Written by: Helena Kleine
Toxic baits are still part of the basic equipment of most pest fighters today. But their use is increasingly restricted by legal requirements. Concepts such as HACCP and IPM are also used as an assessment basis for audits according to IFS Food, BRC, AIB, dealer audits and especially with sustainability standards and their implementation is required. As a result, pest controllers have to rethink their approach - at least if they want to work as a service provider for large and well-known companies.
In this article, we provide information on the background to the legal changes in recent years - the significance of environmental damage and secondary poisoning. We also go into modern alternatives to the control of rats and mice with rodenticides, so that you are well prepared for the future of rodent control.
The active ingredients in rodenticides are so-called anticoagulants, i.e. blood coagulants. After ingestion, poisoned rodents bleed to death internally within approx. Two to five days. During this time they are weak, can no longer move properly and are easy prey for their natural predators such as foxes and birds of prey.
The active ingredients of the rodenticides are:
Such so-called PBT substances are only broken down very poorly in the environment, can accumulate in living beings and are toxic. These properties also explain why they lead to poisoning in other animals and are so harmful to the environment.
When using rodenticides (with anticoagulants) there is a risk that not only rats and mice, but also other animals that are not the target of control (non-target animals), will eat the poisonous bait and be unintentionally poisoned. For example, bait for rats in sewers can be found and consumed by dogs.
In addition, poisoned rodents are easy prey for birds of prey such as buzzards and owls and lead to second-degree poisoning (secondary poisoning) in them. Fish, which ingest the poison from the water in which they live, are also affected. Significant amounts of the active ingredient can already be detected in birds of prey, red kites and foxes.
Did you know, for example, that around 5.5 million kilograms of rodenticide bait are applied in Germany every year? These apply primarily to combating rats in the sewer system. How much of this poison actually ends up in the stomachs of rodents, how much is washed away and how much is ingested by other animals, is completely unclear.
Secondary poisoning is particularly devastating when it weakens and decimates a pest's natural enemies. The pest then has a better chance of spreading and an infestation is all the more likely. More poison is being laid out again and the vicious circle continues.
This also explains why authorities such as the federal environmental authorities in Germany and Europe have to keep restricting the use of rodenticides. As a result, service providers and companies are being urged ever more strictly to rely on alternatives. But what exactly do they look like?
According to the Biocide Ordinance 528/2012, rodenticides may no longer be used for permanent baiting in Germany. This means that rodents must not be fought constantly and preventively with poisons.
The German Umweltbundesamt (Federal Environment Agency) also expressed the following in a publication from 2018:
“Anticoagulants [this is the chemical name of rodenticides, editor's note. Red.] can cause pain and animal suffering by causing internal bleeding. For this reason, too, their use is only justifiable if all conceivable measures have been taken beforehand to contain the rodent infestation and there is no alternative to the use of biocides. "
And the principles of IPM and HACCP, similar to DIN 20523, require a preventive approach to pest control. Poisons are only acceptable in the last resort, if at all, when all other alternatives have been exhausted.
As already mentioned, the fight against an acute infestation is preceded by prevention and monitoring. If pests have no way of penetrating your premises and their livelihoods are also being deprived, there is no infestation that needs to be combated. And should a rat or mouse make it into the warehouse (for example over a supplier's pallet), the goal is to identify them quickly and take non-toxic measures immediately.
In concrete terms, hygiene measures include, for example:
Structural measures describe the sealing of doors, windows, gullies, pipe openings, etc.
After these basic preventive measures, digital pest control comes into play. With the use of digital snap traps, non-toxic monitoring bait and cameras for detection of infestation, rats and mice can be kept in check without any problems, completely non-toxic. Even if digital pest control has been around for over 10 years, it is new to many.
In our article on digital pest control, we provide detailed information about the modern solutions that transform a pest controller from a “box opener” into a consulting service provider.
Natural and biological methods such as building perches for birds of prey on a site are also promising alternatives to the use of poisons. “Back to the future” is the motto here, because our grandparents already knew natural methods. You can find out how pest control is rediscovering and developing it today in our article on biological and ecological pest control.
Rodenticides with anticoagulants pose a considerable risk to animals and the environment - and ultimately to humans too. While digital alternatives have been around for a long time, they have grown in importance in recent years under pressure from new laws and guidelines. The use of rodenticides is already heavily regulated today. Pest fighters who bring modern alternatives to their customers position themselves as valuable advisory service providers in the long term. You too will benefit from a quick rethink.