Winning the Fight Against Pest Infestation: Advice for Self-Storage Operators
By Cory Burns
District Manager, Burns Pest Elimination
The following is reprinted with permission from Inside Self-Storage, which has provided quality information and education to self-storage industry professionals for more than 30 years.
When it comes to self-storage maintenance, pest control isn’t always top of mind for facility operators. But because of how quickly pest populations can multiply, it’s crucial to spot any potential infestation and eliminate it as soon as possible. To avoid trouble, it’s best to have a plan of attack and policies in place.
Why They Love Self-Storage
Insects and rodents are often drawn to self-storage units due to the types of items tenants keep inside, but certain pests pose more of a threat than others. Common critters that may invade your facility include ants, bed bugs, cockroaches, mice and rats.
Self-storage properties are vulnerable to invasion for various reasons:
- Most customers rent their unit, move in their belongings, then stay away for months at a time. This leaves plenty of time for vermin to sneak in and make themselves at home.
- Pests like bed bugs are known for hitching rides on furniture, allowing them to spread quickly from customers’ homes to your buildings.
- Most pests thrive in environments that are dark, cluttered and humid—all characteristics of the average storage unit. They gravitate toward areas that allow them to hide, build nests, breed and feed without being bothered.
- Despite food being prohibited from self-storage units, pests can make a meal of even the smallest traces of it. For example, birdseed, pet food, pantry items or even a couch with crumbs between the cushions are all fair game.
The Problems They Pose
Though most pests are small, they can become a big problem for self-storage operators—and fast. If you leave them alone long enough, they’ll reproduce. For instance, in only six months, a single female bed bug can produce more than 5,000 babies! That’s why it’s important to pay attention to signs of infestation before it grows.
Ants, bed bugs, roaches and rodents can create substantial damage by chewing through, defecating on and invading tenants’ stored belongings. Carpenter ants can actually gnaw through wood and destroy furniture. In extreme cases, vermin can ruin the storage unit itself by eating through the walls and electrical wiring, causing costly structural damage.
Rodents carry dozens of diseases that can spread to humans. Though transmission usually requires direct contact with their urine or droppings, breathing in contaminated air can also present health hazards to staff and tenants, creating potential liability for owners.
Finally, there’s the harm pests can do to your company reputation. Just a single sighting of ants, roaches or mice in a storage unit can lead to bad online reviews. Even if your property is clean and well-maintained, an infestation may suggest otherwise to current or prospective customers.
Detecting and Preventing Infestation
While it’s impossible to check the interior of occupied self-storage units, there are still signs of infestation for which you can watch. First, check around for any visible pests, holes within the structure or rodent droppings. If ever you can see a tenant’s unit contents, look for droppings, holes in cardboard boxes, nests, or scratches or bite marks on furniture.
Another way to discover pest problems is to pay attention to your customers. After encountering vermin, they’re likely to complain to management or leave a bad review. Ultimately, the goal is to handle all issues before they’re allowed to escalate.
The best approach is to be proactive and prevent pests from invading and thriving at your self-storage property in the first place. Here are a few tips:
- Keep your landscaping clean and tidy. Mow lawns, trim bushes, and get rid of any leaves and mulch.
- Seal building gaps, holes, cracks and other potential entry points. Many pests can flatten their bodies to fit through even the smallest crevices.
- Pay extra attention to units that aren’t climate-controlled. Pests tend to be attracted to humid conditions, and these units are often accessible directly from the outdoors.
- Strictly enforce policies banning prohibited items to ensure customers aren’t storing food and other pest-attracting items in their units.
- Encourage the use of plastic boxes to better protect stored belongings and lessen the amount of cardboard inside the units.
- Ask tenants to visit their units as regularly as possible.
If you already have pest problem at your self-storage site, some do-it-yourself options might help. Depending on the type and severity of the pest presence, there are a range of solutions available including:
- Store-bought sprays and pesticides
- Essential oils and herbs
- Ultrasonic repellers
- Sticky boards
- Insect light traps
Though the above can be suitable for minor invasions, it’s best to let a professional handle pest control for the long term. Local experts know how to deal with vermin in your area and keep them from showing up in the same spots.
A good pest-control company will thoroughly inspect your facility, identify any presence, and implement an integrated pest-management program specifically tailored to your property. The idea is to eliminate current infestations and prevent future ones. Just choose a provider with experience working with businesses, as treatments for commercial vs. residential buildings can vastly differ.
If you’ve never experienced a full-blown invasion at your self-storage property, a comprehensive pest program might seem unnecessary. However, the benefits far outweigh the risks. One of the top selling points for storage sites is cleanliness, which is where pests will immediately interfere. Whether you opt for monthly or quarterly services, consider ongoing visits that can help take sanitation to the next level and further enhance the customer experience.
Enforcing pest-control measures from all angles is essential to protecting your self-storage tenants, employees and business reputation. If unwanted guests are pestering your facility, it’s urgent that you get in the ring and start knocking them out now!
Cory Burns is district manager for Burns Pest Elimination. The family-owned and -operated company has been serving and protecting Arizona and Greater Las Vegas since 1983. Burns Pest Elimination employs industry-leading experts who utilize their local knowledge to get rid of pest problems and prevent future ones. For more information, call 877.971.4782 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information from Cory on pest elimination, please see the link for the AZSA webinar below: