Rat infestations worst in 10 years as pest control firms field 40 calls a day
Rat infestations across Ireland have surged to unprecedented levels, as pest controllers report the highest number of call-outs for vermin-infested households in a decade.
A combination of heavy rainfall and increased building work have triggered an explosion in rodent numbers, with one pest-control company revealing the number of call-outs over the past month had been the highest in 10 years.
Trevor Hayden, who runs Complete Pest Control, said his resources have been stretched to the limit, with rat-related jobs increasing by 150pc from the same period last year.
"It's gone crazy out there with rats. This company is now 10 years old, and this has been the busiest start to the winter I've ever known," he said.
"The winters are milder, which means they have a higher survival rate over the season. But we've also had a lot of rain lately, which forces rats above ground.
"There's definitely more building work going on, which again disturbs rats and leads them to start looking for somewhere else to live. That's why so many seem to be getting into people's houses.
"We've been getting about 40 calls a day for rat problems since late October, more than we've ever had, and a massive amount for a company our size.
"If the weather starts to get colder, it could potentially become even more of a problem because there'll be more rats looking for shelter in people's homes."
Although exterminators have mostly had to tackle homes with just one or two rodents, pest controllers have warned that rats can multiply quickly.
Families with children have been told to be on their guard, as kids can be vulnerable to potentially-fatal Weil's disease, which spreads when rodents urinate on something which is then ingested by humans.
"The symptoms are very similar to flu, so people are not likely to realise they have it or may be reluctant to visit the doctor," Mr Hayden said.
"But the chances of catching it are very slim, because as soon as the rat urinates the bacteria starts to break down.
"And someone would have to ingest what they've urinated on almost immediately.
"But toddlers and small children are most at risk if there are rats in a family home."
While rats are accounting for up to four in five jobs for pest control experts, the other major seasonal pest has been mice.
"It's very difficult to completely proof a building from mice. They are small and can squeeze through the tiniest of holes," he said.
"But they can be a problem from a hygiene point of view, and need to be dealt with.
"It's the time of year when people head up to their attics to bring down the Christmas decorations. People should check their attics for droppings.
"If you spot droppings from either rats or mice on top of the insulation, you have a serious problem."
Pest controller Rentokil has noted a similar explosion in rat-related jobs, reporting call-outs doubling since the summer of 2018. The company put it down to climate change and an increase in litter and pollution.