Where do all the flies go in winter?

Flies are around all year, hiding from the cold during the depths of winter which is why we do not see them very much....can you blame them. People often wonder why fly problems seem to lessen as we approach the winter months, this is because the drop in temperature affects their breeding, development and lifecycle, reducing their activity levels considerably. Flies go through complete metamorphosis, egg, larva, pupa and adult. During winter many species of fly remain simply inactive, hiding out on the warmer west or south sides of buildings in their immature state.

Years ago people thought that flies died off as winter approached, but if they all died, how can they reappear in the spring, they would have to somehow spontaneously regenerate themselves from nothing....not scientifically possible! What they actually do is seek sanctuary during our darkest and coldest months somewhere warm, inside a building or on its warmest side, preferring to remain inactive and avoid any activity during heavy rain, strong winds and temperatures below 15 degrees centigrade.

When spring comes and the temperature rises, they get active again. Quickly heading for the outside and into the fresh air to get going. Sometimes where they overwinter in large numbers, like cluster flies in a church bell tower, when they all wake up and head outside, the sheer numbers of them on the move can be quite a shock to many people who were not aware of their presence previously.

Robots and automation are helping to fuel biodiversity

In these modern times tree planting should not be left to chance. Or as Matt Damon said in The Martian, "In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option. I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this." So let's apply some science and see what we can muster. On a global scale we all need to get tree planting to help save our planet and fight climate change. Some people are doing very well with the science.

Over at Milrem Robotics in Estonia and in partnership with the University of Tartu they have developed two driverless tracked ground vehicles to become robot foresters. One is a planter and the other a brush cutter and both are autonomous. The planter can carry 300 seedlings at a time and will plant a hectare of new forest in 6 hours, totalling  between 1000 and 3500 seedlings depending on the species. The clever part is that it also records the exact location of each tree and passes this information to its "colleague" the brush cutter, which equipped with a cutting tool and precision sensors, will go in and remove vegetation around the seedlings.

The tracked vehicles exert less pressure on the soil than humans would if they were planting leading to less soil damage. The technology includes a combination of laser based sensors, cameras and GPS providing a 3D geometric representation of the environment. Using real time data and a human operator to intervene if necessary, the robots can move and navigate around a forest with challenging surroundings. One operator can supervise four of five robotic foresters and will only intervene when necessary. Using machine learning the robots should be able to tell whether they can cross a given slope, ditch or stream without getting stuck.

This should help with the global effort to plant more trees. There are several plans to plant a trillion trees which would add to the 3 trillion we currently have. In the UK it is estimated that by 2050, 1.5 billion trees are needed to achieve our nett zero carbon target. 15% of crop land will need to be turned to tree planting and growing plants for fuel. There is an ambitious target of 17% tree cover for the UK. Overall, it is looking good for trees, which in turn provide a massive source of habitat for insects, birds and other animals. Let the robots get planting!

Wasps out of season in England but very busy in Australia!

Wasps are presently overwintering here in the UK, or at least the Queen is, hibernating in a warm nest in aloft somewhere nearby. In spring she will emerge and set off to start a new colony somewhere new. In Australia it is their summer and the wasp season is fully underway with wasps busy building nests everywhere.

If she happens to be near an airport she will find plenty of redundant aircraft and opportunities for new nesting sites. Keyhole wasps, one of the 110,000 species there are, have been shown to build nests in critical plane parts that measure the airspeed of planes. Blockages in pitot tubes can make pilots misread airspeed and have led to fatal crashes. A research team in Australia have been studying these wasps at Brisbane airport over a three year period.

The research was triggered by a real safety incident where a plane had to land soon after departing because the pilots recognised an airspeed discrepancy. A blocked pitot tube was responsible, wasps had nested inside. The team 3d printed replica pitot tubes and put them up around the airport, they found that 93 were fully blocked by wasps over a period of 3 years.

Now when planes land they cover these tubes to keep the wasps out. Hopefully the authorities know about this at our airports!

Our new Covid-19 approach to working safely

We have just completed a second national lockdown and we are now in a regional county wide tiered system. Kent has been classified into tier 3 with the strictest restrictions in place and some of the worst statistics for infection and transmission rates. We are still key workers so can move about freely to treat pest outbreaks and infestations. There is a new test and trace system in place since lockdown 1 with new ventilation and PPE advice.
It can be broken down into 8 sections that form the priority action to safeguard my business and my customers. With 5 additional considerations

1. Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment.

2. Clean more often. Increase how often I clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Including equipment, carry boxes, car door handles, steering wheel, keys etc Remind myself and my customers to use hand sanitiser and to wash their hands frequently.

3. Remind my customers and myself to wear face coverings where required to do so by law. This is especially important if my customers are likely to be around people they do not normally meet. Some exemptions may apply. In general Pest Purge wears a face mask at all times when working inside a domestic or commercial property.

4. Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by reminding and telling everybody that they need to do this in order for me to carry out my work. No social distancing = No pest control. Lookout for and ensure that I follow one way signage and one way systems in commercial premises.

5. Consider ventilation. Pest Purge often works alone outside, this is considered the safest way of working. If working inside we will open a window to encourage air circulation to avoid breathing in stale air. Covid is thought to spread by droplet as well as aerosol dispersion, if the air is circulating and fresh air is introduced this will minimise the risk of exposure for me and my customers. Ventilate the work space whenever it is feasible to do so.

6. Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of my health and movements for 21 days. This is a legal requirement. Some exemptions apply. Pest Purge checks in at commercial premises where they are carrying out Test & Trace eg shops, pubs and restaurants. Pest Purge supports the Zoe Covid 19 Symptom Study being carried out helping to support the Government. The COVID Symptom Study, is a COVID-19 epidemiological research mobile app developed in the United Kingdom that runs on Android and iOS. A collaboration between King's College London, Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals and ZOE Global Limited. Every day I input how I am feeling along with any covid test updates onto the data base, to assist with the national collection of health data to track Covid. Approximately 4.5 million people are participating by using this app.

7. Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a customer has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be self-isolating. Before attending any job, Pest Purge asks the client if anyone has experienced any Covid symptoms. If any are reported, work will need to be delayed until self-isolation has been completed. Pest Purge cannot provide any site support if symptoms are evident.

8. Consider the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus for myself and others. Reassure myself, my customers and my clients (especially those that have been shielding for a long time) that Covid and the current onerous restrictions will not be around forever. Normality will return at some point. The development and roll-out of vaccines will help restore more normal living where personal interactions will be more fulfilling.

Five more things Pest Purge is managing whilst providing services in other people’s homes:
• Safety measures are explained to my customer before entering their home. I make sure that members of the household know they should maintain social distancing from me.
• Avoid crowded areas. Identify busy locations in the house such as hallways and avoid moving through them where possible. I work in one room and generally I try to work alone.
• Limit contact with customers. I bring my own food and drink and take breaks outside where possible. After completing the work I write up a Treatment Report which I go through with my client, I do not expect my clients’ to sign them, as they normally would, during this crisis.
• When working in a household with people at higher risk, I take extra measures to avoid contact, such as working in a separate room from them. They sit upstairs and I work away downstairs, there is no contact at all.
• Communicate and train. I make sure myself and my customers are kept up to date with how safety measures are being used. I attend professional updates from my industry bodies, to ensure I am working safely during this crisis.

How to deal with summer pests

There’s nothing nicer than enjoying the outside world and watching nature come to life on a balmy summer’s day. But the mood can quickly be ruined if you’re swatting a fly from your barbecued sausages, fishing out a wasp from your drink or being chased round the garden by a bee.

Whether you’re at home trying to enjoy your food and drink in the great outdoors or running a restaurant or business, bugs and flies aren’t on the guest list!

Read on to find out how to deal with some of the season’s biggest irritants.


Wasps get a bad press, often dismissed as ‘pointless insects’ or failed bees. But they actually have an important role to play in the environment, pollinating many plants – in fact there are some species of flowers that rely solely on wasps.

However, this does nothing to relieve the irritation when they are invading your picnic or buzzing round your customers! Even worse, their stings are not only painful but can be serious for allergy sufferers.

Wasp nests are not a job to tackle yourself. Wasps will attack if they are under threat and while one sting will hurt, 30-40 could be very serious. If you find evidence of an active nest in or around your home, call in a pest control expert to deal with it safely.


At around twice the size of wasps, hornets are intimidating creatures, particularly due to their powerful sting. Like wasps, they too pollinate certain plants and help to control other insects such as caterpillars, spiders and flies. They rarely enter homes and will instead make their nests inside trees and hollows.

Around this time of year, there are often stories of invasions of the Asian Hornet. A large social wasp species, this non-indigenous insect is not at all welcome in our countryside. Distinctive due to its large size and yellow legs, it can be dangerous to humans and is a threat to the honeybee and other native pollinating insect populations. If you believe you have spotted an Asian Hornet, try to take a photograph and be sure to call in a professional immediately.


The most common of these industrious creatures is the Black Garden Ant. These can often be seen in a trail leading into a house to collect the sweet-smelling food they are attracted to.

The nests are usually a small pile of earth and even the slightest disturbance will cause a flurry of activity if the ants believe they are under attack. They can usually be easily dealt with by laying sugar-based insecticide which the forager ants take back to the nest. Otherwise, pouring a kettle of boiling water on the nest usually deals with the problem at the start; larger nests will need professional intervention.

Less commonly, ants will make their nests under floorboards or in wall cavities. If you’re not sure of the source, Pest Purge can help you locate the nest and deal with it swiftly.


There are few things more annoying than the intermittent buzz of a fly whizzing past your ear as it soars up and down a room. Aside from being a nuisance, flies are excellent disease-spreaders, thanks to their penchant for rotting plant and animal waste, as well as their feeding method which involves vomiting on food. Therefore, any food that a fly has landed on should be quickly disposed of.

Window screens and fly paper are useful for repelling and catching flies, as are aerosol insecticides. The time to call in a professional is if you frequently encounter large swarms of the insects without an obvious source.

Deathwatch beetles

The grubs of these wood-boring beetles are partial to decaying hardwood, which means they are a particular problem in old houses and stately homes.

The beetles emerge in the springtime and are active throughout the summer months. Signs include small, neat holes where they have bored into wood, usually causing a significant amount of damage. You may also hear the tapping noise of the adults who repeatedly bang their heads against wood to call a mate.

The adults rarely fly and so are not able to easily travel to a new site, meaning new infestations are decreasing as old houses are treated or demolished.

Deathwatch beetles can be dealt with using woodworm killer but the nature of the buildings they target and the damage that can be caused, means it is best to have a professional survey the structure and treat the problem.

If you are dealing with summertime pests, call us now for friendly advice and immediate support if needed.

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How rodents can destroy a farm

A farm is a paradise for pests, particularly rodents. With plenty of open space, warm shelter, animal feed and crops, there’s not much more a rat or mouse could wish for.

It can be difficult to imagine that these small creatures can be much of a problem in an environment that is designed for animals. But the reality is that they can cause catastrophic damage. In fact, a rat infestation can take down a farm piece by piece.


The first issue is the natural bodily functions of rodents. For example, in a year, a rat produces 15kg of droppings, 6 litres of urine and 300,000 of their hairs fall out. This means that by simply scampering around, they are leaving a trail of germs and contamination, spreading disease to the livestock. If they get into food, for every 1kg that’s eaten by the rats, 3kg is contaminated.


Rats chew constantly to keep their teeth from overgrowing. They’ll happily gnaw their way through wood, causing structural damage. They can also easily bite through wiring, which means expensive machinery such as tractors may not work when needed and could require costly repairs. Worse still, chewing wires can cause fires – in fact 50% of farm fires are thought to be down to rats. Just one rat could easily destroy a whole building.


Combine harvesters are often stored over the winter and, if not cleaned thoroughly, the harvest and grain debris could attract pests. Mice, in particular, like to nest in these machines, chewing through the wiring looms is common. Rewiring or replacing a loom can be costly but the expense could be significantly higher if the damage is more extensive, particularly when you consider that many new combine harvesters can cost in excess of a quarter of a million pounds.

Crop destruction

Rodents are one of the major causes of crop destruction around the world. Apart from tearing into bags of grain, which causes contamination and spills, they tend to feed on the embryo of crops, stripping away the nutrients and removing the plant’s ability to germinate.

Their presence on a farm also poses a threat to humans. Many workers live on-site in caravans or chalets which are vacant all day when they are out working. These are ideal sources of shelter and potentially food, too.

Spotting the signs of rodents

The two most important elements of the war on rodents is hygiene and inspections.
Make sure you are familiar with every area of your farm. Every week look out for any signs of chewing, droppings or runs. If you spot any new holes in buildings, fill and repair them right away to prevent rodents from getting in.

Do the same with your workers’ accommodation but also check inside, under and behind cupboards and fridges for any signs of chewed food or faeces.

Good housekeeping is essential. Clear up any spillages, store food in proper containers and in places that rodents can’t reach. Change animal water and feed regularly. Have a good tidy up around the farm and cut back any vegetation that could provide shelter.

If you start to see the beginnings of an infestation, try putting down traps and/or poison but if you don’t see signs of improvement, call in pest control as soon as possible.

Remember, the nature of a farm environment means that pests can only ever be controlled, not eradicated completely. If caught early, rodents can be easily managed but left too long, a small problem can soon turn into a very big one.

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How do I know if I have a rat problem?

If you suspect there might be rats on your premises, you’ll want to tackle them fast. Rats not only constantly urinate to mark their territory, but they may also carry a number of serious diseases such as Weil’s disease, salmonella and listeria, posing a significant public health risk.

What are the signs of a rat?

Evidence of rats is easier to spot than the rodents themselves. There are many (mostly unpleasant!) signs that these furry foes might have set up camp, including:

When is a rat infestation most likely?

Food and shelter are the two main reasons a rat will enter your home which is why it’s important to maintain good hygiene in places such as kitchens, larders and bin areas and ensure any redundant holes in brickwork, woodwork or around pipes and sheds are blocked-up.

Rats are more likely to seek a cosy, warm house in the colder months between November and February but they can be an issue at any time of year.

Can I deal with rats myself?

DIY treatments and methods are available but given the potential health risks, property damage and exceptional rate at which rats can breed, it’s highly advisable to call in the professionals as soon as possible.

We use a number of methods to tackle a rodent infestation including professional rodenticides which can be safely deployed in your garden or home. These also pose no risk to other pets or animals. We can also use spring traps which kill rodents instantly and humanely.

If you’re concerned about a potential rat problem, contact us today for friendly advice and a pest control quote.

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How to keep pests away from an empty property

There are many reasons why business premises, holiday lets and rental properties may lie dormant from time to time; seasonality, a gap in tenancy - or a global pandemic, of course! Unfortunately, these types of empty buildings are a 5* hotel for a whole host of pests providing shelter, protection from predators, and even gourmet, tasty delights, long-discarded  or left by the humans.

If you have a property that is likely to have a period of extended closure, it’s important to establish a routine of regular checks for pests at least every fortnight. Spotting the signs early could save you thousands in repair costs not to mention, prevent a health and safety nightmare.

Here’s how to spot a pest problem before it takes hold:

1.  Shine a light on the problem

Whether beetles, bugs, mice or rats, most pests seek safety in darkness. Take a torch and walk around the exterior and interior of the property, inspecting any dark corners and cracks, and look for new holes.

Any damaged or chewed wires or woodwork is also a giveaway. Check outside buildings such as storage areas and sheds, which are popular with animals seeking shelter. Also inspect drains – a favourite hiding place for rats.

2. Use your nose

A strong, musky odour can be the first sign of rodent urine and droppings or even, corpses under floorboards or in wall cavities. Cockroaches also give off a foul scent. Even if you can’t find any visual evidence, call on a professional if you notice a new, unpleasant smell.

3. Droppings

Of course, droppings are a sure sign of a pest problem. If you clean the area, be sure to use a bleach or disinfectant solution and wear gloves. Dispose of any food and wash your hands thoroughly.

4. Signs of movement

Some pests are large enough to disturb ornaments and objects as they scurry along surfaces and shelves. If any small items have been obviously moved, investigate further.

5. Feeding time

Kitchen and food preparation and storage areas are, unsurprisingly, hotspots for pests. As well as checking inside, under and behind fridges and food cupboards, you should inspect any food for signs of nibble marks. Be sure to also look in bags of products such as flours and grains. These can often transport what’s known as ‘stored product insects’ such as rice and grain weevils, and larder and biscuit beetles which, if left untreated, will eventually multiply within the stored food and contaminate it.

6. Call in the professionals

If you spot even one sign of a pest in an empty property, don’t wait until your next fortnightly check to be sure – by that time, you could have a full-on infestation.

Give Pest Purge a call and we’ll be happy to provide an immediate free survey and quotation.

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Wasps are great, why we should learn to love wasps..

It's that time of year again, wasps and hornets are starting to fly around in sizable numbers, outside we will be spotting them all the time along with bees and other summer flying insects.

Worldwide there are 110,000 different wasp species, less than a third have developed the power to sting, so the majority are colourful flying harmless insects. Stinging species are predatory, whereas the remainder are parasitic and the vast majority are solitary, often living secretive lives. Some are tiny, as little as 0.14mm long, they are possibly the smallest insects. Their diversity is wonderful, spider-hunting wasps stock a burrow with paralysed but living spiders on which their larvae then feed. Potter wasps make nests of mud. Mason wasps burrow into loose mortar (like masonry and mining bees) and ichneumon wasps lay their eggs inside moth caterpillars.

Why is it then that wasps seem to get bad press and negative reviews all the time. They are made out to be the baddies of the insect world. However, I think we should put the record straight and sing their praises, like we do for bees. Celebrating their cooperative work ethic, glorious honey and commercially valuable pollination services. Bees have even been ranked higher than elephants and tigers in surveys of species people most wanted to save. So what about the bad guys?

Unwelcome picnic and bbq guests, wasps have been reviled for millennia. Once described as degenerate bees, wasps have always struggled to be loved. Even more feared are our largest wasp species the hornet. Headlines like "killer Asian hornets" Vespa velutina have hit the headlines in many a paper over recent years as this species continues to take a foothold on our shores. Also, persecution continues of our huge but docile European hornet, Vespa crabo, mostly fuelled by ignorance and fear, even though its numbers are declining, do any of us really care?

Time to reverse this negative stereotype, wasps make valuable contributions to ecosystems, the economy and our health. In ecosystems wasps and other insects pollinate most wild flowers, some plants rely exclusively on wasps to do this like 100 different species of orchids, without wasps some of these beautiful plants would become extinct. Wasps are also the third most important predators of insects after birds and spiders. They can use their powerful jaws to kill prey, snatched from plants or in mid-air. Their victims, wingless and dismembered bodies, are taken back to the wasp nest to feed the brood. In colonies of up to 10,000 wasps are reckoned to take between 3000 and 4000 prey a day at the height of the season. By one estimate wasps eat 14,000 tonnes of insects each summer. They target woodlice, spiders, flying beetles, butterflies, honeybees and moths. They will also eat crop insects like aphids, caterpillars and flies.

Wasp stings are thought to help relieve the pain of rheumatoid arthritis by stimulating our immune system and quelling inflammation. Wasp venom is more varied than bee venom and may therefore be even more useful as a source of medicines. Some venom has been seen to disrupt and kill cancer cells in mice, rupture cell membranes in targeted body tissue, either to destroy cells or to create routes for pharmaceuticals to get into them. Their venom also shows encouraging antibacterial and antiviral qualities. Further wasp venom constituents are being explored as treatments for neurological conditions, allergies and cardiovascular disease.

Wasps can play a role in conservation too. They are affected by climate change, intensified agricultural practices and the widespread use of pesticides. Surveying wasp numbers is a good way of checking for environmental stress. Keeping an eye on their diversity and location will help us understand them better along with other insect populations.

Time to look beyond our prejudices and stop demonising them, appreciate their individual beauty and the important role they play as part of our wonderful native insect population.

Red Tractor – and how you can keep your paperwork in order

Running a farm is busy enough, without taking time out to do the paperwork, but that’s where Pest Purge comes in.

Unlike the farmers, we quite like the paper trail and know how to fill it all in for audit, assessment and to keep your records updated and accurate.

If you’re doing it yourself, here are our top tips:

If the farm is all organic or part organic, a statement highlighting how pest control will not compromise this organic status will be needed.

You will need a basic understanding of the principles of organic farming including crop rotation, green manure and compost, mechanical cultivation and pest control.

Empathy and an appreciation of farming, wildlife & the countryside harmoniously working together.

If all this seems a bit much, ask us to help you to get set up and your paperwork running to standard and regularly too.