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Bed bugs are found worldwide and are particularly associated with budget hotel accommodation in large cities. They are perhaps the most distressing of all insect infestations on account of the itchiness and swelling associated with their bites.


Bed bugs are oval flattened insects approximately 5mm in length. They are light brown in appearance when unfed, changing to a deep purple immediately after the ingestion of a blood
meal. Adults are wingless and flattened, unless recently fed.

Life Cycle

The female of the species will lay approximately 200 eggs during her lifetime, at a rate of 5 per day. These eggs are white with a tiny cap and will be glued to the crevices and harbourages in  which the bed bugs live. The rate at which the eggs hatch is temperature dependent, below 13C the eggs will not hatch whereas above 25C the eggs will hatch within about a week. The young bed bugs take between a few weeks and several months to attain adulthood via a series of 5 moults. The time taken is dependent on both temperature and the availability of food.

Habits and Habitat

Bed bugs are typically nocturnal emerging just before dawn to feed on their human hosts. Feeding will typically take place every two to three days and will take approximately 10
minutes, at which time the bed bug may ingest 7 its their own body weight in blood. They will also feed on dogs, cats and rodents. Bed bugs hide by day in cracks and crevices in beds, furniture, wallpaper, skirting boards and electrical fittings. One reason why bed bug infestations are so difficult to eradicate is that they are highly resistant to low temperatures and capable of surviving for up to eighteen months without food. After feeding the bed bug will evacuate much of the blood ingested. This leads to the characteristic spotting of infested furniture. The spots will smear when rubbed with a finger.

I N F O R M A T I O N 
Disease, Risk and Damage

There are no specific diseases associated with bed bugs and their importance is related mostly to the unpleasant irritation following their bites. The itchiness and swelling occurs due to the saliva that the bedbug injects into the host to prevent
the blood from clotting. A severe bed bug infestation may result in sleep disturbance to the host and is extremely unpleasant. Heavy infestations are characterised by a sweet almond type odour.


Bed bugs can be very difficult to eradicate however control may be achieved by the use of powerful broadband insecticides. Such insecticides are only available for professional use. Therefore, unless the infestation is minimal, the use of a reputable professional pest control company is advisable. When spraying with insecticide particular attention is paid to the bed frames, skirting boards, wall switches and any cracks or crevices in which the bedbugs are likely to be hiding.
It is extremely important to recognise that the eradication of bedbugs is not achieved immediately after a course of treatment. The bed bugs hide deep within harbourages in inaccessible areas. Therefore the bed bug will only come into contact with the insecticide when it emerges to feed. The bed bug will only emerge to feed if it senses the presence of a blood meal. It is the carbon dioxide that humans exhale coupled with the warmth of the body that draws the bedbug out of its harbourage. For this reason it is recommended that people sleep in affected rooms after they have been treated. Otherwise the bedbug will not emerge from its harbourage and so will not come into contact with the insecticide.




There are over 4000 different species of cockroach, of which only 12 have become adapted to the human environment. The two most common species found in this country are the Oriental cockroach and the German cockroach.


The Oriental cockroach ranges from 20 - 30 mm in length and is almost black in colour. The German cockroach is much smaller at 10 - 15mm in length and is brown in colour. The easiest way to distinguish between the two species is by assessing their ability to climb. The German cockroach is able to climb vertical glass surfaces, whereas the Oriental cockroach is only able to climb rough non-vertical surfaces. If you see cockroaches climbing up walls with ease, then they are probably German.
Although both species have wings, they do not fly, but can glide from high to low level. Both German and Oriental cockroaches have prominent whip-like antennae.

Life Cycle

The female German cockroach lays 4-8 egg capsules each containing 30 eggs at monthly intervals. The female carries the egg cases until the eggs are ready to hatch when she deposits the case close to a food source. The young will then emerge up to 2 weeks later and will go through a series of 5-7 moults over a six-month period before reaching adulthood. Adult German cockroaches live for approximately six months. The female oriental cockroach produces five thick walled egg cases each containing 16 eggs at monthly intervals. The female will again deposit the egg cases near to a food source. The young will emerge up to 12 weeks later and will go through a series of 7-10 moults taking up to 2 years to reach adulthood. If conditions are highly unfavourable the eggs may not hatch for up to 2 years. Adult Oriental cockroaches live for approximately four and a half months.

Habits and Habitat

The German cockroach is often referred to as the steam fly as it inhabits warm, damp places such as laundries, kitchens and bathrooms. The Oriental cockroach prefers cooler temperatures and is often found in cellars, basements and service ducting. They will also be found in the cooler areas in kitchens and bathrooms. Both Oriental and German cockroaches are primarily nocturnal and will only be seen during the daytime when their harbourages are full. Harbourages will be located in inaccessible areas beneath kitchen units, baths and showers. Cockroaches need access to a source of water, so will often be found in the vicinity of sinks and drains.

Spread of Disease

Cockroaches can spread disease, as they typically inhabit unclean areas and may then walk over food preparation surfaces, thereby contaminating food intended for human consumption. However there are no specific disease linked to cockroaches and evidence of direct disease transmission is scarce.

German Cockroaches Oriental Cockroaches

Control Methods

Cockroaches can be eradicated using broadband insecticides, which are only available for professional use. It is very important that you prepare the property appropriately before spraying; empty all kitchen cupboards and pull all furniture away from the walls. Furthermore it is important that you keep all foodstuffs in sealed plastic containers and empty dustbins regularly.




The house mouse is believed to have originated in the steppes of Central Asia, and was first discovered in this country as early as the 9th century.


The house mouse is approximately 7 to 9cm in length (excluding the tail that is slightly shorter than the body), with large ears and small eyes. House mice are light to dark grey in colour and weigh between 10 and 25 grams. The underside is often darker than the rest of the body.

Life Cycle

A mouse reaches maturity at between 6 to 8 weeks and lives for an average of 3 to 4 months. A female mouse will typically produce six litters per year with each litter consisting of 4 to 8 mice. Theoretically a single breeding pair of mice can give rise to a population of over 3000 in a year.


Mice are able to squeeze through holes the size of a biro, typically living and breeding underfloors, in cavity walls, ceiling voids and behind skirting boards, where they construct small nests. Mice are extremely agile and able to climb vertical surfaces, moving with ease through the service ducting of large buildings. Although predominantly nocturnal, mice are often seen during the day. Mice are inquisitive animals and will feed from numerous sources, often nibbling small amounts of a wide variety of foods. The first indication that there are mice in a property is often the discovery of droppings in cupboards or on work surfaces.

Disease Risk and Damage

Mice urinate and defecate indiscriminately, producing up to 80 tiny droppings per day, thus contaminating the areas in which they live. Mice are particularly implicated in the spread of diseases such as salmonellosis. Mice can cause extensive damage to property by gnawing through a wide range of materials. There is a significant risk of fire and electrocution as a result of mice chewing through electric cables and wiring.

Proofing Against Mice

Buildings can be proofed against mice by blocking any openings through which they can enter. It is important to check that airbricks are in place and intact, that doors fit properly and that there are no unnecessary gaps around water, electricity and gas pipes through which mice can gain access.


Mice enter buildings in search of food and shelter. Improved hygiene will restrict the availability of food, thus decreasing the chances of mice remaining within a property and breeding successfully. Examples of how hygiene can be improved are:

Keeping food in sealed containersSweeping up any spillages immediatelyNot leaving pet food lying aroundRemoving rubbish and other materialsCleaning up under units and work surfacesRemoving food residues from under cookers


Problems with house mice may occur despite the best efforts of householders. Control can be achieved through the use of poison baits or traps. It is very important that the pesticides are used in accordance with the instructions so that treatment is undertaken both safely and effectively. Rodent bodies and unused poison should either be burnt or buried to minimise the risk of accidental poisoning.



The main thing that worries people about wasps is their sting....

This is the wasp which we mostly come into contact with depending where you live. In the picture above, the wasp on the left is the male; the one in the middle the queen and on the right is the worker. Different species of wasp can be identified by their mask, (shown above the queen in the picture above), and the markings on their abdomen. The face usually has an anchor mark and the malar space (the distance between the eye and the jaw) is very short. Antennae are black at the base. Thoracic stripes are parallel sided. Four yellow spots at the rear of the thorax. Nests in holes in the ground and buildings; paper yellowish and formed into shell like plates on the outside.

There's a ninth species of social wasp that's distinctive enough to have a completely different common name; the hornet (Vespa crabro). These magnificent creatures are only found in the southern part of England, but if you live in this region, you may well come across them in your garden. They are perhaps the easiest species to recognise because they have distinctive colouration; the black of other wasps being replaced by brown on the hornet (though some of the other species, such as red, norwegian and median wasps, also have lesser red/brown markings).

They are also noticeably larger than our other wasps. Despite the well-known phrase "stir up a hornet's nest", these creatures are perhaps our most docile social wasp and will, in fact, only get aggressive if you really do stir up their nest!

Queen common wasp (Vespula vulgaris). Though not evident from the photograph, its size and the time of year it was seen (Spring), indicate that it is a queen.
A wasp uses its sting for killing prey, but it can also use it very effectively for defending itself. The sting has associated glands which produce venom. A Hornet sting can be very painful, but is normally not dangerous, as the amount of venom injected is very small. In some cases, however, people do become ill after being stung by a Hornet or for that case any stinging insect. In very extreme cases people suffer anaphylactic shock which can prove fatal (see explanation below). A sting in the mouth or on neck can be serious, as the mucus epithelium (see below) may become very swollen, making it difficult for the victim to breathe. An ordinary uncomplicated sting can be treated with ammonia or alcohol or cold poultices, followed by an antihistamine ointment. If the victim becomes pale and feels unwell with giddiness and nausea it is advisable to seek medical advice immediately.




There are over 8000 different species of ant, the Pharaoh ant being the only one considered to be of significance in terms of public health. The term Pharaoh ant was first used by the eighteenth century biologist Carl Linnaeus, who associated the ants with the biblical plagues of Egypt. Pharaoh ants are tropical in origin and found mainly in large heated buildings in this country.


Worker ants are approximately 2mm in length, with the queen being slightly larger at 4mm. Worker ants are red in appearance with a darker abdomen. The worker ants are wingless. The queen ants do have wings, but do not fly. Winged males will appear periodically and mate with the queens. A Pharaoh ant colony consists of queens, males, immature worker ants, eggs, larvae and pupae. A colony can vary in size from a few dozen to several hundred thousand individuals. Due to their coloration Pharaoh ants are often referred to as ‘red ants' however this is incorrect.

Life Cycle

The queens lay around 400 eggs throughout their lifetime in batches of 5-10. The eggs hatch in about a week and take approximately 36 days to reach maturity. Queen ants live for about year and worker ants for 9-10 weeks. Worker ants remove the developing larvae from a nest and form a new (satellite) nest elsewhere. The behaviour of the worker ants to the developing larvae determines whether they develop into worker or queen ants. It is the ability of the Pharaoh ant to establish satellite nests in the absence of a queen ant that makes these ants so difficult to eradicate.

Habits and Habitat

Nests will occupy any suitable crevice and are often located deep within the foundations, service ducting and wall cavities of buildings. The size of the nest appears to be determined by the amount of space available more than any other factor. Pharaoh ants will feed on almost anything, however prefer sweet and proteinaceous foodstuffs. It is the sterile female worker ants which are most commonly observed as they forage for food, when a food source is found the information is communicated to other ants using chemical (pheromone) trails. Therefore it is common to see long narrow trails of ants moving to and from the food source.

Pharaoh ants are tropical in origin, this is reflected in the fact that they require a minimum temperature of 18oC to breed, with 30oC being the optimum. For this reason the ants will inhabit warm areas such as boiler rooms and around central heating pipework. The large boilers and hot water pipes in tower blocks, hospitals, prisons and factories make them particularly susceptible to Pharaoh ant infestation.

Disease Risk and Damage

There are no specific diseases associated with Pharaoh ants. However due to their extremely small size they are able to penetrate all but the most secure packaging. This means that they may contaminate foodstuffs intended for human consumption, with pathogens picked up whilst travelling through buildings. Pharaoh ant infestations within hospitals may pose additional risks to human health.

Control Methods

Pharaoh ants can be extremely difficult to eradicate, but control can be achieved by the use of juvenile growth hormone analogues. These chemicals mimic the action of juvenile growth hormone (produced naturally be the ants) and prevent the larvae from developing as well as sterilising the queens and winged males. The use of ant powders or insecticides (Raid) is strongly discouraged as this will encourage the formation of satellite nests.




Feral Pigeons have thrived in our cities by adapting to life, learning to roost and breed in the seemingly inhospitable environment provided by tall buildings, and to survive on the food available. Feral pigeons are sometimes called "the flying rat" - adapted to living andcausing a nuisance in the borough. Over recent years there has been a marked increase in the numbers of Feral (wild) Pigeons.


The bird is about 33cm in length and weighs between 280 and 560g average about 350g. Its plumage can vary considerably, from a close resemblance to that of the original rock-dove (with blue-grey plumage, double black wing bars and a white rump) through various "blues", "reds" and chequered types, to almost pure black.

Life cycle

The feral pigeon is capable of breeding throughout the year and nests may be found in any month, however the peak occurs between March and July. Usually, two white eggs are laid on consecutive days. Incubation lasts about 18 days with fledging taking place about 4½ weeks later.

A new clutch can be laid when the first young are 20 days old. Therefore up to nine broods may be produced per year by just one female pigeon.

Disease risk and damage

Pigeon droppings are not only unsightly; their acid content can eat into soft stone and cause long-term damage to buildings. The nest droppings, and feathers also block gutters and rainwater pipes causing water damage. Their droppings can lead to severe hazards on pavements, especially for the elderly, and can carry pathogenic organisms. Pigeons can carry a number of potentially infectious diseases such as salmonella, tuberculosis and ornithosis (a mild form of psittacosis - pneumonia-like symptoms).
They are also a source of allergens, which can cause respiratory ailments like pigeon fancier's lung and allergic skin reaction. There is potential for these illnesses to be spread to people through contact with pigeon droppings, dandruff and feathers; pigeon parasites; or where dead infected pigeons get into food or water sources.

Proofing against pigeons

Total proofing against all birds can only be guaranteed by the closure of all openings bigger than 20mm in diameter. Pigeon proofing includes simple tasks like sealing gaps under eaves and replacing missing roof tiles Pigeons can be deterred from using common perching and roosting sites such as window ledges and roofs by fitting stainless steel wires suspended and sprung at the correct height to prevent the birds from landing. Other commonly-available deterrents to the feral pigeon include barrier gel, spikes and bird repellent gel.

Feeding pigeons

This is an unhygienic and anti-social practice. Feeding pigeons encourages them to gather in increasing numbers which leads to nuisance, and annoyance. Pigeon feeding is harmful because it makes pigeons dependent on people. If they were less dependent they would arguably be less susceptible to disease and other health risks. Pigeons are wild birds and are capable of fending for themselves. Feeding feral pigeons can deprive other birds of food and might scare them from your garden. Smaller birds such as thrushes and finches are often frightened away when numbers of much larger pigeons arrive.

Feral pigeons can also carry viruses that can be spread to other birds causing death. People who feed pigeons often end up feeding more than they bargained for. On occasions when food is plentiful, pigeons may not always eat everything left out for them. The remaining food goes bad and may attract rats and mice, which can spread disease to humans.


One of the most effective methods of limiting the size of flocks is by controlling feeding. Limitation of food availability will, by natural means, reduce breeding rates and discourage influx of pigeons from other areas.
The Council usually does not:

shoot birds, for reasons of public safety;poison or bait birds, because it is not possible to guarantee that we can comply with our legal obligation to ensure that other animals are not inadvertently harmed;trap birds, because this is ineffective and costly.




Foxes first colonised our cities in the 1930s. The low density housing, with relatively large gardens provided an ideal habitat for foxes in which they increased in numbers. Most cities in southern England have urban foxes and the fox population is now stable, contrary to popular opinion. There is in fact no distinction between urban and rural foxes.


A female fox will scream to alert the male to her readiness to mate, and it is this screeching which people find most objectionable, however there is little that can be done to prevent this and it is only really a problem during the mating season. Foxes produce pungent urine and faeces to mark their territory and will also dig holes in lawns whilst foraging for earthworms - if blood or bone based fertiliser is used the holes will be bigger as the fox thinks a corpse has been buried. Foxes have become accustomed to living around humans and will often steal gardening shoes, gloves, toys and leather items to play with. However foxes will not usually attack either adults or children.

Foxes and Disease

Foxes can suffer from both rabies and Weils disease, however rabies has not been found in the UK for many years and properly vaccinated pets are at no risk from contracting Weils. Mange is an infection of parasitic mites, which causes skin irritation and loss of fur. This disease can be transferred to pets (especially dogs), but is easily treated by a vet.


The Wild Mammal (Protection) Act 1996 protects most mammals from a variety of cruel acts, and hence it is illegal to poison, gas, trap or snare a fox. The live trapping and relocation of foxes may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960, and hence is not a realistic solution to the urban fox problem.

Methods of Fox Control

Local authorities are not obliged to control foxes, however there are practical steps that can be taken to deter foxes and minimise the nuisance that they cause. However it is as well to remember that foxes are wild animals that are well adapted to urban life and it is extremely difficult to reduce the overall numbers of foxes within an area. Indeed they are now an established part of the urban ecosystem.

Remove the attraction

Keep all domestic rubbish in sealed containers.Only put rubbish out on the morning of collection.Keep pets such as rabbits in secure enclosures.Do not leave food out for other animalsDo not put food scraps on compost heaps.


Keep gardens well maintained.Ensure fencing is secure

To prevent foxes from entering a garden fencing should have a substantial overhang and be buried 30cms or so into the soil to prevent foxes both jumping over and burrowing underneath. The use of repellent sprays such as Renardine, which is widely available from garden centres, will also discourage foxes. If foxes have already made a home in your garden then the application of a repellent around the entrance and exit to the earth (foxes invariably have both a front and back door) will encourage the foxes to relocate.




Rats are believed to have originated in the grain stores of Asia and China from whence they migrated to Europe and the rest of the world. There are two species of rats commonly found in this country: the black rat (also known as the roof rat or ship rat); and the brown rat (also known as the sewer rat or Norway rat). It is referred to as the Norway rat as it is believed to have arrived in this country via Norwegian timber ships.


The brown rat weighs between 350 and 500 grams and is typically between 200 and 270mm long. Its fur can be various colours from almost black through to white, however they are most commonly grey/brown. The tail is shorter than the combined length of the head and body. The ears and eyes are small relative to the length of the body.

Life Cycle

The brown rat achieves maturity at the age of about two to three months and lives for approximately one year. During its lifetime a female rat will produce three to six litters each containing eight to ten rats. In a single year a rat population can theoretically increase from one breeding pair to over 700. This is because a female rat is capable of conceiving almost immediately after giving birth.

Habits & Habitat

The brown rat is widely distributed throughout both rural and urban areas and will rapidly colonise areas that offer both shelter and food. Rats are particularly prevalent within the sewer systems of urban areas, and it is thought that a large proportion of the overland rat population originates from the sewers. Rats are active burrowers, digging holes which extend far into the ground, sometimes in a complicated tunnel system with numerous openings. The burrows are multifunctional, serving as a place to rear young, to rest during the daytime (rats are typically nocturnal) and to escape from predators. It is often the presence of holes in the ground (rodent workings) that provide the first indications that there is an active rodent infestation within an area.

Spread of Disease

Rats are associated with the transmission of several diseases, Weil's disease and salmonellosis in particular. Disease transmission occurs largely due to the close association between rats and human settlements. It is important to realise that in the absence of direct contact between humans and rats disease transmission is unlikely to occur. Therefore an active rodent infestation in a garden poses little risk to human health. Of all the disease associated with rats, plague is the most infamous. However it is as well to remember that plague was actually transmitted by the rat flea, and has not been recorded in Britain since the early part of this century.

Structural Damage

Gnawing is part of the natural behaviour of rats, and may lead to significant damage to electrical cables, wooden fittings and lead pipes. Furthermore as a result of their burrowing rats may undermine foundations and cause damage to drainage systems.

Control of Rats

It is widely believed that the rat population is increasing although there is no evidence to substantiate this. However it is important to realise that urban areas provide an ideal environment for rats providing both shelter and food. Therefore it is extremely important to ensure that all refuse is disposed of carefully. This particularly applies to foodstuffs although a pile of discarded timber or an unwanted piece of furniture can provide shelter for a colony of rats. The eradication of an active rodent infestation is not difficult to achieve using widely available second-generation rodenticides.