bugs

Resilient pests that are challenging to treat, bed bugs pose a high risk to the apartment industry due to the proximity of the units. Bed bugs are harder to spot because of their small size and the fact they are most active at night, when residents are sleeping.

Telltale signs that signal a bed bug presence include cast-off skins, small reddish-black spots on mattresses, live or dead bed bugs themselves and bed bug bites. Bites are similar to that of a mosquito or flea, but can often take several days to appear. It is important to note that bed bug bites affect everyone differently and some people have no reaction and will not develop bite marks.


Since mice can fit through a hole the size of a dime and rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter, it is important to regularly inspect exterior walls to ensure there are no cracks or crevices that can invite rodent entry. The top signs of rodents include:

  • Droppings: rodent droppings are an obvious indicator of these pests. Mouse droppings are about the size of a grain of rice and rat droppings are the size of a raisin.
  • Gnaw marks: rodents are always gnawing on the material around them even when they aren’t hungry, so staff should look for gnaw marks around the facility.
  • Nests: these are made of soft materials such as papers, rugs, chewed cardboards, straws and twigs in hidden, protected spots.
  • Sounds: rodents’ activity is often manifested by gnawing, clawing, climbing and fighting noises, as well as squeaks.


As a nocturnal pest, spotting a cockroach during the day is usually a sign of high infestation. Management should have residents report any sightings of cockroaches immediately.

Other signs of cockroaches include:

  • Feces: roaches produce droppings resembling coffee grounds or black pepper, which are often found smeared near the cracks and crevices where they hide. The quantity of visible feces is oftentimes a good indicator of the level of infestation.
  • Egg cases (capsules) deposited in hidden, protected locations in the unit.
  • Smell: in the event of serious infestation, a strong, oily or musty odour may be present.

Early detection of pests leads to early and targeted treatment, reducing the potential of health risks, damage to a building’s reputation and costly damage to the property. Residents should report any signs of pest activity to apartment staff immediately, who should then inform the pest management provider.

The best way to protect a property against pests is to implement an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. This approach employs proactive sanitation and maintenance procedures to decrease pests’ access to food, water and shelter. An IPM approach is a team effort, and residents are often the first line of defense. Management should consider having a sighting log in a common area or online to make it easy for residents to report any pest sightings in a discrete way.

Owners and managers should keep in mind that an IPM program is only as good as the teamwork behind it. Staff, pest management professionals and residents need to work together to identify potential issues before they become an infestation.

Dan Dawson is the director of business development for Orkin Canada and has more than 25 years of experience in the pest control industry. For more information, he can be reached at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *