Retail food stores are complex environments that attract a wide array of pests. Therefore, communication is key when servicing these accounts.

Editor’s note: This article is excerpted from the PCT Guide to Commercial Pest Manage-ment, which was written by current and former members of the Copesan Technical Committee.

Retail food stores encompass an ever-expanding variety of settings. Whereas once relatively simple and straightforward structures, modern-day retail food stores are complex environments featuring everything from bakeries and coffee shops to meat departments and deli counters. Each of these settings offer their own unique set of pest challenges, requiring skilled technicians to meet and exceed your client’s expectations.

There are a wide variety of pest pressures in these areas including stored product pests, rodents, flies and cockroaches, with the occasional bird, chipmunk or squirrel invading the stores because of the controlled climate and food attraction. When determining an overall pest management strategy, routine service and the frequency of service are factors that must be taken into account.

There are also regional factors and climates that are highly conducive to occasional invaders and pests seeking food and shelter in these types of facilities. To take on such a service the pest management professional has to be detail oriented with strong communication and documentation skills.

A key element to success in this environment is the choice and training of a qualified service technician. The technician must be a high-level communicator, troubleshooter and investigator. Above all else, he must have a desire to protect the retail food store’s brand from pest activity and negative press. In short, the technician must take ownership of the account.

ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT. When servicing retail food accounts, PMPs use a variety of equipment. The type and amount of equipment needed and where and when to use it are all important considerations. Following is one example of the decision-making process involved in equipment choice for inspecting and monitoring pests in retail food accounts:

Traps. From mechanical traps to snap traps to glueboards, there are several trap choices from which technicians can choose. The exact type of trap, where it is placed and how many are needed is determined by the pest conditions that exist in the account. An experienced technician will be able to determine the number and types of devices used.

The decision to use plastic or metal mechanical traps will be determined by the specific area(s) being treated; the activity level and likelihood of damage to the traps; and personal preferences. Plastic mechanical traps can be much more durable than their metal counterparts. Finding the best mechanical trap to work in the client space in each area can be a challenge. Clients are typically happy with whatever device you decide to use as long as it works and protects their brand. The use of a small variety of devices is typically sufficient and is dependent on the area that you are protecting.

When determining numbers, the pricing will factor into the total number placed as it takes time and labor to complete the service. In the average food-retail store with 60,000 square feet, there will be 35 devices placed on the interior and six to 10 on the exterior, along with an average of 75 insect monitors to cover the store sufficiently.

The interior of the store is challenging with regard to use of rodenticides, because most of the areas of the store (with the exception of receiving areas, banks, offices, and locker rooms) have food prep surfaces that prevent rodenticide use according to product labels. Remember, the use of rodenticides is governed by the possibility of contaminating a food-prep, food-service or other possible food-contact surfaces. The biology of the rodent must be factored in to any decision to place rodenticide, and it is typically a risky situation inside retail food stores.

THE SERVICE VISIT. On each service visit, the technician should present himself or herself to a member of management before starting service. The account’s logbook must be checked for pest activity and all notations must be initialed and comments recorded as to the action taken to correct any deficiencies.

Upon completion of service, the technician should check out with a member of management, and have the service ticket and/or logbook signed by the customer. The technician also should conduct a walk-through with a member of management to physically point out any areas of need or deficiencies that need attention and/or correction.

If a member of management is not available to perform a walk-through, it should be noted on the service report and in the logbook. A follow-up call or e-mail should then be made to the store manager concerning any areas that would have been covered in the walk-through. In stores with high levels of pest activity, documentation and communication with the store manager is critical. You should make every effort not to schedule service on days when the manager will not be present or has a regular off-day, so the line of communication is complete.

THOROUGH INSPECTIONS. It is good practice to vary the direction (interior vs. exterior) in which the inspection of the store is performed on each service. A different angle or inspection approach provides a different view toward finding signs or clues of pest activity before they become a problem.

For example, if you start at the deli and work your way around the perimeter to finish in the bakery on the first service of the month, start at the bakery and finish at the deli on the second visit. However, to make sure all areas are serviced and nothing is missed, never start in the middle of the store.

All areas of the store are covered under a normal service contract unless otherwise noted. Interior areas include, but are not limited to, the deli, bakery, meat department, seafood department, produce and produce receiving areas, general merchandise receiving and storage areas, floral department, and mechanical rooms, along with a walk-through of the sales floor and treatment as necessary.

The exterior of the store perimeter also should be included, with at least six rodent bait stations placed on the exterior, and placement of devices on each side of entry doors and receiving roll-up doors. A liquid insecticide spray treatment should be performed monthly to all exterior doors to prevent or reduce entry of invading pests such as cockroaches, ants, flies and crickets.

Food-retail service includes inspection of all pest management devices as well as any pest issues found. All mechanical traps, snap traps, glueboards, insect monitors, insect light traps (ILT) and exterior rodent bait stations should be serviced according to the store’s service frequency. The exterior rodent bait stations should be serviced at least monthly. The interior sales floor is to be inspected and serviced as needed.

All mechanical traps, rodent bait stations and insect light traps are to have a dated service record, and if a glueboard is used inside the mechanical trap, it also is to be dated on the underside of the board. When available, a punch card should be utilized in all monitoring traps, rodent bait stations and insect light traps. A 1/8-inch round hole punch is used to punch these cards. The punch cards serve as a recording tool that cannot be smeared or marred in wet conditions.

All ILT glueboards should be replaced monthly, and signed and dated according to the store’s service schedule. For example, once for 1x per month, twice for 2x per month service, etc. ILT bulbs should be replaced annually. When changing the bulbs, make a visible note of the date on the metal flange on the end of the bulb so that a proper replacement schedule is maintained. Typical replacement of bulbs takes place annually in the spring (between March and May), at the beginning of fly season.

All temporary or permanent rodent control devices have to be placed on a store device map that shows their locations. The device map is placed in the logbook for reference by store management, auditing authorities, and pest management personnel. The device maps need to be revised yearly or as the program changes. Third-party auditing and inspection authorities check these dates and want them to be done on an annual basis.

All interior and exterior mechanical devices and exterior rodent bait stations should be dated and signed each time they are inspected and/or serviced. Snap traps should not be placed within customer view and, if possible, should be placed in a protective rodent box. All devices should be cleaned regularly, making sure to clean the clear plastic tops for ease of inspection, especially if there has been activity in the device.

Twice-monthly service must include the exterior rodent bait stations and a thorough exterior perimeter inspection. It is important to understand the pest pressures that exist on the exterior so you can prevent pest entry into the building. Deli and bakery areas need one service — although if pest activity is present, more frequent follow-up services must be scheduled; the entire store must be serviced on both visits.

The meat department is another pest “hot spot” requiring special attention by pest control service technicians.

Four-times-a-month service must include servicing of the exterior rodent bait stations and an exterior inspection of pest presence and pest pressures, two services to the deli and bakery areas, and servicing of all devices on each visit. The ILT glueboards should be replaced monthly or when they are full.

SERVICING FOR FLIES. Unless it is specifically covered in the service contract, treating fly-breeding sites and exterior resting areas is typically an add-on service. In most geographic areas, this service is seasonal, from April to September.

Floor drains and/or identified breeding sites in each department should be treated with biological pesticides or bacterial treatments in drains, at wall-to-floor junctions, and in grease interceptors.

Any sanitation and structural issues must be documented on the service report and reported directly to store management. ILT glueboards should be replaced monthly or as needed, as determined by the pest numbers/activity on the boards. The boards should be signed and dated on each service visit when replaced and monitored.

The use of a punch card, attached to the device with a zip tie, for a maintenance recording is a good recordkeeping tool. All ILT bulbs should be dated upon installation and replaced annually. Any insect light traps that are installed improperly must be noted on the service report, recommendations made to the manager for proper placement, and explanation given as to the improper placement.

SERVICING FOR RODENTS. Despite regular servicing of rodent equipment installed at a location, rodent issues can occur in a retail-food account. When that happens, PMPs should follow these guidelines:

Norway Rats. Additional snap traps should be placed in the areas found to be Norway rat runways. The snap traps should be pre-baited with alternating traps set and unset (i.e., one baited unset trap, one baited set trap, one baited unset trap, one baited set trap, and so on). It is effective to place snap traps in rows of three, with the alternate theory in place. Technicians should use any food source currently being eaten by the rodent as bait for easy acceptance. Technicians should also place glueboards at entry/exit points and near the food source. The follow-up schedule for site visits for Norway rats should be (at minimum) one site visit every two to three days until the rats are no longer present in the establishment.

Roof Rats. Although roof rat strategies are similar to those for Norway rats, technicians need to inspect high in attic and storage areas for roof rats. Trap placements can be vertical on gondola racks, pipes or wall corners. Snap traps are also available that can be fastened vertically with a zip tie to roof rat runways — both vertical or horizontal. A black-light flashlight is very useful in finding urine trails on pipes and gondolas.

House Mice. When house mice are found, a thorough inspection is needed to find the runways and harborage areas. Then the technician can place mouse-sized snap traps baited with soynut butter or a familiar food source found at the account. Place glueboards and move additional mechanical traps to the area if possible. The follow-up schedule for site visits for house mouse infestations should be (at minimum) one site visit every two to three days, again until the mouse infestation is eliminated.

With all rodent infestations that are active, PMPs should increase the number of site inspections to identify rodent runways, rub marks, urine trails, harborage areas, structural deficiencies and sanitation issues to be corrected as soon as possible. All identified rodent runways, urine trails and harborage areas should be cleaned and sanitized immediately by the customer. These issues need to be documented on the service ticket or inspection report for future communication and follow-up visits.

A thorough inspection and service of the loading docks, compactor area and all exterior doors must be conducted once a month for occasional invaders and flies. The dock levelers, dock pads and adjacent wall space should be treated with a residual insecticide. The compactor and exterior doors also should be treated to prevent pest entry and treatment of fly-resting areas.

DOCUMENTATION. Retail food stores can be very demanding when it comes to detailed reporting of issues ranging from sanitation or structural deficiencies that may lead to pest infestations. There are several reports that are effective for documenting or communicating with retail food accounts.

The service report completed by the technician; a store-level inspection performed by a member of your company’s management team (e.g., technical director, sanitarian, etc.); or in some cases to encourage cooperation with the customer, a store-wide operations survey inspection and report can be conducted by the PMP’s or the customer’s management team.

Service forms that can be completed by the technician on each service visit include:

  • Updated and reviewed account logbook.
  • Service ticket.
  • Sanitation log report.
  • Device checklist.
  • Treatment record required by state regulations.

SUMMARY. It is important to communicate all pest activity, pest pressures, sanitation deficiencies, structural deficiencies and employee practices that contribute to pest activity in the account. Communication is the most vital part of a retail-food service. The company that communicates at a high level and delivers the highest level of service will build the relationships necessary for both the customer and PMP to be successful.

Tim Hendricks is an Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE) and consultant with Hendricks Pest Management Consulting (HPMC).