More dense living, more pest problems

Tips to control unwanted critters within Toronto's expanding condo stock
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
By Alice Sinia

Condominium living is growing and with recent reports showing a rapid increase in Canada’s urban populations, it’s easy to see why. According to the National Post, Toronto’s population has tripled over the last three census periods, overtaking Chicago as the fourth largest city in North America. Moreover, 33 per cent of prospective buyers in Toronto plan to purchase a condo by 2018, a number that has risen 11 points since 2012.

As more people move into closer proximity with each other, pests are becoming a serious issue in condominium and apartment buildings. These multi-residential dwellings are at greater risk of pest activity, so it’s important to be proactive rather than reactive with pest management treatments.

Using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach, which focuses on facility maintenance and sanitation to eliminate pests’ key survival elements, can help protect a property.

The following three strategies can prevent pest populations around buildings, allowing managers and residents to rest easy knowing the only thing that will be flourishing are their properties.

1. Clean
The first step in an IPM program is proper maintenance. Many newly built condos are particularly vulnerable to pests such as booklice because the dampness from new wall plaster encourages temporary mould growth, which booklice feed on. Eliminating the three necessities for survival – food, water and shelter – can help discourage pests from entering a building.

Here are a few additional tips to consider:

  • Clean and rotate trash cans often to eliminate food and odours that are attractive to pests.
  • Maintain the landscaping. Trim plants and hedges at least half a meter away from the building to prevent excess moisture and easy pest access to the property.
  • Consider using organic cleaners made with naturally occurring bacteria and enzymes to eliminate the grease and grime pests feed on.

2. Monitor
Common areas can cause complex challenges within a building. The lobby, waiting areas, shared hallways, locker areas and storage facilities often encourage the spread of pests such as bedbugs and cockroaches. These pests can make their way from unit to unit before anyone notices, so getting a head start is essential to effective treatment.

Managers should:

  • Conduct thorough inspections for pest activity during regular maintenance routines or institute a scheduled inspection program.
  • Check all units for moisture and leaky pipes, and remove any standing water (if needed). Pests need water to survive, so they are attracted to damp areas in a building.
  • Be sure to monitor all high-traffic areas such as entrances or outdoor amenities for trash and debris.
  • Consider installing netting on the building or employing other exclusionary tactics to prevent bird activity as new aesthetic designs may encourage birds to roost on a building’s roof.
  • Work with a pest management professional to document any pest sightings and treatments used.

Remember, it is important to keep track of all these efforts to determine which strategies are working and to adjust steps accordingly.

3. Communicate
Implementing an effective pest management program also requires diligent, consistent communication. Multi-residential buildings are often susceptible to challenges in reporting infestations and coordinating treatments since occupants may not be responsive or forthcoming regarding pests.

The following are ways staff and residents can improve the effectiveness of a pest control plan:

  • Since staff members are likely the first to see any pest issues, consider having a pest management provider conduct a training session to show staff how to look for signs of pests and identify potential issues.
  • Educate occupants on pest-related issues such as why it is important to avoid feeding birds on a balcony, to fix leaking pipes and to report any pest activity to building management.
  • Encourage cooperation among occupants when pests are sighted. This is particularly important when managing pests such as pharaoh ants, which can easily travel between units.

By making IPM an active part of regular maintenance and sanitation, property managers will be better equipped to handle the challenges of a growing resident base. Plus, property managers will also establish healthy practices that are sustainable regardless of future expansion. So, no matter how big a property gets, keep these principles in mind to help keep pest pressure small.

Alice Sinia is quality assurance manager, regulatory/lab services at Orkin Canada. With more than 10 years experience, Alice manages the quality assurance laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. She can be reached at [email protected].

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