This week, we are still in the spotlight for Super Rats on both national radio and TV. After last week’s activity, I did further interviews this week with Richard Baker on BBC Radio 5 Live, then off to Oxford to film a piece for BBC South Today, covering the HSE side of the story Clips and Audio below:

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BBC 5 Live Dec 2012 – Hear the interview in full of Graham Chapple of Rapid Pest Control and Dr Alan Buckle of Reading University on Rodent Control and Super Rats

With the media still focussed on super rats and using more toxic poisons etc to kill them,  I thought it best to bring things back down to earth of the real issues faced by local authorities and pest controllers in certain areas of the country.

Firstly, Super Rats. So let’s cut through the myths – so Super rats are not huge rats twice the size of normal rats, with enormous teeth and growing to the size of a labrador. Niether do they have any greater or lesser intelligence, better climbing abilities or worse personal hygiene or carry more diseases. The only difference between the common Brown Rat and a Super Rat is a gene. Basically, over the years of being subjected to poisons of a certain type, they have genetically mutated to be resistent to the effects of Bromodiolone and Difenacoum – the two most commonly used poisons in the UK.

This all came about through poor baiting practices, where tons of bait was thrown about, killing many rats, but also leaving survivors, who having eaten the poison but did not die. As these rats bread, the gene mutated and slowly but surely, Super Rats evolved. In nature, evolution always finds a way to survive, otherwise a pest species like the Brown Rat would have been annihilated years ago.

The answer to this problem is to use different formulations – some say more toxic, some do not – but basically a poison is a poison in any form and is designed to kill anything that consumes it. What people do not realise is all poisons must be used correctly to avoid threats to people, pets, children and wildlife. They are used to control a target species and so nothing else should gain access to them.

The biggest concern is something called secondary poisoning. This can come in many forms, but basically, secondary poisoning occurs when any non target species comes into contract with a substance that is poisoned. This can be birds accessing the poison, or predators eating a carcass of an animal or bird which has consumed the poison.

What pest controllers and rodent experts are calling for is to use poisons which are designated indoor use only in certain outdoor applications. We have been using these poisons for many years indoors and they are very effective, have no known resistance and kill very quickly. Comparing the two types, lets say indoor and outdoor poison for ease, the typical killing cycle of indoor poisons is 4 – 7 days, where as outdoor poisons are 20 – 30 days. The amount of poison needed to kill for indoor poisons is approx  1.4 grammes for Brodifacoum where as the outdoor poisons require approx 5.6 for bromodiolone and  9 grammes for Difenacoum, so yes it is deemed to be more toxic.

As this is deemed more toxic, these products should not be allowed to be sold to the general public, but only to pest professionals who are trained in there use and the risks associated to using them to our wildlife. In fact, I actually think NO poisons should be sold to the general public.

For instance, on a recent visit to a house where the owners had been trying for several months to get rid of a rat problem, I found poison on the bird table! Their reason for this was because it was called rat poison, they did not think anything else would be affected and it just killed rats! Now I know not everybody thinks that way, but not many people do a risk assessment or an environmental impact survey when they put poison down!

The other point to note is that Super Rats only effect certain parts of the country, Berkshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire being the most effected in the South of England. Analysis by Dr Alan Buckle of University of Reading shows that pretty much all samples provided in these areas carry the gene, but we are still getting good results using Bromodiolone (outdoor poison) in a few area. We are however having to use trapping, shooting and gassing more frequently now than ever before (these are the only other methods we can use outdoors), but these methods also have a safety/environmental impact for non target species. It is also fair to say that other genetic strains are popping up in different parts of the country, Birmingham and certain areas in Scotland are being affected.

So whats the answer? We are looking for controlled and restricted use of Indoor poisons for certain outdoor applications, by suitably qualified pest controllers. We do not believe access should be granted to farmers and gamekeepers unless they are also suitably trained. Access for the general public of all poisons should be highly restricted and even stopped. In Mainland Europe and America, these indoor poisons have been used outside for sometime, without adverse effects of wildlife.

The whole point of all this is to kill public health pests like Brown Rats and protect our wildlife – 2 issues I think we all can agree on – but the argument is how to do it and by whom. A code of practice is already in place and followed by the CRRU members who have achieved the Wildlife Aware Accrerditation, so I am guessing this would be a good minimum criteria for access to these products.

Anyway, the debate rolls on and the rats are still causing issues, so until we get a ruling, we have to keep going as best we can with what we have. If you do have a persistant rat problem, you will need to call in experts to deal with it, so call Rapid Pest Control now for help and advice of dealing with your rat problem.

Let me know what you think – post a comment for us to read and pass on as required.