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SMART RODENT MONITORS: A TOOL, NOT A SOLUTION

Samuel Wood, Asia Pacific Business Manager for Bell Laboratories, offers his thoughts on the advent of smart tech for rodent control. 

 

As technology advances, industry evolves and the way we live our lives changes. Twenty-five years ago most of us would have been sceptical if we were told that in 2021, we’d use our mobile phones for everything from listening to music to checking the weather forecast. The pest management industry is no exception, and in particular, rodent control monitoring is becoming a major priority for pest managers and customers.

Technology has developed rapidly over the past few decades and in doing so, has significantly impacted our everyday lives. We now have the capability to summon a car with the flick of a finger, or to see if a package has been delivered without physically having to be there. If the purpose of technology is to make life easier and more convenient, then it only makes sense for businesses to explore these opportunities as they become available. Especially in pest management where much of the technician’s day is in the field, and in rodent management much of the time is spent is checking empty bait stations.

With the evolving technology available today, it should be possible to monitor rodents remotely – and it is. Several electronic rodent control monitoring systems are available across the world. All of them do slightly different things, in slightly different ways – but they all have the potential to be fantastic tools to help pest managers make their rodent management programs more effective. Working more efficiently usually means being more profitable, too.

However, in order to extract maximum value from these tools, it is vital that they are considered simply as another tool in the IPM toolbox, and not as a complete solution.

I have spent a lot of time with pest managers across Australia and New Zealand over the last five years, and almost all believe that their business would benefit from the addition of an electronic rodent monitoring system. What’s surprising though, is that many pest managers believe the primary advantage would be that they no longer have to attend the site, unless they receive an alert that rodent activity has been detected.

This approach considerably undervalues the technician’s role in keeping the premises rodent free. I often remind pest managers that their customers are paying them not just for the products that they apply, but for their knowledge and expertise. A rodent service is (or should be) about much more than checking bait stations – so simply relying on alerts from a remote system is not an adequate strategy.

Most of the connected rodent monitoring systems that are on the market today rely on rodents interacting with a device to trigger an alert. But depending on this alert alone is leaving too much to chance. Over my 14 years in pest management, I have lost count of the number of occasions I’ve discovered rodent activity at a site through inspection when the traps and bait stations showed no indication at all. If we rely on an alert from a monitoring system, then there’s great risk of an infestation becoming established before the pest manager is aware of its existence. And then, of course, there’s the potential for faults within the hardware itself.

With all of the above in mind, technological advances in rodent management are welcome, but they’re just a new tool, not a silver bullet. We’re at the beginning of an era where we are able to easily organise and access data, allowing us to learn more about the habits of where, when, and why rodents are at a particular location. But it remains up to us, the professional pest managers, to interpret the data, make capable recommendations, and implement effective control strategies. For now, at least, there’s no system available that can replace those skills.

Samuel Wood, Asia Pacific Business Manager, Bell Laboratories