Rat sightings across London have skyrocketed during the pandemic, according to new data from the British Pest Control Association (BPCA).
At the first lockdown last spring, 51% of BPCA members reported an increase in rodent activity. As of October, 78% of pest controllers reported more sightings.
Recent figures from pest.co.uk also show that there were 30 million more rats in the country in 2020 than in 2019.
While experts say in part that this is due to increased resistance to rat poison, they say the numbers are mainly due to better visibility.
David Lodge, who runs Beaver Pest Control in London, explains, “Rats normally avoid humans by nature and are therefore invisible in drains and sewers prior to the pandemic.”
With shops closed and streets deserted, these nocturnal creatures are now getting “bolder” and starting to invade areas they would not normally occupy, such as empty restaurants, pubs, and office buildings.
Reduced litter on the streets and in empty garbage areas behind restaurants and pubs means that the local rat population has limited sources of food available.
As a result, rat populations are finding other places to meet their need for a food source and are becoming more visible.
It means a lot of work for pest controllers as they struggled to get on the list of key workers. Mr Lodge said his company’s rodent-related sales increased 33% in the past fiscal year.
Mr Lodge said his team had “seen infestation in buildings in all boroughs, but particularly in central London and the West End”.
While reviewing restaurants, they found rats gnawing under doors and also getting in by climbing U-bends of the toilet while the water evaporated.
It wasn’t uncommon for his team to find around 20 rodents on a farm in the past few months.
There has also been a sharp increase in reports of rat sightings in residential areas.
A spokesman for the BPCA said, “Of course, part of this is because many of us are more at home and therefore more likely to spot rats or mice. Plus, we’re all more likely to let the problem solve when we are from home work. “