Cooler temperatures and changing leaves are upon us, which means foodservice establishments might make the mistake of thinking pest season is over, but don’t let your guard down when it comes to pest control—now is the prime time for occasional invaders.

As the temperatures drop, more than diners will be crowding your restaurant for a warm seat and a hot meal—pests will also seek shelter from the cold. Once they enter, problems can escalate quickly, and contaminated food, failed health inspections, and negative reviews can threaten your business.

Plan ahead and implement control efforts before temperatures drop and drive these pests indoors with these simple preparation tactics:

  • Inspect the outside of your restaurant regularly and carefully. Look for any openings that pests could use as an entrance.
  • Check the weather stripping on all exterior doors.
  • Seal any cracks around doors and windows with metal mesh and caulk.

Consider applying a residual product on the outside of buildings. When combined with the exclusion practices listed above, a residual can significantly reduce the likelihood that pests can get inside.

It’s important to protect your restaurant with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that prevents pest problems before they occur. Keep an eye out for the critters that are most likely to visit this winter, and work with your pest management provider to put the freeze on fall and winter pests.

Rats and mice

Rodents are considered “regulars.” You can expect them to make an appearance regardless of the season, but the colder months offer more of an incentive to get indoors to avoid the cold outside. These pests will eat most anything on or off the menu—they even chew on electrical wires, which can spark fires. Beyond the ick factor, rodents can carry a full plate of diseases such as plague, typhus and hantavirus.

To prevent a rodent introduction, practice these prevention tactics:

Stay clean—Wipe away crumbs, clean away meals and do not leave food leftovers sitting out. It is important to ensure that counters and shelves are wiped down regularly and thoroughly. Not only will you prevent pests through these practices, you may earn an even higher mark from heath inspectors.

Eliminate moisture—Rodents seek out moisture and thrive in dark humid cracks and crevices. Prevent this moisture by mopping up spills immediately and repairing leaky sinks, soda dispensers and ice machines.

Shut them out—Mice can crawl through holes the size of a dime, and rats can squeeze through openings the diameter of a quarter. To prevent this, seal any openings on the exterior of your building with weather resistant sealant. Additionally, use copper mesh or other non-rusting metal backing so rodents can’t chew through it and crawl inside.

Ladybugs, earwigs, wasps, and stinkbugs

These pests come and go as the seasons change. They keep a low profile during the winter but if you do not rid yourself this problem, come spring you’re prone to having an infestation on your hands. To prevent an introduction, practice these prevention tactics:

Block entrances—Ladybugs, earwigs, wasps and stinkbugs can all squeeze through extremely small and narrow entrance to ride out the winter in your restaurant. To prevent this, caulk and seal common entry points like cracks around windows, vents, doors, siding and utility penetrations. Additionally, repair window screens and install door sweeps and weather stripping to block crawling insects from entering.

Smart landscaping—If possible, avoid planting bushes and shrubs directly up against a building. This serves as protection and food for many pests that allows them easy accessibility to your building. Consider installing a foot-wide, decorative gravel strip around your building to discourage them from approaching.

Inspect deliveries—Delivery trucks and loading areas are prime spots for pests to move to and from services and products. You can prevent bringing in outside contaminated product by checking incoming deliveries and shipments for signs of pest contamination before they enter your restaurant.

Beyond the colder months, effective IPM requires a team effort. Ask your pest management provider to host a training session for your staff to educate them on their role in the overall success of your restaurant’s pest management. Teach employees about conditions that attract pests, monitoring for signs of pest activity and how to report any issues that are detected.

Glen Ramsey is Technical Services Manager for Orkin. He is a board-certified entomologist and provides technical support and guidance across all Rollins brands in the areas of training and education, operations, and marketing. For more information, email or visit

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