9 May 2022

Canberra's pests strike back after rain, cold and yes, COVID

| James Coleman
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Pest conctroller

Many Canberrans put off pest treatments to avoid an interaction during COVID-19. Photo: Canberra Pest Control.

Canberra’s recent cold and dreary spell might tempt you to curl up on the couch with a good book and a Milo, but the trouble is, you won’t be alone. More and more pests are looking at your home as an inviting escape from the chilling rain, including rats, mice, spiders and termites.

According to local pest controllers, this combination has led to two bumper years for pests, with COVID-19 partly to blame. The prospects for this winter aren’t much better.

ACT Pest Control owner Carl Ibrahim says many people didn’t want visitors during COVID-19 so they put off pest treatments.

“I think that’s why we’re seeing more spiders and rodents about the place.”

READ ALSO Pests preparing to strike back after wet summer

He says there is always an increase in the number of rodents as winter approaches, especially in Canberra when it gets really cold.

“Last year, people were more worried and fearful of a mouse plague because of what was happening elsewhere in Australia, but I don’t think there was one,” Carl said.

He added that one pest rules them all when it comes to causing devastation in homes, one that “really doesn’t get enough coverage in the ACT”: termites.

“It’s not like any other pest where if you hit and fail, you can fix it. You don’t have that luxury with termites.”

Termite inspection

Termite inspector in residential crawl space inspects a sill for termites. Photo: File.

He says there has been a “really, really big increase” increase in the number of termites across the ACT as wet weather has flooded out existing colonies and increased the level of moisture in the dirt underneath homes.

“You’ve always got your problematic suburbs such as Aranda, Bruce and Cook in the north and Gordon, Condor and Isaacs in the south … but with most termite problems, it is self-inflicted,” he says, calling out “unkept gardens” as a big contributor.

“Always keep up the inspections, no more than 12 months apart. If you get termites early, you minimise big damage.”

He said a number of businesses offer termite treatment but “do it the wrong way and the fast way”.

READ ALSO The best pest control services in Canberra

Rather than a one-off spray, Carl says the process is much more expensive and involved. For a one-off sum ranging between $2,500 and 3,500, a pest controller will come out to your house every two weeks, laying out bait for a period of six months.

“A lot of people will have a heart attack when you tell them that figure, but that’s the most effective treatment. You have to kill the nest; otherwise, they will keep coming back.”

Quality One Pest Control owner Michael Devries says he has seen a “massive increase in the numbers of rats and mice”.

“All over Canberra, we’re seeing them everywhere, even running through garages and down driveways in broad daylight sometimes.

“Rodents feel the cold just as keenly as humans. We’re seeing more at the moment than last winter, which is a bit of a worry, given the frosty nights haven’t started yet.”

Mouse in kitchen

Mice droppings and urine can cause food poisoning in humans. Photo: File.

Typically, pest controllers use poisonous baits to get rid of rodents quickly, but Michael says he prefers the chemicals that work in smaller dosages. This means the dead rat or mouse doesn’t pose so much of a risk to native birds or pets that might ingest it. They also pose a risk to humans due to disease.

“We have to minimise rodent infestations or things become much worse. It happened last year when a few farmers ended up in hospital after catching dangerous diseases from rodent bites. The world is cruel.”

Michael says the number of spiders has remained more steady, but with many people choosing to skip having their house sprayed last year due to COVID-19, the number of those making it inside alive is increasing.

“Spiders are also being flushed indoors by the sheer amount of rain. So it’s the same number out there, it’s just that they’re moving inside. They’re looking for shelter.”

Big black scary-looking spider

The mouse spider is commonly confused with the Sydney funnel-web. Photo: File.

However, both Michael and Carl agree on a nugget of good news: you won’t be seeing any deadly Sydney funnel-web spiders.

“A lot of people think they have funnel webs when they see a mouse spider or a trap-door spider because they look terrifying, but funnel-web spiders are extremely rare here in Canberra,” Carl says.

“I’ve only seen one or two in my 12 years here and most of them were transported from Sydney along with building materials.”

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