Infestation nation: Why Britain is being overrun by pests

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

There's something nasty and it is no longer just lurking in the woodpile. A "perfect storm" of public-sector cuts, falling living standards, the growth in the rental sector and the unseasonally warm weather is prompting an explosion in infestations in British homes.

The soaring numbers of rats and mice, wasps, fleas, cockroaches and other general nasties could lead to a serious threat to public health as cash-strapped councils cut free extermination services, it was warned yesterday.

Meanwhile, balmy autumn weather has resulted in large populations of wasps remaining active into winter and midges in Scotland biting in November for the first time since monitoring began seven years ago, while the unusually dry conditions have encouraged rats and mice to burrow under patios.

Graham Jukes, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said the "golden age of public protection" was now over.

The institute's latest research, carried out before the effects of the austerity budget, revealed a nine-fold increase in the number of councils no longer offering pest-control services. That figure is expected to grow further as spending cuts bite.

Mr Jukes said: "In today's age we are being hit by a perfect storm. On the one hand we have better climactic conditions which are enabling pest species to survive more than they have in the past. You have also got the growing health inequality – poorer families are getting poorer and living conditions are deteriorating. The economic situation is causing people to clean their homes less.

"We are getting to a point where there is almost an explosion in factors which are affecting the potential public health of the population. I can't see a stopping point."

Species such as the longhorn beetle have advanced beyond their traditional domains, while the Health Protection Agency has a established a Mosquito Watch service to monitor sightings of aggressive biting insects following the spread of diseases such as the potentially fatal West Nile virus in the United States and elsewhere. HPA modelling has shown that human-biting mosquito species are increasingly able to survive the UK's mild winters.

The latest estimate has put the UK population of brown rats at between 10 and 20 million. This has led to fears over the spread of Lyme disease, which can be transmitted to household dogs and cats. Uncontrolled urban fox populations can also lead to fleas, ringworm, fungal diseases and tapeworm in domestic pets. Another cause of concern in the industry is growing resistance to pesticides and rodenticides.

John Davidson, chief executive of the National Pest Technicians Association, said next summer's influx of visitors for the London Olympics, with up to a million visitors expected to descend on the capital, threatened to exacerbate London's burgeoning bed-bug problem.

The invaders: common problems

Midges

A mild autumn has delayed the cold-snap that kills midges born in the summer. These flies want your blood.

Cockroaches

They thrive in squalid conditions and contaminate food, spreading disease.

Moths

Ignore them at your peril. What starts with a couple of the insects can soon become a fully-fledged infestation.

Fleas

Many councils have started charging for pest control services, so residents are reluctant to report infestations. The only surefire way to remove an infestation is fumigation.

Rats

Irregular bin collections, more litter and the disposal of cooking fat into sewers provide the perfect breeding ground for the disease-carrying rodents.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam