Research

Rodent infestations soar in UK homes during lockdown

Lockdown has left thousands of UK residents with unwanted visitors, as rat and mice infestations have rocketed, according to analysis from Aviva.

New data obtained by the insurer found rat infestations increased by 42% during lockdown* for one company - JG Pest Control - which provides a pest control service for Aviva Home Emergency customers through a collaboration with HomeServe.

In total, between March and June 2020, the company saw an increase of 120% for rodent-related call outs, compared to the same period in 2019. The number of residential rodent cases for the first half of 2020 was equivalent to 90% of comparable cases for the whole of 2019.

Sarah Applegate, Head of GI Global Strategy and Insights says: “There are a number of possible reasons behind the rise of rodents. Reduced bin collections may have led to new food sources for pests at people’s homes. Similarly, rats and mice who were used to finding food near to pubs and restaurants may have had to look elsewhere while commercial outlets were closed.

“Or there’s the chance that people may have just become more aware of mice and rats because they’ve been at home and have been able to spot them – when they might ordinarily have been at work or school.

“Most home insurance policies do not cover rodent infestations as part of their standard terms. However there are specialist policies available and certain add-ons which provide cover.

"Aviva Home Emergency Cover provides expert help with emergencies including pest infestation of rats, mice, wasps or hornets. If you’re in any doubt as to whether you’re covered, it’s best to check with your provider."

How to prevent and deal with rodent infestations:

It can be extremely unnerving to be faced with uninvited visitors in and around the home, so to help identify, manage and prevent rodent infestations, Aviva has the following advice:

Mouse infestations

Here’s how you’ll know you have a mouse in your house:

  • Droppings: Mouse droppings are easy to identify - the droppings themselves are about the size of a grain of rice. You can also tell whether you have a current or historic infestation by putting on some gloves and picking them up. If the droppings crumble to dust, they’re old. If they’re soft, they’re new, and there’s more likely an active problem.
  • Odour: The smell of mouse urine is quite distinctive, an ammonia-type smell. Also, mice don’t stop moving to urinate, so they’ll leave a trail.
  • Damage: You might spot chewed-up nesting materials (like cardboard) and bitten food containers.
  • Noise: You may also hear scurrying sounds in the walls or on the floorboards. 

What to do:

When you think you’ve identified a mouse infestation, there are a few steps you can take to help resolve the problem:

  • Find the entry point: If you take off the kickboards underneath kitchen units and you can see holes at the back of them, that’s probably where the rodents are getting in. So make sure your property is secure, both internally and externally.
  • Limit access to food sources: It’s very important not to leave food where mice can get it.  Make sure to clean thoroughly every time you cook and not leave any easily-accessible food in the lower cupboards of your kitchen.
  • Take action – and fast: You’re almost guaranteed to make the situation worse if you leave it unattended, because mice can breed very quickly. If you don’t have home emergency / specialist cover in place, give yourself a maximum of a week to attempt any DIY remedies before calling a pest control company.
  • Call the professionals: If you have cover for pest invasions, get in touch with your provider as soon as you find a problem. Alternatively, you can contact a pest control company privately.
  • Prevent a re-infestation: Once you’ve got rid of an infestation, the tips for preventing a re-infestation are similar: don’t leave any food sources, ensure there aren’t entry points to your property, secure your bins, ensure any bird feeders are placed up high and away from entrances, and make sure there’s no litter around your property.

Rat infestations

Mice vs rats:

The advice for rats is similar to the advice for mice. However, rats are far bigger, and they can be more dangerous and cause more damage because rats’ front teeth never stop growing. That’s why they’re constantly gnawing – otherwise, they’re in pain.

They’re also a lot more gluttonous and carry higher health risks than mice. Rats will often have lived in the sewers, so their urine can carry Weil's disease (leptospirosis). If a rat were to urinate on something and a human touched it and put their hand to their mouth or nose, Weil’s disease could be passed on.

Preventing rat infestions:

Rats present additional problems, so take extra precautions:

  • Drainage and sewage: To avoid a rat problem, you can also focus on drainage and sewage pipes. There may be no obvious entry points when you have rats, so experts may advise a drain survey.
  • External jobs:  Rats are also more likely to be found outdoors and can be seen travelling from garden to garden. They’re also attracted to litter, so it’s important to keep things tidy outdoors.

-ENDS-

*Figures compare call-outs during January to March 2020 with call-outs during April - June 2020.

Aviva Home Emergency cover is an option on Aviva home insurance policies to provide expert help with home emergencies, in collaboration with HomeServe. JG Pest Control is one of a number of companies which provides a pest control service for HomeServe and Aviva Home Emergency  customers.

Media enquiries:

Sarah Poulter

Group External Communications

Notes to editors:

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