Coaxing neophobic rats to choose a bait isn't easy under the best circumstances but, when rats have a ready supply of tasty animal feed, it becomes even trickier.
Given a viable choice, however, rats will eventually try something new. And, that's when a clever pest management professional (PMP) can outsmart the cunning rat, as Marshall Blacklock in Queensland, Australia, discovered.
Blacklock, owner of CDI Pest Management Pty Ltd in Toowoomba, Australia, was hired to control rodents at a company that produced bulk animal feed for one of the largest meat-chicken growers in the Southern Hemisphere.
Located on the outskirts of a small rural town, the facility produced a pelleted and a crushed-mix chicken feed of tallow and various grains.
When Blacklock and his team took over the account from another pest management company, they faced a heavy and persistent infestation from roof rats feeding on spilled product, as well as a seasonal mouse problem.
"The previous program was originally set up to meet audit requirements as opposed to gaining control of the situation," Blacklock said. "They used a bait that was not working and only about five snap traps.
"Our initial approach was to replace all the bait with Bell's FINAL, clean and maintain the stations on a monthly basis, and triple the number of traps," he recalled.
With bait consumption only minimally improved, Blacklock eventually contacted his Bell representative, Ken Parry, to explore other options to treat this type of environment.
"When Marshall first asked me about this problem, he'd tried every available toxic bait on the market without success," said Parry who has been serving the Australian market for Bell since 2009.
Combining DETEX with CONTRAC
Parry recommended a stepping stone approach by introducing non-toxic DETEX first to get the rats feeding on bait and then swap it with CONTRAC BLOX.
"I explained in detail the use of DETEX as an initial attractant and how it can be interchanged with our other baits. Rats will go from DETEX to our other baits without the normal neophobic behavior," Parry said, noting that non-toxic DETEX BLOX contains no active ingredient and no bittering agent.
Parry also recommended switching from FINAL with brodifacoum to Bell's CONTRAC with bromadiolone, which is more appealing to rats in hard-to-feed situations.
Adopting that plan, Blacklock conducted a night survey to establish rodent movement and "hot spots." From those results, he carried out more targeted baiting of the identified areas by using CONTRAC BLOX on wires and in bait stations. He also repositioned snap traps along runways for greater effect.
CDI also changed service frequency to weekly checks which produced larger kills though bait consumption overall was still low.
Following Parry's suggestion, Blacklock initially used two DETEX BLOX with one CONTRAC BLOX in-between on approximately 20 wires, which he positioned either on runways or close to harborage areas.
The first week he saw approximately 50 percent of the DETEX eaten with very little change in CONTRAC consumption. The second week nearly all of the DETEX had been consumed, along with an increase in CONTRAC consumption.
The next week, he positioned two blocks of CONTRAC with a DETEX in-between.
"This produced an increase in bait consumption and between 12 to 16 dead rats per week, four times greater than what we previously achieved," Blacklock reported.
The number of dead rats remained at a dozen or so per week during the next several service cycles, but, by week six, it had dropped to about four rats per week. Most were found on floors or out in the open mill area.
"Employees commented on the lack of sightings and dropping around the facility, and the client was extremely happy with the results from the new baiting program," Blacklock noted, adding that it took approximately four months to gain control.
A newcomer to DETEX, Blacklock was skeptical at first, but now he's sold on it.
"This approach proved to be most effective and we would highly recommend the use of DETEX in this type of situation," he said.
Besides identifying hot spots, it revealed a few surprises. "We found that the population on one side of the mill was not crossing to the other," Blacklock noted.
Once rats were under control, Blacklock set up a maintenance program that continued what he had in place. For mice, he changed back to FINAL which works well on mice.
"With FINAL, Marshall quickly got on top of the mouse problem," Parry noted.
Once the internal rodent populations were under control, Blacklock, as part of maintenance, shifted his focus to preventing rodents from gaining entry into the facility. Clearing grass around the mill, for example, got an immediate drop in activity.
CDI - Proponent of Bell Products
Blacklock started CDI - Commercial, Domestic, and Industrial Pest Management - in 2005 to provide cost-effective service to clients through quality service programs individually designed to customer specifications.
"I've continually used Bell products as they have proven time and time again that the quality of the product gives results that make all the difference to the client," Blacklock pointed out. "It was also good to be able to give practical feedback to Ken on how this product worked for us in the field."
Parry, too, feels the benefits of a close working relationship with Bell customers like CDI.
"I was absolutely delighted to see the enthusiasm and satisfaction (and surprise) from Marshall on the success he had using DETEX with CONTRAC for rats and later FINAL for mice. This site is now considered manageable with only very small amounts of normal activity reported."