What Animals Are Vermin In The UK
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What is vermin?
The term vermin has been used frequently to refer to animals and wild birds that pose a risk to public health or act as pests throughout urban environments. Brown rats, mice, grey squirrels and other such animals are typically considered vermin.
Other animals associated with disease and the spread of illness are also considered vermin. The British pest control association details all pest species listed on their website, outlining them by region across the UK.
All members are awarded a BPCA badge outlining their eligibility to work with and remove pests.
Common Vermin & pests
There are many types of vermin that pose a risk and can harm humans. When forming an infestation, any of these species can spread deadly diseases and damage your property.
The most common ant British homeowners will experience is the black garden ant, working in a colony to achieve their goals. Ants are hard to control and remove from your premises, especially as they are attracted to sweet food and will contaminate working areas and food preparation areas.
Worker ants can move in large groups, and you will require professional pest control services if you find a nest. Ants make their nests underground, consisting of many tunnels to house food, eggs and their young.
All bats in the UK are a protected species, with the Wildlife and Countryside Act preventing you from disturbing, harming or killing any bats you find in and around your property.
Pipistrelles are the bat species commonly found around the UK, only weighing around 5 grams. Bats do not threaten humans but can spread disease and cause unpleasant smells with their feaces. European Bat Lyssavirus (EBL) infects insectivorous bat species, resulting in a rabies-like infection and symptoms.
Humans can develop the disease, but this can be treated by immunisation if caught early. Bats will often nest in hollow trees, loft spaces or behind hanging tiles and boarding. While attempting to move the bats yourself is illegal, you can contact a professional if their droppings, or presence is becoming too much.
A bird mite infestation is a unique and unusual infestation requiring specialist treatment. With mature mites measuring no more than 0.5mm, they are tough to spot and tend to become a problem in heavy foot traffic areas. Schools are predominately an area of concern.
They can feed on human blood, despite preferring a bird host, meaning they will likely stick around for a short time and cause irritation. You can notice a bird mite infestation from frequent itching, bite marks, pinprick bites and a crawling sensation on the skin.
Bird mites do not have wings but can make their way into buildings from an empty bird nest, so many specialist pest control agencies will begin by removing any abandoned bird nests from the vicinity.
If a breakdown does occur while in school, you should contact your local authority for the environmental health department, and they can provide an approved company to perform the eradication of the mites.
Wasps, bees & hornets
Wasps are nobody's favourite creatures, especially considering their painful sting. While a wasps sting is not fatal or deadly to most people, some may experience anaphylactic shock after being stung.
Wasps and honey bees nest in large groups, with honey bees colonising upward of 30,000 in most cases. A wasp nest can be identified by their large, football-like shape, made from dead wood.
Roof spaces, wall cavities and underneath eaves are the common places where you can expect to find a wasps nest, but they could build them anywhere they have access to the outside, perhaps need a food source.
Bee, hornet and wasp infestations can cause damage to building fabric and mortar, along with the risk of being stung, so they must be treated immediately after being identified.
Being a member of the arthropod family, ticks are small insects known for their blood-sucking qualities and can spread Lyme disease among humans. While not all ticks carry Lyme disease, anyone who believes they have been bitten should seek treatment.
Symptoms will begin with a rash, commonly referred to as a "Bulls-Eye Rash" due to its circular nature. This rash will spread out from the centre and become irritable for the sufferer. Ticks primarily attach themselves to animals for food but can and regularly suck on the blood of humans.
They tend to prefer moist and shaded areas outside, so you should always check your clothing and skin after being in a place with a high tick population. While you cannot typically feel a tick bite, you should use the correct tools if you notice one on your body. The longer they are left to feed, the more likely the infection will spread.
Using tick-removal tools such as specialist tweezers will ensure no saliva enters the wound and spreads more bacteria. A prompt application of antiseptic formula can also confirm the wound is sterilised.
Out of the 4500 species of cockroach found globally, England only suffers from two: the oriental cockroach and the German cockroach. Commercial properties suffering from cockroaches, especially those in the catering industry, indicate a level of cleanliness is not being met.
They can easily spread gastroenteritis, typhoid, dysentery and food poisoning around a property due to their diet. Cockroaches will feed on anything from food and food waste to faecal matter.
You are more likely to find cockroaches in kitchens and heating systems, frequently reproducing in moist conditions. If your restaurant or food establishment is found to have a cockroach infestation, your customers will lose faith in you, and the business may be shut down.
Parasitic animals, fleas feed on the blood of animals and humans. The UK is affected by human fleas, rat fleas and cat and dog fleas. As fleas move from host to host, they spread disease and illness.
The most common is the Bubonic Plague, carrying bacteria between rodents and humans. Dog and cat fleas live on the animal's skin, while the eggs and larvae infest the pet's bedding and resting places. While human fleas do not pose much risk to your health, you should be warier of animal fleas as they affect your pets.
You can spot flea eggs on some flooring, taking the shape of small white balls. Flea treatments should be used on your pets if you believe there to be an infestation or if they have previously been affected. Children are more commonly bitten by fleas and ticks on their head or scalp, meaning you may also need to apply treatment to them.
Mice take shelter in our homes for warmth and protection, breeding and feeding within the wall cavities and loft spaces. Getting rid of larger mice infestations can be challenging, and professional assistance may be required.
Mice, and rodents, as a large, are known for spreading disease and contaminating food with their droppings and urine. A person is at risk of catching rickettsialpox, lymphocytic choriomeningitis and food poisoning.
Beyond the risk of spreading disease, mice have a constant need to gnaw and chew, meaning they will attempt to eat almost anything in your house. This includes wiring and electrical outlets, causing a fire hazard. Mice have been known to cause electrical fires and burn down entire properties.
Now incredibly well-adapted to urban environments and human lifestyle, pigeons have no natural predators and are considered pests to many people. A feral pigeon can carry psittacosis, creating severe respiratory issues in humans.
Milder symptoms can be flu-like. If you are experiencing a pigeon problem in your area, you can contact your local council, and they will deal with pigeon populations posing a threat to public health.
Rattus norvegicus, or commonly referred to as a black rat, is the common species found in houses and buildings around the UK. If food, water and shelter are present, rats will take refuge in rural and urban areas.
Like mice, rats live in wall cavities, loft spaces or under floorboards, contaminating food sources and spreading disease. You will also find rats commonly in rivers and sewer systems, meaning that many bodies of water are at risk of infected rat urine.
Weil's disease affects the human liver and kidneys and can be transmitted from infected river water. If you are in commercial property and there has been a history of rats, ensure you clean all work surfaces and leave no unattended food overnight.
Occupying most of England and Wales, grey squirrels continue to be a pest to many people. Squirrels regularly enter roof spaces and chew and destroy woodwork and insulation.
They have also been known to drown in open water tanks and cause contamination for the household. While they tend to live in parks, gardens and woodlands, they have become familiar with human life and tend not to be afraid of our presence.
If you believe there to be troublesome squirrels in your and around your house, contact a professional.
While foxes are fantastic natural predators for other animals such as rabbits, they continue to be a pest themselves. Being notable scavengers, foxes will feast on nearly anything, disrupting and breaking into our rubbish bins for food waste.
UK law prevents poisons and traps from being used to trap or prevent foxes, and it is illegal to shoot them in urban areas. Generally, foxes will not prove to be a risk to you and your family. Still, some can carry the dangerous parasite toxocariasis, which isn't severe for most people but can cause health problems when left untreated.
Fox faeces can also contain harmful bacteria, so they should not be handled by children. Our advice is to stay away and call for pest control assistance.
Controlling pests yourself
While you may be tempted to deal with pests yourself, there are many risks associated with it. Your local council or government will advise you further if you choose to contact them or can provide approved companies to remove the pests from your home.
Only animals classed as pests can be trapped and killed, and you must only trap and kill those you are permitted to. If the animal is protected, you can be fined and prosecuted for killing it. There are permitted methods generally used to remove and eradicate pests, and these must be adhered to.
There are also rules to keeping and releasing animals, such as grey squirrels, for example. You must humanely kill them if you capture them. In the name of protecting habitats, you must not disturb or damage areas used for breeding and shelter by animals.
We advise you always to contact a professional and ask what the next steps should be for your particular pest issue. Many species are protected and are considered ordinarily resident to the UK despite their origins.
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