Floods, humidity and contaminated food blamed for increase in pest control calls

Professional Pest Control Auckland has had a 20 percent increase in the number of calls it receives.
Professional Pest Control Auckland has had a 20 percent increase in the number of calls it receives. Photo credit: Getty Images

By Ashleigh McCaull for RNZ

Some Auckland pest controllers are warning about an influx in rodents and pests after a fortnight of hot, wet weather.

Professional Pest Control Auckland has had a 20 percent increase in the number of calls it receives from domestic properties - an extra 15 calls each week.

This time of the year the business would usually only get about a call a day relating to rats.

Owner Duncan Inness said if food contaminated from floodwaters was not disposed of quickly there could be an influx of rats.

"Rats are intrinsically lazy, they'll stay where the food sources are but if the clean up happens fairly swiftly then we should see them revert back to their normal behaviour which is this time with an increase in temperature, they'll move to the domestic environment and more to the bush environment," he said.

Inness was also predicting a rise in cockroaches and said while most were harmless, the biggest worry was the German cockroach, which carries viruses.

"It travels from A to B either with us, in our handbag, in school lunch packs, from house to house or premises to premises or in packaging from commercial food outlets that maybe aren't being quite what they should be in the area of pest control.

Alphapest Director Lloyd Carpenter has had more than 30 callouts about wasps since the floods.

"I just did one about five minutes ago where a digger driver clearing a section ran over the nest and he was lucky he had a cab on the digger, he could have been stung quite severely," Carpenter said.

Wasps were drawn to hot and humid weather, he said.

"Now that we've had the floods there's so much moisture around.

"The other thing that we've got is a very green summer so all the trees, all the bushes, they've very green, they're putting out a lot of sugars so the insects and the wasps they're going crazy because there's so much food around."

He feared the influx was a huge safety issue and if not treated properly, could be fatal.

"Sometimes we'll get them in wall cavities, the wasps want to make the nests larger but there's only so much room inside the walls. I've seen it quite a few times lately we've they've actually started to pulling the hard wood out of the gib so you're only left with the paper and the paint in front of the plaster board. And when they break through like that it's like an angry waterfall of wasps."

Meanwhile a third pest control company, Rentokil, was also experiencing a 20-30 percent increase in the number of calls for rodents and insects.

The company said it was receiving an extra 10 calls a day, up from around 30.

Similar to the previous two companies, people were complaining about rats and mosquitoes.

In a statement, Auckland Council said it believed rat numbers may not have increased and some may have died after being washed away in the floods.

One pest control agent said bugs and rodents were often far more visible after a flood because they too had lost their home and needed to move.

Auckland Regional Public Health medical officer David Sinclair said the main worry was around the spread of infection.

"Rodents do carry some infections but also with insects and with mosquitos around people getting infected, bites and cuts and things. So that's of concern," he said.

Auckland Council and Sinclair said people should not touch contaminated rubbish on the side of the street.