Home Cleaning & Maintenance Sustainable Pest Protection During COVID-19: Integrated Pest Management

Sustainable Pest Protection During COVID-19: Integrated Pest Management

Glen Ramsey

Hoteliers agree that proactive safety measures, especially in the wake of COVID-19, are important in maintaining a positive guest experience. From informative signage in guestrooms regarding cleaning procedures to check-out surveys and stocked in-room coffee supplies, it is the little touches that show you are not only thinking ahead but also prioritizing the guest experience.

This mindset holds true for hotel pest management as well. In fact, pest control providers emphasize Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a methodology designed with the future in mind. IPM takes a proactive and all-inclusive approach to prevention by eliminating the conditions that are conducive to pest activity. Without preventative measures in place, your hotel’s risk of pest activity can increase.

Unfortunately, that was the case for a small hotel (roughly 115 rooms) that recently experienced a pest issue. This hotel delayed housekeeping services 24 to 48 hours between stays due to reduced staffing and to help protect their employees from encountering potential pathogens left behind by guests. This change, despite intentions to prioritize guest and employee safety, left the hotel vulnerable to ants. After investigating, the source of the ants was due to the lag period in housekeeping, which left trash and waste sitting for days, untouched.

This is one example of why employing IPM tactics is so critical. Simple adjustments to your operations, regardless of intent, can have unintended consequences in the form of pathogen-carrying, and sometimes destructive, pests.

Know Your Pests

Before you can utilize IPM tactics effectively, you need to know what pests your hotel is up against. Recognizing these pests and what they mean for your business is the first step in fortifying your prevention efforts. Pests to look out for include ants, cockroaches, rodents, and flies. Let us take a closer look: 

  • Ants: Ants love places that have crumbs and sugary spills, making leftover trash in hotel rooms a prime attractant. These pests can be particularly difficult to get rid of once in your building.
  • Cockroaches: Once in your hotel, they can spread pathogens that cause food poisoning and dysentery. Because they reproduce rapidly, infestations quickly become severe.
  • Rodents: They spread contaminates through their urine, hair, feces, and saliva. If left to their devices, rodents multiply at an alarming rate, producing as many as four to six litters per year that consist of six to eight young each. 

Employ IPM Tactics

Protecting your hotel against pests starts with proactive measures, which can easily be achieved through IPM. In fact, some of the least invasive ways to protect against pests are as simple as maintaining diligent operations, especially when it comes to sanitation and waste management. To ensure your hotel and employees prioritize these efforts, consider this checklist: 

  1. Prioritize trash waste management. To protect employees from potential exposure to pathogens, many hotels are opting to leaving rooms undisturbed during a guest’s stay. Delayed room cleanings, however, allow trash to pile up and serve as a lingering invitation for pests such as rodents, ants, and flies. Keep pests from finding this food source by bagging, sealing, and removing trash from rooms quickly following guest checkout. Even if the room will not be cleaned the day of check out, be sure to at least remove any trash.
  1. Check rooms regularly, even when vacant. Rooms with little or no foot traffic can provide an ideal shelter for pests. Even when clean, these unchecked spaces can make for a growing pest problem. Before allowing guests to occupy a room, be sure you inspect it for pest activity. Checking more often in the interim can help monitor pest activity especially if it is going to be a few days before the room is used again.
  2. Add pest inspection to room turnover procedures. Ask your staff to check hidden and low traffic areas for evidence of pests during room cleanings. Pay careful attention to low-movement areas, dark spaces, or spots where crumbs can pile up which can be hot spots for cockroaches and rodents. Prime spots for pest activity include behind curtains and trashcans, under furniture, in corners and around drains. Consider adding a reporting protocol, so if an employee does spot an issue, it does not go unaddressed. For tips and help with training, involve your pest control provider.
  1. Store items, especially food, with care. To follow COVID-19-related procedures, many hotels have increased storage because of removing touchpoints. Whether this storage includes additional lobby seating or breakfast buffet supplies, it is vulnerable to pests if not stored properly. Store supplies at least 18 inches above the floor and a few inches away from walls. Always rotate stock on a first-in, first-out basis when it comes to food storage to avoid food sitting on the shelves for extended periods of time. And do not forget to check furniture for signs of pests before introducing it back into your hotel.
  1. Avoid leaving the door open to pests. As you update hotel operations to comply with the growing expectation to limit touchpoints, these changes, while intended to protect guests and employees, can increase your business’s risk of pests. A propped open door, for example, makes it easy for pests such as flies, mosquitoes, and rodents to move around and spread out in the facility. Instead, keep doors closed and place hand sanitizer stations nearby. Other touchpoints such as drawers in guestrooms may also go untouched, so be sure to pay attention to these areas when cleaning.

Incorporating IPM tactics like these, especially when navigating new hotel procedures, will help ensure that having COVID-19 top of mind does not compromise your pest management efforts.

By involving your entire operations team and prioritizing preventative measures, you can better protect your hotel against pathogens and pests.

Do not forget to involve your pest control provider, as they are an important part of your IPM team. Keeping your pest management professional informed of your efforts and changes in policies offers an opportunity for collaboration.

Glen Ramsey is a Senior 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, e-mail gramsey1@rollins.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com.