The end of lockdown restrictions has seen an increase in the number of reports of mice and rats in hospitality settings, new data suggests.
A lack of footfall in towns and cities will have given the creatures confidence to enter areas they normally would have steered clear of, according to an expert.
And with business returning to normal the rodents might be expected to shy away once again.
However, with people potentially eating out more, food waste is on the rise, providing them with an easy meal.
The number of inquiries about rodents increased substantially across most regions of the UK from January 2021 to January 2022, according to data released by Rentokil Pest Control.
Comparing the number of commercial inquiries from businesses looking to deal with rats, mice and other rodents during the lockdown, the company saw 82% year-on-year increase.
Paul Blackhurst, head of technical academy at Rentokil Pest Control, said: “The periods of lockdowns and restrictions faced by hospitality venues over the past two years have led to a change in rodent behaviour.
“The lack of footfall in certain areas of towns and cities saw these nocturnal and fearful creatures become more confident as they were not being disturbed by regular human activity and noise.
“Now, with regular business activity gradually returning, and with potentially more people now eating out, food waste is naturally on the rise and this could increase the number of rodents and other pests looking for an easy meal.
“For offices, restaurants, bars and cafes, it is time to take note and mitigate against the risk of reputational and financial damage that a rodent infestation can bring.”
The data suggests central London and the south east of England have developed into one of the biggest hotspots for rodent activity, with a 91.4% year-on-year rise, closely followed by the North West, North Wales and Midlands at 86.4%.
Businesses in the North East and East Midlands submitted 79% more inquiries in January this year than in 2021.
London’s home counties and East Anglia, together with the South West and mid-Wales have seen year-on-year spikes of 77.8% and 58.6% respectively.
The number of commercial inquiries – a request from a business about pest control, narrowed down to a specific pest like rodents – almost tripled in Scotland and Northern Ireland in January 2022, compared with a year earlier.
Mr Blackhurst added: “Rodents are a key public health concern, which can cause considerable damage to both a business’s premises and reputation.
“With the busy Easter period fast approaching, it is imperative that businesses across the country address the rise we have seen in rodent activity, and make sure they are aware of the early signs that indicate a potential rodent infestation.
“A few simple things to look out for are nests, droppings, gnawing and rub marks in and around a premises – if any of these are spotted, then pest control experts should be called in to deal with the problem sustainably and efficiently.
“Pest specialists can use tools and technology to monitor and safely eliminate any rodent activity, helping to ensure that businesses can make the most of the increased trade this year.”
Rentokil Pest Control also saw a growth in flea activity in people’s homes after the last year, with a 73% rise in the number of residential inquiries.
The company believes it could be down to the increase in the number of lockdown pets over the last 12 months.
According to the data, the top five pests inquiries across both commercial and residential premises in 2021 were for mice, rats and rodents, which topped the list in both settings, while birds accounted for the second highest number of pest inquiries for businesses, and wasps and bees in homes.