For good reason, pest control providers have been deemed essential by the Department of Homeland Security and can operate during this ever-evolving time. What you may not realize, however, is why pest control is so essential, especially in light of COVID-19.

Just because a restaurant is closed, doesn’t mean it’s still vacant. In fact, it may be more susceptible to pest infestations as decreased traffic allows pest hot spots to go undisturbed and unmonitored. Plus, with the abrupt closing of establishments, it’s likely that critical cleaning and sanitation steps were overlooked. This is a dangerous combination, since unkempt restaurants can attract rats, mice and German cockroaches, especially as they search for new food sources.

With the closure of restaurants comes a decrease in trash, a sought-after home for many pests. And, while your doors may be shut, rats and mice can enter through holes as small as a quarter inch, especially when they’re on a mission to find food sources.

Additionally, any pests that already existed within your restaurant’s walls may become more active without daily occupancy. And as mentioned earlier, without thorough sanitation upon closing, you could be prone to pest problems now and in the future. Unsealed food, grimy floors and dirty surfaces are just the attractants that pests need to settle in during quarantine.

This makes pest control imperative during quarantine, since some of the greatest threats to your business can go unnoticed: rats, mice, cockroaches and flies. Let’s take a closer look:

Roof rats can soil food and food preparation surfaces with their droppings, which can transmit food poisoning and even spread diseases like salmonellosis. If left to their devices, roof rats multiply at an alarming rate. Roof rats become sexually mature between two and five months, producing four to six litters per year that consist of six to eight young each.

Mice can contaminate about 10 times the amount of food they eat. Since they feed 15 to 20 times per day, mice can have a huge impact on your restaurant. Most mice species are known for their ability to reproduce very quickly. A single female can produce up to eight litters per year with an average of six pups per litter.

German cockroaches carry pathogens that can cause food poisoning and dysentery. Because they reproduce rapidly, infestations quickly become severe. They lay up to 40 eggs at a time, which mature in about two months.

Flies pick up germs and then spread these pathogens by contaminating food and water. Drain and fruit fly populations will quickly multiply if gone unchecked

Justifiably, pest control is an essential service, especially as pests harbor health risks for both employees and customers. When the time for re-opening comes, the last thing you need is the Health Department putting it on pause due to unmanaged pests.

All said, now is an opportune time for an inspection by your pest control provider, who can speak to the precautions being taken to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as following social distancing and proper hygiene guidelines outlined by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. While working with your provider, consider adding extra protective measures, such as disinfection services, which can help prepare your restaurant for a successful re-opening.

As always, a strong partnership is key, so work with your pest control provider to find the right services for your needs and budget, knowing that these precautionary measures could prevent a headache later.

Judy Black is the Vice President of Quality Assurance and Technical Services for Rollins, Inc. A board-certified entomologist and PMP Hall of Fame recipient, she has more than 30 years of experience in the pest management field and is an acknowledged leader in the industry. For more information, email or visit

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