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In the Press

Excerpts from:

Daily Mail | October 10, 2006

Garden decking triggers rat plague

Sean Poulter, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Garden make-over shows have placed decking at the heart of the trendy home - however it is attracting a plague of unwanted guests.

Pest control experts warn the void beneath decking is proving an ideal breeding ground for millions of rats and mice.

Millions of Britons have added decking to the gardens in the last five years - ripping up lawns in the process.

Facts about rats

The notion is that the garden is now an extension of living space - an outside room, dressed with decking, water features, pergolas, and discreet lighting.

However, decking provides an ideal home for rats -brazen super-rats that are bigger and more difficult to kill than their ancestors.

The wooden boards keeps out the cold and rain in the winter, fallen leaves can be dragged in, providing bedding, while tasty morsels from the barbecue provide a banquet.

Now gardeners countrywide are being warned by pest control experts to take action to combat the problems of the hiding place for vermin only yards from their home.

Amateur Gardening said: "In a classic children's folk tale, the Pied Piper saved the rat-infested town of Hamelin by luring a plague of rats to their deaths in the nearbr River Weser.

"For gardeners with timber decking, however, dealing with a modern-day plague of rats taking up residence under decks is proving to be a more costly and complicated headache."

DIY outlets are selling out of poison and traps designed to kill off the menace, but it is proving a near impossible task.

Many of today's rats and mice have developed an immunity to commonly used poisons, while the rodents appear to have learned to steer clear of baited traps.

The magazine said: "Decking, made popular by telly makeover shows Ground Force and Home Front has been identified as a breeding ground for rats.

"And there are more vermin and bigger rodents about this year as local authorities abandon weekly rubbish collections in favour of fortnightly disposal in a bid to encourage recycling."

Bethany Bosomworth, technical officer of the British Pest Control Association said that rats live in environments where they feel safe and will not be disturbed.

"The space under decking offers them nice cosy environments in which to build their nests," she said.

"There are growing numbers of rats in the UK and garden decks are increasingly popular - the two go hand in hand."

The national rat population has been estimated at 70 million, while the number of mice is through to be six to seven times higher.

The rodents have developed immunity to many poisons, while tougher strains of super-mice and super-rats have developed which can gnaw their way into freezers and feed off frozen meat.

The plague has been encouraged by the increasing number of fast-food outlets and a failure by water firms and councils to tackle sewer rats.

TV gardener Christine Walkden said yesterday that she has witnessed rat infestation under decks.

"I am visiting more households with decking that has become home to rats," she said.

"It is because decks provide rats with shelter and a dry home. Often I find leaves and rubbish in corners of decks which rats like.

"But in such an important family area I alway suggest getting a professional pest controller to handle the problem."

Will Mears of Leo Pest Control in Herefordshire said rats under decking have become a common problem.

"When decking is installed you should dig in a perimeter fence of 18-gauge mesh wire and it should be at least 1.5m deep in the soil. It can never be 100 per cent effective but it reduces the problem," he said.

A spokesman for the pest control group Rentokil, Malcolm Padley said: "Rats like living beneath decks because food drops down in between the gaps."