By Missy Henriksen and Dr. Jim Fredericks
Most self-storage operators know they must invest in protecting their facilities and storage units from threats such as fire, flooding, theft and vandalism. However, many fail to give the same attention to the danger of pest infestation. Some think infestations aren't a serious problem. Others believe pest management is too complicated or costly, or that they can handle any problems themselves.
Yet self-storage can be especially susceptible to pest infestations, which can cause extensive damage and be costly. It's important for facility operators to separate the myths from the truths when it comes to professional pest management. Here are a few popular misconceptions.
Myth: Pests are not a problem in self-storage facilities.
Truth: Self-storage facilities can be especially attractive for pests.
Unlike homes and businesses, storage units can go for long periods of time without being opened and checked by renters, giving pests free run of the place. As pests are experts at stowing away in items and infesting new locations, self-storage units, which typically contain cluttered items and boxes, are the ideal infestation targets. A few pests that find their way into a box brought into a storage unit can quickly reproduce and lead to a major problem in a short amount of time.
Once a pest has found its way into one storage unit, it needs only a very tiny entry point to get into and infest nearby units, too. Of course, one of the main reasons self-storage is at risk is because operators usually have little control over what’s being brought into the property. They should be aware of certain items that are attractive to pests, such as food, live plants and even bags or boxes of paper.
Myth: Self-storage operators can control pests on their own.
Truth: Facility size and the variety of pests make the task nearly impossible.
When evaluating the need for professional pest-management services, business owners and operators usually weigh the risks and rewards, benefits and costs before employing a third-party service. Many may come up with a list of reasons why they should address pest concerns on their own. Perhaps they feel they know what’s best for their facility when it comes to the treatment of pest problems. Possibly they view “pest management” as an expendable line item in their budget or feel they can easily handle any problems that arise with a quick trip to the nearest home-improvement store.
However, professional pest management often involves much more than just treating an infestation. Proper control of pests requires training, knowledge and understanding of pest biology as well as the types of methods to properly implement a pest-management program in a commercial facility—skills only available to pest professionals through proper training and continuing education.
Myth: Professional pest control is too costly.
Truth: Damage from pest infestations is costlier.
Pest infestations cause actual damage to storage units, ruining the items contained within and, by extension, the facility’s reputation. No business would welcome the associated costs. Termites cause approximately $5 billion of property damage each year. Rodents can chew through wires, causing electrical fires. Cockroaches can ruin stored personal property. As renters typically pay little attention to their storage areas, any infestation can easily get out of hand, resulting in higher remediation costs.
Top 4 Self-Storage Pests
Termites have been around for more than 120 million years.
There are 3,000 species worldwide, with about 50 of them found in the United States.
Each year, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage.
They eat 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are called the silent destroyers.
They live in colonies with as many as 2 million members.
A cockroach can survive a week without its head and in freezing temperatures.
Cockroaches spread 33 kinds of bacteria including E. coli and salmonella, six parasitic worms, and more than seven other types of human pathogens.
The saliva, droppings and decomposing bodies of cockroaches contain allergen proteins known to trigger allergies and increase the severity of asthma symptoms.
Approximately 70 species of cockroach are found in the United States, with the German cockroach being the most common.
Cockroaches spend approximately 75 percent of their time in their preferred hiding spots such as cracks and crevices.
Bed bugs are not found only in beds.
Nearly 100 percent of pest professionals have treated for bed bugs in the past year.
They can live for several months without eating and can withstand a wide range of temperatures from nearly freezing to 122 degrees.
76 percent of pest professionals say bed bugs are the most difficult pest to treat.
Female bed bugs lay one to five eggs per day, or an average of 540 eggs in a lifetime.
Mice and rats spread salmonella and carry disease-causing pests such as ticks, fleas and lice.
Rodents can chew through wood and electrical wires, increasing risk of fires.
A female mouse can lay as many as 12 young every three weeks.
Rats can squeeze through openings the size of a quarter; mice the size of a dime.
Mice urinate constantly and are capable of dropping up to 25,000 fecal pellets each year—that’s an estimated 70 times each day for one mouse!
Source: National Pest Management Association
The cost of employing professional pest services is a business necessity. A self-storage facility requires effective action. By acting quickly, operators can stem the infestation and show theirs is a responsible business acting on customers’ best interests.
Choosing a Pest-Control Company
Not all pest-management companies are the same. There are several recommendations to keep in mind when choosing a provider, including:
Evaluate companies that are members of national, state or local pest-management associations. Typically, companies that actively participate in these associations view pest management as an important part of protecting public health and property and are better prepared to use new technologies and implement cutting-edge treatment techniques.
Ask other facility operators for recommendations. Word-of-mouth references are usually honest and believable evaluations. Operators should feel comfortable with the pest professional they select, and prior experiences from other business owners count.
Research, research, research . Before you sign on the dotted line with a pest-management company, first check online resources to evaluate the company’s reputation and services. For example, pestworld.org is a comprehensive site that addresses all pest-related topics and provides a ZIP-code locator to find qualified and licensed professionals.
Compare offers. The best way to determine the right pest-management partner is to compare estimates from several companies. It can be unwise to hire the company offering the lowest price because there are many other factors to consider, such as company reputation, experience in treating pests in self-storage and guarantee of work, among others.
Commercial pest management requires skills and scientific knowledge of pest biology, proper use of pest-treatment products, and an understanding that a one-size-fits-all approach is not possible. By being able to provide a comprehensive assessment of current and potential threats to a self-storage facility, pest professionals can help operators prevent problems before they even begin.
Although self-storage operators may attempt to limit or forgo the use of professionals to help prevent and treat pest infestations, failing to implement a prevention program can be costly to the facility and the property within, as well the business reputation. Since many customers are storing valuable belongings in these facilities, operators should give them a peace of mind by protecting their goods from damaging pests in addition to other elements of nature.
Missy Henriksen is the vice president of public affairs and Jim Fredericks is the director of technical services for the National Pest Management Association, a nonprofit organization with more than 7,000 members. The organization was established in 1933 to support the pest-management industry's commitment to the protection of public health, food and property. For more information, visit www.pestworld.org .