London rat population comes under the radar

A national trade body is calling for rodent control in London and cities across the UK to become a matter of national debate for the sake of public safety.


The move comes as the population of rats in the capital came under the spotlight last week after a report was unveiled by London Assembly Member Susan Hall, entitled ‘Rat Land.’


Dee Ward-Thompson, technical manager of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), technical manager, said: “There may be a number of localised factors why certain areas seem to have high numbers of rodent call outs.


“Some authorities, for example will have lots of food establishments, which tend to attract pests, and others could have less frequent bin collections.


“So, it’s important to recognise higher figures could simply illustrate that a local authority is working proactively to manage any issues.”


For years BPCA has produced an annual survey into the state of the nation’s pests geographically.


The information, which gives a detailed insight into pest trends in and around London and across the UK, is available to view at:


It shows Freedom of Information data from local authorities across the length and breadth of the nation and covers a wide range of pests, including mice, cockroaches and bedbugs, as well as rats.


The non-profit BPCA – the leading national trade body for pest control – is due to follow-up the report in 2018, and is closely monitoring London as well as other population centres across the UK to continue to build an accurate picture of the situation.


Mrs Dee Ward-Thompson said: “The presence of rats is an issue of national concern.


“BPCA represents more than 500 companies with extremely valuable expertise and we want that knowledge to contribute to local and national policy.


“Our survey is produced because we are concerned about how public sector cutbacks are affecting pest control provision.


“Councils and local authorities are having to make savings and we were getting a lot of reports that pest control services are being reduced or outsourced.


“We are keen to make sure that these changes don’t affect public health.


“The Brown Rat and House Mouse can cause concern to the public in the UK.


“They are common pests in both private and home businesses. Rats in particular carry many diseases which can be easily spread to humans through their urine, including Leptospirosis, Toxoplasmosis (Gondii) and Weil’s Disease.


“Our survey helps us identify trends, threats and hotspots for particular pests. Ultimately, this will help councils and our members plan more effectively and it is an invaluable resource in an area like London.”


The rat debate comes at a timely point in the calendar because, as temperatures drop going into winter, numbers could soar over the next few months.


According to BPCA, the issue is compounded by the extra waste that is generated over Christmas, which gives rats places to shelter and a food source.


A typical home may have more than a dozen potential entry points for the rodents. They get through gaps as small as 15mm, often using plumbing pipes and unscreened vents or gaps in the eaves and roof edges.


BPCA says it’s much easier to prevent an infestation than to get rid of one and offers some simple precautions which can be taken to reduce the risk.


  • Inspect properties thoroughly and seal up any external gaps, holes or crevices that could provide rats with a way in.
  • Remove potential nesting sites by keeping yards and gardens clean and tidy, cutting back overgrown areas and clearing any piles of wood or debris.
  • Ensure doors and windows can be closed properly and that drain inspection covers are well maintained.
  • Keep bins well maintained with their lids closed, dispose of rubbish carefully and don’t leave leftover food lying around. Compost heaps should be covered.
  • Areas around bird feeders should be kept clean and pet food bowls should not be left out overnight.


Mrs Dee Ward-Thompson added: “Unfortunately, the cold weather tends to be the time where rodents seek food and shelter indoors.


“This is the time of year when our members tend to see an increase in the number of call-outs to deal with rats in the home.


“It’s important for homeowners to do as much as they can to ensure they’re not among those affected.


“Anyone who does find an infestation should employ recognised professionals.


“Rats must be dealt with by an expert technician who has the skills required to understand rodent behaviour and their likely habitat, and knows how to treat any particular strain.


“Most people simply want the job done right first time and, by employing a company or individual affiliated with BPCA, they can be sure they’re using an expert in the field.


“We’ve established strict criteria to ensure the professionalism of our members so controllers carrying our logo will carry out safe, effective and legal treatments.”