You can read the advice below to find out more about dealing with:

Ants

The Garden Ant (Lasius niger) is by far the most commonly encountered species of ant in the UK. It has a black, dark brown/red segmented body of about 4mm length; the queen is brown and upward of 10mm length. The Pharaoh Ant (Monomorium pharaonis) is also occasionally found in the UK in hospitals, prisons and the like. It is yellow in colour and at 2mm in length is significantly smaller than the garden ant.

Biology and habitat

Ants are socially complex insects living in colonies in large nests. One or more queens will lay eggs and feed the larvae, which develop into fertile males, sterile females (workers) and fertile females. The worker ants are responsible for building the nest usually outdoors in walls, under paving stones, in flowerbeds and under grass. Workers leave the nest on foraging expeditions to gather nectar from flowers and sugary solutions produced by aphids. Their attraction to sweet foods also causes them to invade houses and other premises through doorways, windows and gaps in brickwork and foundations.

Mating takes place in the summer when the winged males and females are seen in large swarms. When mating has taken place the males die and the females remove their wings and dig a cell in the ground where they spend the winter. A new nest is started the following spring. The eggs are laid in April and the larvae hatch in 3-4 weeks. The queen feeds them until they pupate. The first worker ants then emerge.

Importance

As a consequence of foraging activities garden ants often appear indoors in great numbers; this is unpleasant and unacceptable to most people. However, garden ants neither carry germs nor do they spread disease and hence their presence does not constitute a risk to health.

Control

In the garden, try to identify how the ants are gaining entry into the building and seal the point(s) with cement mortar or silicone sealant. Trace the ants back to the nest, which should be dug up, and large quantities of boiling water applied. When the area has dried, this should be followed by the application of an insecticide, preferably a powder, obtainable from garden centres etc. Indoors, ensure that all sugary products are held in sealed containers. Line waste bins with plastic bags and empty them regularly. Proprietary ant powder/liquid, or bait stations can be bought at many hardware stores, garden centres and supermarkets. The delayed action of insecticides often in gel form can be very effective in destroying ants’ nests. The worker ants transport the poison back to the nest, where the colony is killed. If you are using this type of treatment, ants should be allowed to feed on it and take it back to the nests.

Safety

Not all insecticides are safe for use indoors, particularly where food is present. To protect yourself and others and to minimise damage to the environment always read and follow the application instructions printed on the container or leaflet included.

Badgers

Habitat

Badgers live in underground burrows, called sets, in social groups, usually of between 4 and 12 badgers. Each group has a ‘territory’ varying in size from around 30 hectares where there is plenty of food and 150 hectares in marginal habitat. Badgers communicate mostly by scent. They scent-mark other badgers and pathways in their territory.

Breeding

Male and female badgers, called ‘boars’ and ‘sows’, both reach maturity when they are just over one year old. They usually mate in the spring, with most births in the following February. It takes up to 9 months for the embryo to implant in the womb. Development in the womb (the gestation period) is only 7 weeks. Usually, there are 2 or 3 cubs born in each litter, but single cubs and quadruplets are not uncommon. Less than 50% of cubs survive to adulthood.

Development

Cubs open their eyes and gain their milk teeth after about 6 weeks. They leave the sett for the first time when they are about 8 weeks old. By 4 months, badgers have a full set of permanent teeth. They can hunt for food and no longer rely on the sow’s milk for nourishment.

Diet

Badgers are omnivorous—they eat both animals and plants—and they are able to choose from a wide range of food, depending on the time of year, weather conditions and local land use. By far the most important item in their diet is earthworms, but other favoured foods include beetles, birds, young rabbits, rodents like squirrels and rats, reptiles and amphibians. Badgers also feed on bee and wasp larvae, fruits, fungi, cereals, nuts, seeds and berries.

Threats

Adult badgers have no natural predators. The main influences on their survival are competition between themselves and their environment and human activity. Around 50,000 adult badgers are killed each year in road accidents.

Identification

Their black and white striped head most easily identifies badgers. The silver-grey hair on their body makes them difficult to make out, especially in poor light. They are not very vocal, although they occasionally make sounds ranging from whinnying in pleasure to growling and barking in threat. Signs of badger activity can be seen more easily than the animal itself. Look for evidence such as heavily worn badger paths with distinctive 5-toed footprints, claw marks on trees, dung pits, mounds of earth outside the entrances to sets, remains of bedding material, and coarse, wiry badger hair.

Legal status

The Protection of Badgers Act (1992) makes it an offence to kill, injure or take a badger, or to damage or interfere with a set unless a licence is obtained from a statutory authority. Badgers cannot be set upon by a dog or disturbed in any other way. Badger sets cannot be obstructed or damaged. However, certain exemptions do apply and more information can be found at www.opsi.gov.uk or contact the Wildlife Trust or Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

Chemical deterrents

There are chemical deterrents available which are approved (under the Control of Pesticides Regulations) for use in deterring animals. They can be obtained from garden centres and Agricultural suppliers, and are normally available in either liquid or aerosol form. These deterrents have a pungent smell, require careful handling and storage, and must only be used strictly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. When placed at badger entry points chemical deterrents may be effective, but the badgers may avoid the treated point and form another. In this case the user has to be equally persistent. Also it is advisable to warn near neighbours when you apply a chemical deterrent as the pungent smell could cause alarm or complaint.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs are not known to be frequent carriers of disease and their importance is related mostly to the irritation following their bites. There are 2 main types of bed bug. The most common bed bugs are the Common Bed Bug and the Martin Bug – this normally lives in birds’ nests but can bite man.

They breed by laying eggs which usually hatch out after about 10 – 20 days, the bugs then grow through a series of stages, at each one of which they need to feed on blood, until they become adults after about 9-18 weeks.

They are found in the seams of mattresses and soft furnishings and also in cracks in walls and around doorframes where they hide when not feeding.

Service provided

We carry out Bed Bug Treatments in both domestic and commercial properties. The treatment consists of spraying an insecticide onto surfaces where the bed bugs crawl; the insecticide works rapidly and kills most insects on contact. The insecticide will continue to work for up to 2 months and so you should not clean it off until after all the bed bugs are dead. It is recommended that you vacuum all carpets before the treatment and avoid vacuuming again for at least 2 weeks.

You will usually notice a reduction in the number of bed bugs within 2-3 days but it may take longer to kill off all the insects, as the eggs will continue to hatch out. The treatment is very effective but there are occasions when it does not work, if you are still seeing bed bugs 4 weeks after the treatment please let us know and we will come and re-assess.

Safety information

The insecticides that we use are the safest available and do not pose any risk to people or pets with the exception of fish which have similar body structures to insects and so can be affected if they come into contact with the insecticide. You will however be left an information sheet on the insecticide used by the operative.

Disclaimer

The treatment will involve spraying affected areas with a water based insecticide. In some cases as a consequence of the treatment, temporary or permanent staining or marking of sprayed surfaces can occur. Whilst every care is taken to minimise the likelihood of this happening, treatment is undertaken at the customers own risk. Any concerns should be discussed with the Pest Officer prior to the treatment commencing.

Bees

Many people do not know the difference between the various kinds of bees and assume they have a swarm of honeybees when they may have a wasps’ nest or a bumblebees’ nest instead.

Honey Bee

Honeybees may be light coloured, a dull yellow and brown—through to dark brown. Sometimes a colony of bees becomes too big for its home (hive, disused chimney, hollow tree etc) and then the queen and many of the bees leave to find a new home. This is a swarm. Whilst doing this they may pause and hang in a large cluster on a convenient tree, bush or post. They will not hurt anyone unless disturbed. Before leaving their old home they fill themselves with honey and are quite docile.

We are unable to deal with swarming bees and do not provide a service for the treatment of bees. However bee swarms can be intimidating. The most common scenario is when a large bee swarm leaves a hive, often on a hot day in early summer. Typically these intimidating swarms will first set up temporary camp somewhere nearby, such as a tree branch or a fence post. In almost all cases the swarm will take off again within a day or two at most to occupy a more suitable permanent home elsewhere.

The British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA) should be able to put you in contact with a local beekeeper. www.bbka.org.uk.

Solitary Bee (known as Masonry Bee)

Not all bees and wasps live in colonies. Solitary bees lay their eggs in cells hidden away in soft sand, soil or mortar, providing each egg with its own food supply. Perhaps the best-known solitary bee is the ‘leaf-cutter’, which is responsible for cutting neat little semi-circles from the leaves and flowers of roses. While the activities of the leaf-cutter bees can be irritating when they decide to pick on your prize roses, the problem is short-lived and any attempt to discourage the bees will be ineffective. The benefit they provide is much greater than the damage they do.

Mining Bee

Mining bees are very hairy bees, often reminding one of bumblebees and canderbees, but they are much slimmer and usually their hairs are a bit shorter. Mining bees do not live in colonies. They live a solitary life. As you might conclude from the name Mining bees build their nest by making mines in the ground, preferably sand. They especially enjoy firm sandy soils with no overgrow. They build their nests in sandy paths. These paths have everything a mining bee requires; dry, well established sand and no plants threatening to either overgrow the nest or destroy it by means of their roots.

Bumble Bee

Bumble bees are no threat whatsoever; they are an ideal social insect to watch and learn about and are an essential part of any garden in summer. Bumble bees never swarm like honeybees and rarely reach more than 70 bees in a colony. The colony is headed by the ‘queen bee’ that lays the eggs, while worker bees collect the pollen and nectar that keeps the colony supplied. They are very important as pollinators for both farmers and gardeners. Bumble bee queens live just about 12 months. Colours vary from all black, black with white or orange abdominal tip to rusty or yellow bands.

Remember that all kinds of bees (and many other insects) are valuable for pollination. Never destroy them needlessly.

Bird feeding

A garden will often provide rats with food, water and shelter. Any attempt to eliminate an infestation and prevent further problems is likely to fail unless action is taken to address these issues.

Bird feeding provides rats with high-energy food at regular intervals in a fixed location. Birds are messy feeders and small amounts of food pecked off a feeder may be enough to support a population of rats. These may breed all year round and their young may move to the surrounding area to start new colonies.

Our Pest Control Team do not want birds or red squirrels to miss out on seed, nuts and other titbits, especially in the winter, but recommend you help in making the food less accessible to other species.

Follow this simple guide when feeding birds:

  • avoid leaving large amounts of food out, especially if scattered on the ground – small amounts put out regularly will be eaten quickly by the birds and not remain
    accessible for rats to scavenge
  • only leave enough food for birds that can be eaten in one day and do not leave food out on the ground over night
  • where possible use hanging nut, seed, fat or bird cake feeders, as these will help to keep the food out of reach of rodents

Excessive bird feeding is by far the largest single reason for attracting rats onto properties in South Gloucestershire, and we thank you in anticipation of your co-operation in helping to reduce this situation.

Booklice

Booklice (also known as Psocids) are common but harmless household insect pests, which are between 1mm and 2mm in length, i.e. smaller than a pinhead. Booklice are grey or brown in colour and are commonly attracted by flour.

Biology and habitat

Booklice are generally found in the dark areas of rooms, particularly in kitchens where dry food products such as flour are stored and where humidity is comparatively high favouring the growth of microscopic moulds where the booklice consume. Their preference for the dark makes kitchen cupboards a favourite habitat. They usually reach their peak around the Autumn. The female will normally lay around 50 eggs but it can be as many as 200 and then, once hatched these develop in a series of up to seven nymphal stages. A booklouse’s life expectancy is approximately four to six months.

Importance

Booklice do not indicate poor hygiene, as booklice can be found in both clean and dirty properties. They consume little food but their presence will taint foodstuff rendering it unpalatable. Hence psocids are unpleasant and unacceptable but they do not spread disease and do not constitute any risk to health.

Control

Remove and dispose of all infested food. Remember that psocids, being small, may penetrate any container, which is not completely sealed; in the case of tins remove labels, which could be providing harbourage, but be sure to write on the tin what it contains.

It may not be necessary to use an insecticide. If an insecticide has to be used, ensure all foodstuffs are removed to avoid contaminating the food with chemicals. The best method of eradicating booklice from your kitchen and foodstuffs is to dispose of all food in your outside bin.

Once you have done this, clean cupboards using a dry cloth and by vacuuming, paying particular attention to the crevices between shelving and cupboard carcass. Immediately dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag to prevent reintroducing the Booklice into your kitchen. Where wall plaster is exposed paint with an emulsion containing a mould inhibitor. Before reintroducing food ensure the cupboard is completely dry.

Prevent further re-infestation by ensuring your cupboards are free from condensation and damp; ventilate your kitchen particularly during cooking or washing, store all foodstuff in sealed containers and store flour in a covered washable container. Any containers or packaging believed to have been infested with booklice can be treated through placing them in a plastic bag in the freezer for 24 hours. This will kill any eggs that may remain in the packaging or containers.

If you persevere with this advice you should be successful in eradicating these insects, however if you require treatment contact our Pest Control Service.

Carpet beetles

The adult carpet beetle has a distinctive varied colouring of brown or black with white or yellow mottling. It is 3 mm long and found outdoors from spring to early summer feeding on pollen and nectar before moving indoors to lay its eggs. The larvae require a protein diet and are, therefore, found in bird’s nests, animal furs and skins and carpets. The larvae are approximately 5 mm in length, brown in colour and are commonly known as ‘woolly bears’ due to their characteristic covering of hairs.

Fur Beetles

Although the adults have a distinctive white spot on each wing casing and the larvae are different in appearance to woolly bears, the life cycle of the fur beetle is similar to that of the carpet beetle and certainly the larvae cause similar damage to fabrics, animal skins and fur coats.

Biology and habitat

The carpet beetle is a major textile pest of the home where central heating and fitted carpets provide harbourage for undisturbed breeding. The eggs are laid in cracks and crevices and within 2-3 weeks they hatch, and the emergent woolly bears then embark on a continuous feeding binge moulting several times before pupating. The length of the larval life is normally 60-70 days but this may increase or decrease depending on temperature, humidity and diet. The larvae do not like the light and have the capacity to hibernate in cold conditions and to reemerge in spring. The adult lives for up to six weeks during which time it will fly off in search of pollen and nectar and for egg laying sites.

Importance

Carpet beetles neither carry germs nor do they spread disease and hence their presence does not constitute a risk to health. However the activities of the woolly bears will cause damage and indeed ruin carpets, clothes, animal furs and leathers.

Control

Carpet beetles have a capacity to wander and hence infestations, whilst manifesting themselves initially in one room, may also exist in others and hence vigilance is required. It is important first to trace the source of the infestation. Check the roof space for old bird’s nests and wool based lagging or other materials, examine the cracks between floorboards around the edges of rooms and under skirting boards for accumulations of debris, and check sheepskin rugs and all animal fur/skin clothing.

Infested nests and inexpensive materials should be removed and burned, and the areas from which they have been removed thoroughly vacuumed using a nozzle head and paying particular attention to cracks and crevices.

Home treatment can be undertaken using a residual insecticide specifically for indoor use on carpet beetles/crawling insects. These should be sprayed on floorboards, in cracks and gaps around skirting boards.

Safety

Not all insecticides are safe for use indoors, particularly where food is present or on certain materials/surfaces. To protect yourself and others and to minimise damage to the environment always read and follow the application and usage instructions printed on the container or included in a leaflet. 

Disclaimer

The treatment will involve spraying affected areas with a water based insecticide. In some cases as a consequence of the treatment, temporary or permanent staining or marking of sprayed surfaces can occur. Whilst every care is taken to minimise the likelihood of this happening, treatment is undertaken at the customers own risk. Any concerns should be discussed with the Pest Officer prior to the treatment commencing.

Cluster flies

Cluster flies are common throughout the United Kingdom and are usually found in areas of grassland which allows the adult flies to lay their eggs. They are often identified in considerable numbers on sunny south-facing walls. This will often result in walls becoming tainted by ‘fly spots’.

In spring and autumn several species of fly may be found in large numbers in houses. Both Cluster and swarming flies enter properties when temperatures begin to deteriorate to seek a suitable place to hibernate. These places tend to be the lofts/roof spaces of houses and farm buildings. Unless disturbed, these flies will hibernate successfully until temperatures begin to climb during the Spring. It is not uncommon for these flies to leave a scent which will encourage cluster flies to return year on year.

Biology and habitat

There are four types of fly known as ‘Cluster Flies’, these are the Autumn Fly (Musca autumalis), Common Cluster Fly (Pollenia rudis), Green Cluster Fly (Dasyhora caynella), and Yellow Swarming Fly (Thaumatomya notata).

Cluster flies lay their eggs in the earth or in animal dung. The eggs remain in the earth and hatch when temperatures increase in the Spring. The larvae then burrow into the bodies of earthworms where they grow, and emerge as a cluster fly. This life cycle usually takes from 27 to 39 days.

Control

The life histories of several of these species are somewhat unusual, and little, if anything can be done about controlling them at source, so the answer is to deal with them as they come in.
If the property becomes infested every year and they cause a significant problem, it is worth carrying out a number of preventative measures towards the end of the Summer. This can be achieved through the prevention of structures that encourage cluster flies into buildings. This can be done through the use of sealing products to close entry points into the walls and roof of the building. Inside your property, for example window pulleys, electrical sockets, window and door frames should all be sealed to prevent cluster flies coming in for shelter.

You can treat infestations of Cluster Flies yourself through the use of a proprietary knock down fly spray which can be purchased from nearby DIY stores/supermarkets. If they are coming into bedrooms then the quickest and easiest way is to collect them with a vacuum cleaner and dispose of the bag afterwards.

It is not unknown for previous generations of Cluster Flies to leave a scent to allow the Flies to follow and return to the same place the next year. This can be removed through the use of a strong disinfectant around eaves, soffits etc as this will mask the scent. This should prevent flies returning year after year.

Reasons for control

Cluster flies do not feed on dead animal bodies or faeces and as a result do not necessarily pose a risk to public health. However, they can spread disease when they fly from place to place like any other fly, similar to cross contamination that can occur through poor personal hygiene.

Fibre glass insulation and loft spaces can look unsightly when covered with bodies of flies, but the structure of your roof will not be altered and no damage is likely to occur.

Creepy crawlies

Moths

Clothes moths neither carry germs nor do they spread disease, hence their presence does not constitute a risk to health. However, the activities of the larvae will cause damage and can ruin carpets, animal furs and leathers.

Thoroughly clean and vacuum area to remove any eggs, larvae and pupae. Use an insecticide spray (Fly and Crawling Insect). Spray all areas and under furniture. Leave for a couple of weeks to work on grub. If a flying adult moth, spray room before leaving house/going to bed.

Slugs and snails

They can be an unpleasant nuisance, leaving slimy trails across floors etc, but they do not spread disease and their presence does not constitute a risk to health. Slug pellets may be applied externally. Try also sinking a jar into the ground and filling it two thirds full of stale beer. The slugs/snails will then fall in and drown. Bran will attract slugs and snails from miles around and can then be picked off and disposed of safely.

Silverfish

Usually found in damp conditions such as kitchens, larders and bathrooms. Nocturnal in habit, coming out in search of food at night. These insects may be controlled by sprays or dusts suitable for the control of crawling insects. The insecticide should be blown or brushed into crevices e.g. behind skirting, cupboards etc. Aerosol sprays for the control of crawling insects are suitable for small infestations or try ant powder.

Earwigs

Live primarily outdoors. Commonly found in burrows under vegetable debris and crevices in walls and will normally only enter buildings towards autumn in search of protection from cold weather. Earwigs are generally nocturnal and although they do have wings and are capable of flying, rarely do so. Earwigs are of nuisance value only since they neither spread disease nor constitute any risk to health. As a predator of aphids (greenfly etc) they may be considered as beneficial in horticulture. Vacuum regularly in those rooms which may have been ‘invaded’ probably the most convenient way of dealing with them indoors. Use a crawling insect powder suitable for garden application and apply to areas most likely to offer harbourage.

Woodlice

The most common, the garden woodlouse is approximately 15 mm in length. The woodlice are considered as unpleasant and unacceptable inside premises, however they do not spread disease and does not constitute any risk to health. Vacuum regularly in those rooms which have been ‘invaded’ which is the most convenient way of dealing with them indoors. Clear debris and refuse from the garden, particularly that close to affected buildings and apply a crawling insect powder suitable for harden use to likely areas of harbourage, e.g. beneath paving slabs.

Biscuit Beetles

The biscuit beetle is 2-3mm long and is mid to dark-matt brown in colour and has finely ridged wing cases and a loose three segmented antenna. Biscuit beetles are often confused with furniture beetles/woodworm. The biscuit beetle is found worldwide and is common throughout the UK. It is found in shops and domestic larders infesting a wide variety of food stuffs such as such as flour, bread, breakfast cereals and other cereal products, beverage concentrates, spices, biscuits, packet soups and drinks.

The female biscuit beetle lays its eggs either in food stuffs or the surrounding areas. Around two weeks later the eggs will hatch and tiny larvae will emerge and infest food stuff in the area, often penetrating packaging. The larvae will live inside the packets of food stuff for two to five months where they will continue to grow and moult. Once they have reach a full grown length of 5mm they find movement difficult and will construct a cocoon around them.

The pupal stage lasts two to three weeks then the adults may remain in the cocoon for a further two weeks before emerging. On emerging the adults disperse and live without feeding for up eight weeks. Mating takes place soon after the adult has emerged and the female will then lay her eggs before she dies.

The biscuit beetle causes serious problems for the food industry due to its widespread occurrence and its ability to breach most forms of food packaging. The source of the infestation should be traced and where possible eliminated.

Secondary sources of infestation such as birds nests and food residues should be removed as the biscuit beetle can use these in which to breed and re-infest new food stuff. Areas used for storing food should be kept scrupulously clean and stock rotation is important along with regular cleaning and inspection.

False widow spiders

The False Widow Spider resembles other more common spiders and can be found in similar areas. It has become a more common occurrence in the south of England due to our temperate climate. False Widow Spiders are commonly found on walls, darkened spaces and sheds along with House Spiders.

Spiders are in large numbers at the moment due to the abundance of flying insects that emerge in Autumn including cluster flies and wasps which have bred this year in large numbers. Spiders are Insectivores (insect eaters).

The False Widow Spider can bite if provoked. Whilst the bite may be painful the venom should not be anything stronger than a wasp or bee sting. If you think you have been bitten you should treat any problems symptomatically. However if a serious allergic reaction occurs you should seek medical attention and if possible take the spider or photograph of it along for identification. False Widow Spiders are not aggressive and most injuries to human are defensive bites when a spider is squeezed or pinched.

We do not offer a service for the treatment of spiders and do not survey premises for the existence of spiders. Spiders generally do not pose a public health risk and in fact will be of more benefit in removing other insect pests from our areas.

For further information contact our Pest Control Services. Further more detail information can also be found on the Natural History Museum website.

Fleas

Cat and dog fleas are usually found together and are very similar in appearance. These fleas are small, wingless insects about 3mm long with piercing sucking mouthparts. They are dark coloured and have very narrow bodies with well developed legs which make them good jumpers. Their bodies are covered with backward projecting spines that help them move between the hairs on the host animal. The female cat flea’s head is twice as long as it is wide. Both cat and dog fleas have a row of very heavy spines on the front of the head (genal comb) and the back part of the first body segment (pronotal comb).

Cat and dog flea larvae are 6mm long when fully developed and look much like fly maggots. They have 13 body segments, are a dirty-white colour with backward projecting hairs on each body segment. They also have a pair of hook-like appendages on the last abdominal segment.

Cat and dog fleas go through complete metamorphosis. The females lay four to eight eggs after each blood meal. The eggs fall into the nest of the host animal or wherever the animal happens to be at that time. The eggs hatch in about 10 days. The larvae feed on dried blood, bits of faeces, and other types of food materials.

When mature they spin silken cocoons within which they pupate. The pupal stage lasts from seven days up to a year. The adult cat flea will often stay within the cocoon until vibrations stimulate them to emerge. The adult fleas feed on blood with their piercing sucking mouthparts. Cat and dog fleas prefer these two animals, but will readily feed on man.

Treatment

We offer a professional service for the treatment of fleas at competitive rates. The form of treatment is likely to be an insecticide spray.

Immediately prior to treatment residents must:

  • vacuum floors, furniture, including cracks and crevices, especially where pets are likely to have been and throw away the bag
  • remove equipment, toys etc from the floor, and disconnect electrical equipment
  • ensure that adults who suffer from asthma, animals and children are not in the property at the time of treatment
  • fish tanks need to be covered and the pump turned off
  • treat any cats and dogs for fleas and wash their bedding in hot water or destroy bedding
  • ensure that foodstuffs and sensitive materials are put away

You will be advised on safety regarding the treatment and left an information sheet with emergency information.

Disclaimer

The treatment will involve spraying affected areas with a water based insecticide. In some cases as a consequence of the treatment, temporary or permanent staining or marking of sprayed surfaces can occur. Whilst every care is taken to minimise the likelihood of this happening, treatment is undertaken at the customers own risk. Any concerns should be discussed with the Pest Officer prior to the treatment commencing.

After treatment you should ensure that

  • everyone washes their hands after touching treated surfaces
  • you do not vacuum until 10-14 days after treatment
  • children, pets, and asthma sufferers remain out of treated rooms until the treatment is dry (normally a few hours).

Flies and maggots

Biology and habitat

Flies belong to the order Diptera that contains over 100,000 species worldwide. The name Diptera means two wings. Flies all follow a complete metamorphosis with distinct egg, larval (maggot), pupal and adult stages. The full life cycle can vary between 1 and 9 weeks, depending on the environmental conditions (temperature, moisture and food supply).

The adult fly mates, and then lays its eggs in a substance that will provide sufficient food for the immature stage, a pale, legless maggot. The breeding site is nearly always moist (damp soil, rotting vegetation and meat or animal faeces) and surrounds the soft-bodied maggots.

When maggots are full grown, they stop feeding and usually wander from the breeding site in search of a place to pupate. After pupation, they emerge as an adult fly.

In warm weather, flies complete their development in an incredibly short period, 7-14 days, and produce numerous generations during a typical season.

The flies most commonly encountered in the home are:

  • Common and Lesser houseflies which breed in rotting vegetable matter or animal faeces – eggs can hatch in 8 hours to 2 days
  • Blowflies (Bluebottle and Greenbottle) which breed in meat or meat products – eggs usually hatch in 1 –2 days
  • Fruit Flies which breed in rotting vegetable matter, fruit, sour milk, beer and vinegar – eggs usually hatch in 24 hours

Flies and disease

Animal excrement and domestic waste form an ideal breeding ground for flies, which means they can spread diseases. Their bodies can pick up disease from food waste and excrement and carry this to food or surfaces that they subsequently land on. Diseases can also be carried in a fly’s stomach, which can be transferred onto food from their saliva and faeces.

Control of Flies

The best method of fly control is to physically break the breeding cycle by making sure they cannot find anywhere to breed. This can be achieved by:

  • not leaving food uncovered on work surfaces
  • ensuring that kitchen bins are lidded to prevent flies accessing food waste
  • food waste should ideally be bagged prior to being put in the bin
  • regularly clean in and around kitchen and wheelie bins
  • ensure your wheelie bin lid is kept closed to prevent flies gaining access
  • animal waste should be cleaned up regularly and bagged prior to being put in your bin
  • drains and gullies, particularly in and around kitchens, should be cleaned frequently to remove organic material
  • do not leave bowls of dog/cat food out all day, especially in the kitchen

If flies are present in the house, these can be controlled with the use of flypapers and fly sprays available in most supermarkets and hardware stores. Care should be taken when using fly sprays, especially in kitchens and around vulnerable people. The directions supplied with the product should always be followed.

Moles

Moles are primitive mammals belonging to the order Insectivora, meaning insect-eaters. They have velvety, blue-black-grey, mohairlike fur. The snout is slender and sparsely haired, with long slim jaws and many needle like teeth. The tail is short and nearly hairless. The stout, short forearms are tipped with outwardly-turned flattened feet and claws. The hind feet are much smaller than the forefeet. Ears and eyes are inconspicuous. The mole can vary in size from 6 to 9 inches.

Habits

Moles live most of their lives in underground runways. These runways can form vast networks. Moles dig runways to search for food and to provide protection and living space for travel, resting and nesting. The runways are usually about 6 inches under ground level but may be as shallow as 2 inches or as deep as 20 inches. The annoying molehills are external evidence of the moles’ underground tunneling activities. Moles come to the surface occasionally mainly at night, to search for food, water and nesting material.

Annual cycle

Moles are active throughout the year. They do not hibernate. During extremely wet or dry periods, mole activity—by external evidence—seems to lessen. Control programmes will be most successful if carried on during periods of heavy mole activity.

Food

The main diet of moles consists of earthworms, grubs, beetles and insect larvae. Moles require large quantities of food. They spend half their lives searching for something to eat and can travel up to half a mile a day searching. Most of this travel is back and forth in the burrow and not in a straight line.

Breeding period

Moles mate from late February to early March, producing young only once a year. The young, averaging three to the litter, are born from late March to early May. Young moles spend about one month in the nest and are nearly full-grown when they leave. Nests are constructed underground in a fortress-like arrangement in fence lines and well-drained, slightly raised sections of fields. Large molehills (30-40 inches in diameter) or areas of intensive mound-building activity are probably nesting sites.

Nest cavities average 9 inches in diameter and about 6 inches in height. Normally 3 or 4 runways lead into the nest. Moles build nests of grasses or moss with a dry, inner pocket surrounded by wet, coarser grasses. Nests normally occur 5 to 18 inches under ground level.

Control

The nature of the moles food habits makes it hard to poison. Fumigation with lethal gases is sometimes successful in moist, compact, clay soils. The use of deterrents has the advantage of driving the animal elsewhere to find new hunting grounds. Other control methods include digging out mole nests and shooting or stunning the animals. Moles are sensitive to concussion. Smacking a shovel on the ground near a working mole can stun or kill it.

Trapping

Set traps at least 1 foot away from molehills to ensure trapping main runways. Probe to locate the runway and probe again to determine the direction of the runway. Using a sharp, straight-edged shovel or trowel, cut a section of runway exactly the width of the trap. Loosen the dirt under the trap jaws to facilitate trap action. In rocky soil, remove all rocks that may bind the trap

Pigeons

The control of pigeons is a very emotive subject. Many people see them as part of the natural wildlife of South Gloucestershire. Others see them as a pest and would like to see them all removed from our streets and open spaces. Over recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of feral (wild) pigeons. Feral pigeons have thrived by adapting to life; learning to roost and breed in the urban environment making use of man made ledges (e.g. window sills, pipe work, parapets etc.). In their natural cliff habitats they lead a healthy existence, but in the urban environment they can become unhealthy and survive scavenging on available food. In areas where pigeons are excessively fed rats and mice may also be encouraged.

Pigeons and droppings

  • cause damage to buildings and machinery
  • carry insect pests
  • carry disease which may be transmitted to humans
  • create smell
  • cause accidents when walkways become slippery and dangerous
  • cause hazards to motorists and pedestrians when startled flocks take flight suddenly

How you can help

  • do not provide food for pigeons
  • make sure you dispose of all food waste carefully
  • do not provide homes by ensuring your building is proofed against pigeons

What will happen to the pigeons

  • they will find their own food naturally
  • they will breed less often
  • flocks will become smaller

What the council is doing about pigeons

We do not have a policy to control or cull birds within the area and as such actions can only have a short-term impact. We may act to discourage situations where pigeons become a statutory nuisance and offer advice as necessary.

Pest Control is unable to provide a service to deal with specialist proofing of properties and would recommend that you contact a pest control company for further advice.

Rats and mice

Rats and mice can be found in homes, gardens, shed and garages and their numbers need to be minimised for the following reasons:

  • they eat and contaminate all types of food
  • they damage and destroy property
  • they carry diseases that are hazardous to both humans and animals – diseases such as typhus, trichinosis, plague, jaundice (Weils disease)

The signs of a rat or mouse infestation include droppings, seeing footprints in damp soil or dust, and burrows in the ground. There will also usually be signs of gnawing.

Kinds of infestation

The picture below shows a 50p piece, the droppings on the left follow a visit from a mouse and on the right are as a result of a visit from a rat. Rat’s droppings are the largest and they vary in shape from bluntly rounded ends to spindle shaped in appearance. Black rat droppings are generally smaller and more regular in form, the ends are usually pointed. Mouse droppings are very small and are sometimes confused with cockroach droppings.

When droppings are discovered it is important to determine their age as it will indicate whether the infestation is current. Fresh droppings are soft enough to be pressed out of shape and have a glistening moist appearance. The colour varies according to the kind of food eaten, but usually they are black or nearly black.

Within a few days, depending on climatic conditions, droppings become dry and hard. Later the surface will become dull, and over an extended period of time they assume a greyish, dusty appearance and may crumble easily.

What service does the council provide?

South Gloucestershire Council make a charge for the treatment of Rats and Mice in domestic premises, with discounted rat treatments for those on one of the qualifying benefits (Income Support, Pension Credit (guarantee credit), income based Job Seekers Allowance) We also provide a full competitive contract service for commercial premises.

Treatment is usually in the form of poison baits, although occasionally cages, traps, dusts or liquid baits may be used if the pest control officer thinks this would be more appropriate. If you think you have a rodent problem the pest control officer will survey the premises and carry out the appropriate treatment. The officer will inform you of where baits have been placed and keep you informed about how the treatment is progressing. You will be advised on safety regarding the treatment and will be left an information sheet.

Before treatment takes place, a signature will be required from a person aged 18 or over and who is the owner/occupier of the premises. Customers should note that occasionally the pest control officer might consider that treatment is more effectively carried out in an alternative location or may not be required at all.

During the treatment you may be offered advice about “hygiene” and/or proofing to prevent further infestations. You will be expected to act on any advice given, before further treatments will be carried out. The officer will not undertake any building or other works, remove floorboards, tiles etc.

If items are required to be removed or lifted this is the customer’s responsibility.

Where deemed necessary by the Local Authority, formal notices under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act or the Public Health Acts may be served, to require occupiers to treat or take steps to eradicate vermin.

Customers should note that the Council reserves the right to refuse or terminate the treatment at any time.

Preventing infestations

Accumulations of waste materials and rubbish can attract rodents and makes a warm home. Ensure all waste (especially food waste) is disposed of promptly and appropriately. Avoid leaving large amounts of food out for the birds, especially if scattered on the ground. Do not leave food out over night. Where possible use hanging feeders. Excessive bird feeding is by far the largest single reason for attracting rats onto properties in South Gloucestershire.

Where pet food is stored in outbuildings use lidded metal containers and clean up all spills immediately. Use fine mesh chicken wire (< 10mm) on animal cages and under compost bins to prevent rats gaining access. Clean up spills from under internal and external animal cages on a daily basis. Block any holes around air vents or piping. Keep outer doors closed. Fit balloon or cone guards around the top of drainpipes.

Squirrels

There are two species of squirrel in Great Britain. The red squirrel, which is confined largely to Scotland and the grey squirrel (sciurus carolinensis), which is found all over the country. The adult grey squirrel weighs approximately 275g, has a body height of approximately 25 cm and a tail length of approximately 20 cm.

Biology and habitat

The grey squirrel was deliberately introduced to Britain from North America over 100 years ago. Since then it has spread throughout most of mainland England and Wales. The squirrel traditionally lives in a drey—built of twigs and leaves in the forks of trees. The drey is used for shelter and for breeding. There are two breeding seasons in a year, the first litters are born in February and March after a gestation period of about 45 days. The young are weaned at about 10 weeks old. The second litters are born in June and July, leaving the nest in August and September. The average litter size is 3-4 young. The young squirrel is sexually mature at about 9 months, so the spring litter become reproductively active in late December and January.

Importance

The most serious damage in urban areas arises where the squirrel enters the roof spaces of houses by climbing the walls or jumping from nearby trees. Once inside, they chew woodwork, ceilings, and insulation on electrical wiring or tear up the loft insulation to form a drey. The noise nuisance from a litter of squirrels can cause many sleepless nights. They are also a pest in the garden — they raid fruit crops, bird feeders and can cause damage to trees by stripping the bark, which often results in the weakening of young shoots and a misshapen tree.

Squirrels can carry a variety of diseases, but they are only transmittable to other squirrels.

Control

The best method of control is to proof the building/loft. Prevention is better than cure. This is the best advice a pest control officer can give anyone who has a problem (this goes for all pests). If a cure is required the best form of control is trapping with the use of a Kania squirrel trap. A hole need only be as big as a squirrel’s head to allow access. If they have been seen entering the property, their access points will be known, but otherwise a piece of newspaper stuffed securely into a suspected access hole can be easily removed by a squirrel and will show that a hole is in use.

The RSPCA advise the use of strong wire netting with a mesh size no larger than 25mm to block any access holes, plus repair to any slipped slates, rotten soffits or missing bricks etc. to prevent access. If the squirrels have already gained entry, it is essential to ensure there are no squirrels remaining in the loft before access is blocked. Not only is it cruel to trap them (and illegal to cause suffering to a captive animal), they may do additional damage in their attempt to escape or in a mother’s attempt to rescue her young. The decomposition of any squirrels that die may also cause smell and insect infestation. Squirrels can attack when frightened or to defend their young, so take care and make noise to frighten any squirrel out of the loft before you enter.

Treatment

Lethal control of squirrels is permitted but should only be carried out by qualified professional pest control officers. The use of poisons is strictly regulated for use by professionals only and should never be undertaken by members of the public. It is an offence to live trap and release a squirrel back into the wild.

Starlings

Deterring Starlings

The following information has been provided by the RSPB. Starling roosts are found in locations where large numbers of birds can gather in safety. Such sites are becoming scarce, and roost sizes are declining as the numbers of starlings throughout Europe decline. Because of the adverse conservation status of the starling, it would be best to tolerate a roost wherever it may be. However, if the roost must be moved on, a recording of a starling distress call played underneath a roost after dark can effectively move the birds to another location.

Perching on ledges can be prevented by fitting spike strips and other such barrier deterrents onto the ledge.

Because of their intermediate size, it is not possible to exclude starlings only from feeders in gardens. Timing the feeding to avoid the peak times of starling presence may help. Any audible deterrent (apart from distress calls) will not be starling specific, but is just as likely to scare any bird within its effective range, and in gardens is likely to be unacceptable because of the nuisance it would cause to the neighbourhood.

Starlings and the law

Starlings are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take a starling, or to take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. Preventing the birds from gaining access to their nests may also be viewed as illegal by the courts. It is therefore important to check for active nests before any repairs to roofs and soffits are carried out during the breeding season.

The provision to control starlings under a general licence was removed from the Act in 2005, making the species fully protected in England.

Urban foxes

Are you troubled by foxes?

Foxes in an urban area can cause a range of reactions among residents, some loathe them and others love them. The aim of this information sheet is to explain the types of problems that can be caused by urban foxes; put the extent of the problem into perspective and give some practical advice on how to alleviate or possibly eliminate any such problems. You can then decide on how much time and energy you wish to invest relative to the scale of the problem. Much of the technical information about urban foxes has been provided by Professor Stephen Harris of the University of Bristol, where most of his research has been carried out on urban foxes.

The history of urban foxes

Foxes first colonised our cities in the 1930’s. At that time land was cheap, and large areas of semi-detached suburbs were built in the period leading up to World War II. This low density housing, with relatively large gardens, provided an ideal habitat for foxes, and they quickly increased in numbers. From these new suburbs foxes then colonised other, less favourable, urban areas, and are now found in all parts of Bristol right down to the city centre. However, they are still most abundant in those parts of the city with owner-occupied 1930’s semi-detached or detached housing. In such areas foxes attain densities several times those seen in rural areas.

Whilst Bristol’s urban foxes are well known as a result of the publicity given to them by the BBC’s Natural History Unit, most cities in southern England also have urban foxes, as do a few cities further north. For most towns and cities, including Bristol, the fox population reached its carrying capacity (i.e. the maximum number of animals the habitat will sustain) many years ago, and contrary to popular belief the population is stable, with no significant increases or decreases. There are only a few cities where fox numbers are probably still increasing, and these are ones, which have only recently been colonised.

Are urban foxes different from rural foxes?

No. Not only are they the same species, they are very often the same animals. The number of fox cubs born in Bristol exceeds slightly the annual rate of mortality, and excess animals disperse out of the city, sometimes moving distances of up to 25 kilometres (15 miles). For instance, foxes born in Bristol have moved as far as Cheddar Gorge and other sites on the top of the Mendips; it is difficult to imagine a bigger change in life-style. Other foxes live outside the city but commute into the edges to feed at night. Not only is there no difference between rural and urban foxes but also contrary to popular belief, urban foxes are no less healthy, smaller, more mangy or less fit than rural foxes.

Why is there no fox control in South Gloucestershire?

Controlling urban foxes is difficult, expensive and never successful. In the past a number of Local Authorities tried this, particularly in London, but most have now given up any form of fox control. The problem is that foxes have been in urban areas for so long that they have reached a state of equilibrium, and regulate the size of their own population.

At present there is an annual mortality rate of 50% per annum for foxes, mostly as a result of road deaths. This may sound high, but it is actually much lower that the foxes could sustain. So a large proportion of the foxes do not bread each year, and litter sizes (average just under 5) are comparatively small. The moment you increase the mortality rate, foxes compensate by increasing the number of vixens that breed. So you do not reduce the numbers of foxes in the area. What you do achieve, however, is a disruption of the fox population, so that new foxes move in to try to take over the territory of the animal that has been killed.

Invariably more than one fox moves in, there are fights over the territory and hence more noise and fouling of gardens. This is because calling and scent marking with both urine and faeces are used to lay claim to a territory. On top of this, having more itinerant foxes in an area is likely to lead to more killings of pets and more general nuisance. Not only is urban fox control unlikely to achieve anything, it is both difficult and very expensive. Shooting is obviously not acceptable in urban areas, as is snaring, and so only live trapping is left. The fox’s reputation for cunning is well earned; it is very difficult to get one to walk into a cage trap, even if there is a really tasty delicacy inside. Catching the first fox may take three weeks or longer. However, foxes live in family groups, with an average size of about 3 adults and 4 or 5 cubs. Catching the second fox is harder still, and is virtually impossible to catch them at all.

Long before you get near this goal new foxes are moving in to colonise the vacant niche. So at best only a temporary reduction in the number of foxes is achieved for a considerable expenditure of time and effort. South Gloucestershire Council therefore believes that the policy of positive deterrents will best serve to limit the fox population.

Why can’t the foxes be caught and “returned to the countryside where they
belong”?

There are a number of reasons to consider. Firstly, there are exactly the same practical problems as with catching the foxes to kill them. It is just not feasible. Secondly, it is widely held misconception that foxes belong in the countryside but not in urban areas. Foxes are very adaptable animals, and the same species are found in all habitats from the artic to desert regions. The English countryside is no more its “proper” habitat that any other; urban areas are just one more habitat colonised by this very adaptable specie, and they “belong” there just as much as anywhere else. Thirdly, it is also a misconception that you can move a wild animal to a new area, release it, and it will instantly settle down and live happily ever after. Nature just isn’t like that, and releasing animals in a new area is a very trick operation. It is unlikely that there will be a vacant territory, and the animal will therefore wander widely in a strange area looking for somewhere to live. Since it does not know the area, it will not know the danger spots or best feeding sites. Invariably it will die fairly soon, and it would have been far more humane to have killed the fox rather that dump it in a strange area. Since dumping animals like this is clearly inhumane, such action could well be an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Finally, many people do not want foxes released on their land. In this their concerns are entirely justified; since displaced foxes do not know where to hunt, they are particularly likely to cause greater problems to farmers by killing fowl.

Will foxes kill my cat?

This is very rare; but can happen occasionally. A survey in northwest Bristol, where foxes were particularly common, showed that they killed 0.7% of the cats each year, and these were predominately young kittens. This means your cat is far more likely to be run over, stray or die from a variety of other causes. Foxes are only a little bigger that a cat (males average about 5.5 kilograms), and are equipped with a sharp set of teeth. Cats have an equally sharp set of teeth, plus some pretty unpleasant sharp claws. If a fox tackles a cat it risks severe injuries, and that is the last thing it wants. Every night a single fox will meet many, perhaps dozens of cats and most encounters are either indifferent or amicable. Cats and foxes will usually ignore each other. However, some cats are aggressive animals, and will go for a fox, sometimes to drive it away from their garden or food bowl.

Do foxes attack people?

Until recently there has been no evidence to suggest that foxes pose a significant risk of attacks on people. The incident where two children were attacked in their bedroom has been the first confirmed reported incident. Therefore if you know that foxes are in your area then you should consider some simple precautions. Do not leave windows and doors open making it easy for foxes to enter properties and do not to leave babies in prams unattended. Hand tame foxes that have been encouraged to enter gardens for feeding could potentially enter properties undetected. It is true, however, that foxes seem to be less wary of young children, and may actually try to play with them. However, if a fox is cornered, it may attempt to bite in self-defence. So if you find a fox trapped in an outbuilding or similar situation, do not approach it or try to pick it up. Leave it an escape route, and it will be away as soon as it feels safe.

Will foxes kill any other of my pets?

Unlikely, providing that you take good care of your pets, the chances are very slim but not impossible. The same survey in north-west Bristol calculated that 8% of pets living in cages in the garden (rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks, hens etc) were killed by foxes each year. Most of the people interviewed however commented that for a long while the foxes had left their pets untouched even though it would have been easy for the foxes to have taken them at any time. Pet killing is most frequent in the late spring/early summer when foxes are rearing cubs, and a fat pet rabbit is a nice size meal to carry back to the cubs. Do not leave your pets in the garden unsecured at night and make sure that their hutch or shed is solidly built. The hutch or shed should have a secure means of fastening, preferably with a lock that cannot be knocked open. In addition any wire on the hutch should be strong weld mesh, securely nailed down, and not chicken wire, which foxes can bite through. If you live in an area where foxes frequent your garden the onus is on you to take these very simple precautions to safe guard your pets.

Do urban foxes have rabies?

No. Rabies was eliminated from this country in the early part of this century, and Britain is currently one of only a few countries without rabies. Our quarantine laws are designed to keep rabies out, and it will only reach Britain if someone smuggles in an infected animal. If that happens, there are well prepared contingency plans to prevent the disease becoming established in Britain.

Will foxes rifle my litter bin?

They will, but much less frequently than most people suppose. That same survey in north-west Bristol found that 81% of residents never suffered this nuisance, 16% occasionally did, but only 3% found this to be a regular problem. Even this figure is probably an over estimate, since many cases of rifling refuse bins are wrong attributed to foxes; cats and dogs do it regularly, and perhaps more frequently than foxes. However, the introduction of wheelie and food bins will greatly reduce this problem, as they are fox proof. If you do suffer from foxes turning out your refuse, the solution is easy. Make sure that you do not put out plastic sacks with waste food inside. Always make sure that the lid is intact and closed at all times, this will ensure that foxes cats, dogs, rats and birds cannot gain access to your waste.

Should I feed the foxes? – Fox Dinner

If you want to yes; there is absolutely no reason why you should not feed them, and many people derive a great deal of pleasure from feeding foxes in their garden. But do not feel that you have to feed them because otherwise they will be short of food. This is not true. For instance, some people believe that wheelie bins are stopping foxes from feeding from bins, and as a consequence they are starving. Since foxes rarely scavenge from refuse bins, the introduction of wheelie bins is hardly likely to be a problem. Other people believe that foxes are particularly short of food in the winter, and so need feeding. Again this is a fallacy, as winter poses no problem for foxes. If you decide to feed your foxes, resist the urge to make them hand-tame, since this may encourage foxes to approach other people looking to be fed and even enter houses in search of food. Urban foxes already are pretty tolerant of humans, and show none of the natural fear of rural foxes. This means that it is comparatively easy to get the foxes to come and take food from your hand, or even come indoors to be fed. One person even had a fox that would come in doors, sit on her lap and allow it to be stroked. This often causes great problems both for the fox and for other local residents. The fox assumes that all people will react in the same way, and many foxes approach people for food who are either scared of it or likely to be aggressive towards the fox. Sometimes these very tame foxes enter houses through cat flaps in search of food, much to the consternation of the householder, and the cat. If the fox panics and cannot find its way out quickly, bedlam ensues and great damage can be caused in the kitchen. A development to the traditional cat-flap is available that reacts to a device carried on your cats collar, so that the flap will only allow your cat entry, thereby preventing dogs foxes or other cats entering your house. Finally, some people are afraid of foxes, and to be approached by an apparently fearless wild animal causes them a great deal of distress. So avoid making your fox too tame or too bold.

Can I stop the foxes making those awful screaming noises?

Unfortunately no. Foxes live in family groups that defend a joint territory, but since they normally spend much of the time travelling around the territory alone they use calls to maintain contact with other members of the family group, and to warn off intruders. Although foxes vocalise throughout the year, their calls are most obvious during the mating season, around January and February. It is then their barks and screams are most likely to be heard; fortunately the calls are usually short-lived and things quieten down fairly quickly.

Do urban foxes get mange?

In some cities yes. Mange is caused by the itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei, which burrows into the skin. Exactly the same mite causes mange in dogs and scabies in humans. In some rural and urban areas mange is currently prevalent in foxes; it is very virulent and infected animals invariably die. People often see foxes that look very thin, and with their fur coming out in great tufts, so that they look almost hairless. In fact it is very different and a normal course of events.

Foxes moult once per year; this starts around April, and they lose much of their fur, so they look extremely thin and scruffy. Often only the grey under fur is left, so that they have large grey patches on the shoulders or flanks. The new winter coat grows throughout the summer, and this process is usually only completed in September or October.

Can I stop the foxes stealing objects from my garden?

Foxes are both inquisitive and very playful like dogs. This means they not only scent mark objects that interest them, but are also quite likely to play with or chew them. Gardening shoes, gardening gloves, anything made of leather, balls left in the garden, dogs chews and other pet toys, and clothes hanging on washing lines are all played with, chewed or in the late spring/early summer removed to take back to the earth for the cubs to play with. The only recourse is to ensure that you do not leave such items in your garden overnight if foxes frequent the area.

Why do foxes foul my garden?

Foxes use faeces to mark their territory, that is why the faeces are always left in conspicuous places e.g. on top of a compost heap, or in a garden walls. Excessive fouling is often due to immature foxes attempting to create their territories or where several foxes are competing for a vacant territory. Once a fox has established a route through your garden, it can be very difficult to stop it. An adult fox can pass through a hole 4” (100mm) square and can scale a 6ft (2m) fence or wall with ease. It is extremely difficult to stop foxes passing through your garden. Any measures taken are best carried out during late summer/autumn. This is the time that cubs become more adventurous, the family groups are starting to break –up, and the foxes are endeavouring to establish new territories. It is rare for this nuisance to be anything more than occasional, and although fox faeces are very smelly, they pose little disease risk. Foxes are prone to many of the same diseases and parasites as domestic dogs, including roundworm Toxocara canis, the larvae of which can cause blindness in children. However, the chance of catching this from foxes is remote, and so far there are no known cases of children contracting toxocariasis from foxes.

Can I stop foxes digging up my lawn?

Yes, this is comparatively easy. Foxes dig shallow holes in lawns, bowling greens or playing fields when they are hunting for earthworms and grubs; they eat a large number of cutworms (the caterpillars of moths) and beetle larvae such as wireworms. These only come near the surface of the lawn in wet periods and so this sort of damage is seasonal. It occurs mainly in wet springs and warm wet autumns. If the damage is not too severe you can ignore it, and it will cease as soon as the weather changes, you can then repair the lawn. Otherwise you can remove the grubs and earthworms in the lawn by using a commercially available insecticide and vermicide available from garden centres and D.I.Y. stores. This course of action should only be considered in extreme circumstances, due to the need to reduce the use of all pesticides in the environment. Very occasionally, foxes dig much deeper holes in lawns or bowling greens. These can sometimes be half a metre or more deep, and the lawn looks like a battlefield. This usually occurs when a blood or bonebased fertiliser has been applied to the lawn. The foxes think there is a corpse, and being scavengers frantically dig to find it. All you can do is to wait for the rain to wash the fertiliser deeper so that they cannot smell it, or if it is a bowling green or similar area fence it against the fox with a small electric fence. This may sound like a drastic resort, but in fact is fairly cheap and easy to install. All you need is a length of rabbit or sheep “flexinet” and an energiser, which can be run off of a 12 volt car battery. They are obtainable from any agriculture merchant, look in the Yellow Pages. An electric fence can also be used when foxes persistently damage fruit or vegetables gardens. However, remember that you must clearly label the electric fence, even if it is on private property, and must not erect it in an area with public access. You are responsible for the safety of the fence you put up. This type of fence is likely to cost up to £140 and so is only really appropriate for extremely sensitive areas such as bowling greens.

Why do foxes dig burrows in my garden?

This is difficult to answer. Foxes are always exploring, and often dig trial burrows systems in a variety of unusual places. Flower beds, compost heaps, under garages or under garden paths are all favoured sites. Often these burrows are less than a metre long, and are never used. However, they are a nuisance. As soon as you spot such a hole, get a bamboo pole and poke it down the hole to the end, to check there is no animal in it. Invariably there will not be. Then fill the hole with bricks or something that is difficult for the foxes to dig out, and cover it with soil. Frequently, perhaps inevitably, the foxes will try to open it up again, but after a few re-blockings, they will give up and go away.

How can I stop fox cubs trampling my garden?

Sometimes fox cubs may be living in an adjacent property, but playing in your garden, trampling flower beds, stealing washing off lines, jumping on and breaking cloches or getting entangled in garden netting. Invariably the cubs play very close to their earth, and so they will be living a few metres away, under a neighbour’s shed or patch of vegetation. If they are living in a neighbour’s garden, you can ask your neighbour to encourage the foxes to move on. But if your neighbour welcomes the foxes there is little you can do, since anyone is perfectly at liberty to encourage foxes to live in their garden. Then all you can do is try to block the access points to your garden so that the cubs play elsewhere.

Sometimes, particularly in late summer, the cubs are coming from a patch of dense vegetation (often brambles) in an adjacent allotment or overgrown garden. To get the foxes to move, all that has to be done is to clear the area in which they are living.

What can I do about the foxes living under my shed?

Foxes like garden sheds; they provide a nice dry, lying up site, and are an ideal place to breed. Sheds that have provided good breeding sites are used time and time again, but it is very easy to stop this happening. Foxes do not like sheds that have draughts under them, and usually only use ones that are in the corner of the garden with a wall or fence on at least two sides. If there is rubbish piled behind the shed, then so much the better. To deter the fox, all you have to do is clear the rubbish, and open up the area around the shed so that it is exposed and draughty.

The foxes will leave pretty quickly, usually the following night. As soon as they have gone, take steps to prevent them returning. If you have exposed the shed so that it is open all round the base, this is usually enough. If you want to be absolutely sure that the foxes will not return, securely fix strong “weld mesh” (not chicken wire) around the base of the shed, covering the gap and dig about 12 inches (300mm) into the soil.

Foxes breeding under garages are more difficult to get out, since they will have burrowed under a concrete floor. Putting foul smelling chemicals down the holes is currently illegal under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985, and often the only way to get them out is to break up the concrete floor of the garage. This is a drastic course of action; particularly since the nuisance value is far less than if they were under the house. The best course of action is to leave well alone until the foxes take their cubs away; in most years this happens during June. When you think the foxes have gone, loosely block the holes with some soil. If the holes are re-opened, continue re-blocking the holes each day until nothing disturbs the soil plugs. Then immediately fill the holes with rubble and cement them over to prevent the foxes gaining access again. In future years look for new holes, and block these in the same way as soon as they appear.

What can I do about foxes living under my house?

This is a rare but serious problem that must be dealt with immediately. If foxes can get under houses, they will find the nice dry warm environment ideal, and often have their cubs in such situations. It occurs most commonly in older houses, which have large spaces under the floorboards, and old metal air vents to provide ventilation.

These metal air vents may have rusted away, allowing the foxes easy access. Once in, the space under the floor is divided by walls with small gaps in them to allow air to flow, and so this design provides the foxes with access under the whole of the house. The problem is particularly severe in the breeding season, and if cubs are born under your house there are a number of problems. At night the cubs chase each other round and round under the whole house, screaming at each other. Not only is the noise unbelievable, but under the house is very dry and the dust they kick up permeates everywhere. In addition they urinate and defecate under the house making an awful smell. To add to this, the vixen brings home food for the cubs; this decomposes, smells and attracts flies. To cap it all, remember that foxes like to chew at things, and under your house these include gas and water pipes, electric cables and telephone cables. Severe gas leaks, floods and electrical fires and telephone faults have all been caused by foxes. The most sensible course of action is not to let your air vents get into a bad state of repair. If the foxes don’t take advantage the local cats or even worse rats will cause similar problems.

If the foxes have got in, all you can do is to arrange for a pest control company to lift floorboards and drive the foxes out. However, since the foxes probably have access under the whole house, this may well involve lifting floorboards in all ground floor rooms. Getting the foxes out can be very time consuming, difficult, disruptive and an expensive operation. Maintaining your air vents is a much, much cheaper option.

Practical Advice

If you are unfortunate to have foxes in your garden then the following advice can be considered:

  • remove the attraction
  • remove the habitats
  • make it unacceptable to the fox

Remove the attraction

This method can produce the greatest control over the fox population at little or no cost. Urban fox population are far greater than those in rural areas, mainly due to the fact that a far greater amount if food is readily available. The most likely reason for a fox to enter your garden is in the search of food, removal of the food source will reduce the attractiveness of your garden to the fox.

Suggestions of action you can take:

  • keep all domestic refuse in wheelie, food bins or closed containers (making sure all lids are properly closed) not in plastic bags
  • only put your refuse out on the morning of collection
  • protect all animals and livestock
  • do not leave food out for other animals e.g. cats, dogs, rabbits etc
  • be extremely careful where you put food to feed birds, this should always be in approved bird feeders

Habitats

Another reason for foxes being attracted to your garden is that it can provide a safe place to shelter by day or night. This may be overgrown, neglected areas or voids beneath buildings. Voids can be protected using a heavy duty mesh (weld mesh) with holes measuring 2” (50mm) square is ideal, making sure that it is securely fixed to any building and buried to a depth of 12” (300mm) into the soil to prevent the fox burrowing under the mesh.

Making it unacceptable

If you decide that the presence of foxes in your garden is genuinely unacceptable then there are ways of discouraging them, although none are foolproof. To prevent foxes using your garden, you can try a suitable proprietary animal repellent. A range of products is available from Garden Centres, Hardware Stores and D.I.Y. Stores. Ensure that only approved products are purchased and that they are used in accordance with the manufacturers’ label. The law does not permit the use of non-approved products such as creosote or diesel oil.

The use of these or any other non-approved products can be very dangerous to other pets such as cats and dogs. Prosecutions can result against anyone who is found using such non-approved products. Your local Garden Centre, Hardware or D.I.Y. Store should be able to provide you with the correct advice on the most suitable products to use.

The products listed below are approved for use to deter foxes:

  • Scoot
  • Catapult
  • Ready to use Stay Off
  • Johnson’s Clear Off
  • B&Q Animal Repellent
  • Curb Garden Pack

All of these products contain Aluminium ammonia sulphate.
Note that any chemical used as a repellent is covered under The Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 where it states that “only approved chemicals may be used”. All chemicals / pesticides must be used safely and in accordance with the product label. If you require further help or advice, call the Fox Deterrence Helpline 01892826 222 although the Fox project is a wildlife group they have developed a wealth of knowledge and expertise on fox deterrence. Advice will vary according to the time of year and can also be tailored to your own particular situation.

We would like to thank Bristol City Council for allowing reproduction of this information.

Urban gulls

The problem

Almost every town and city in Britain has a population of roof-nesting gulls, and with a growth rate of some 13 per cent a year it won’t be that long before all of the UK’s towns and cities support growing gull colonies. Our neighbouring Authorities, Bristol, Bath and Gloucester all suffer from problems of Urban Gulls, living in the cities and using the roof tops as artificial cliffs on which to nest.

Although we are not aware of the same problems with nesting, it is likely that we get gulls in our area out looking for food. Gulls are supreme opportunists and will take advantage of whatever becomes available. If it is edible, they will eat it. Their major feeding takes place out of town and may be some distance away – principally landfills (refuse) and green fields (invertebrates). They move widely and are perfectly capable of making a round trip of 100km in search of food in only a few hours. The gulls can also flourish in cities and suburban areas as they do not have any predators and can live for between 20 and 30 years.

Gulls and the law

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects all wild birds. It is an offence to kill or injure any birds or their nests or eggs unless acting under a licence and only in compliance with the conditions of that licence. A General Licence allows “authorised persons” to undertake certain actions which would otherwise be illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act but only to certain birds in certain circumstances. All non-lethal methods must be considered first and only if none are thought suitable can lethal measures then be considered.

The General Licences will allow Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), Lesser Blackbacked Gull (Larus fuscus) and Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) to be killed and their eggs and nests to be damaged or destroyed, but only for the following reasons:

  • preserving public health or public or air safety
  • preventing the spread of disease
  • preventing serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters

Noise from birds or the fact that they leave droppings or open rubbish bags are NOT reasons under the Act and, therefore, killing or injuring birds for these reasons is an offence and offenders can be prosecuted.

There are limited public health grounds for seagull control and surveys undertaken by various institutions have shown that the culling of seagulls is mainly unsuccessful and that the numbers after a cull will shortly increase back up to the original optimum number.

Unfortunately because of the above information, the Council does not provide a service for dealing with gulls, other than offering advice on proofing if they are nesting on a roof.

Wasps

Wasps belong to the Hymenoptera (membrane winged) order of insects. They are social insects with a highly evolved caste system in which workers (sterile females) build the nests, raise young and forage for food under the direction of the queen. The common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) is mostly beneficial, destroying many insect pests to feed the growth of the nest. In autumn, however, after the nest matures, redundant workers flying off in search of fruit and sugary food become a nuisance to humans.

We offer a professional service for the treatment of a wasps nests, chargeable at competitive rates.

  • treatment is normally carried out as soon as possible after contacting us, (when possible, treatment is usually carried out the following day) however this may have to be extended in busy periods
  • the wasps nest will usually be destroyed within 5 days of treatment – if not a retreatment will be offered free of charge within 7 days
  • treatment will be refused if bees and not wasps are found to be the problem and a call out charge will still be made
  • before treatment takes place, a signature will be required from a person aged 18 or over and who is the owner/occupier of the premises
  • a booking will not be accepted or the treatment will be refused where the nest is inaccessible, or unsafe to access without special equipment, or where it is higher than the gutter height of a 2 storey house and it is only accessible from outside
  • it is usual to see a small amount of residual spray or powder around the nest and underneath it, and precautionary advice will be given about this
  • you will be asked to remove any sensitive equipment/objects under the nest or cover fish ponds that might become contaminated with dust or spray

General terms and conditions

Residents should note that:

  • the service will only be undertaken where the owner/occupier has signed a consent form
  • the council reserves the right to refuse treatment wherever it considers it appropriate
  • the Pest Officer will not carry out any building works of any nature needed to gain access to the nest
  • the nest itself will not be removed (wasps do not occupy old nests in following years)
  • the call out charge covers the treatment of one wasps nest – payment must be made prior to the treatment being carried out

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You can check pest control charges and book an appointment on our request a pest control service for your home page.

If you have a business or commercial property visit our request a pest control service for your business page.

For further advice on what you can do to control insects and pests yourself, you can read the guidance: Pest control on your property on GOV.UK.

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