Hurricane Sandy Predicted To Have Long-Term Effects On Pest Populations

National Pest Management Association warns of serious pest health and property risks in storm’s wake

FAIRFAX, Va. (October 14, 2012) – As those affected by the destructive damage and widespread power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy begin the rebuilding process, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is focusing on the impact the super storm will have on pest populations in affected areas of New York and New Jersey, specifically in hard-hit communities. Flood and storm-ravaged areas can expect to experience greater contact with pests including rats, bed bugs, termites and flies in the weeks and months after the storm due in large part to population displacement, as well as increased moisture. The NPMA is monitoring the situation, as the increase in contact poses serious health and property risks that must be addressed during recovery efforts.

“Communities devastated by the storm will likely experience an increase in pest encounters due to displacement and destruction caused by flooding,” said Jim Fredericks, Ph.D, technical director for the NPMA. “From the delay in sanitation services caused by power outages and road blockages, to the widespread structural damage and increased number of people staying at shelters, hotels or with family and friends, there are a number of ways Sandy will affect a variety of pest populations both in the short-term and months after the storm.”

“Our hearts go out to all who are struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,” remarked Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. “We are working internally with member companies and manufacturers to develop an action plan to help in mitigating these expected pest pressures, specifically in those areas hardest hit by Sandy.”

The NPMA has identified the following pests to be of greatest concern:

  • Rodents: Many rodents were likely killed during the hurricane, however, a great number were displaced and immediately began seeking harborage and food. The delay in garbage pickup that many areas experienced, or continue to experience, will result in an abundance of food sources, while the expected increase in construction debris from remodeling will serve as excellent temporary harborages for displaced pests. As sanitation workers are likely to focus on “garbage” first, and place less of a priority on construction debris which may sit for extended periods, homeowners should keep food trash and construction debris separate so that sanitation workers can easily pick up the items most conducive to rodents.  When these two are mixed, food and harborage may be in place for extended periods of time, which can be conducive to infestations. Rodents are known to spread several dozen diseases.  Any homeowner coming into contact with rodent carcasses during clean up should wear protective gloves to protect against disease transmission.
  • Flies: Flies breed in spoiled food, dead rodents or wildlife, and sewage caused by backups or broken pipes. Homeowners who lost power for several days or were unable to return to their homes for long periods of time are likely dealing with the disposal of rotten food. Fungus gnats breed in areas affected by moisture where mildew is growing, and may continue to be a problem in the coming months, especially in coastal areas, like NJ’s Barrier Islands, which are still closed off to many homeowners. Phorid flies breed in areas contaminated by sewage, which could be a problem for Rockaway Channel in Nassau County, Long Island, which is being flooded with raw sewage from the Bay Park sewage treatment plant.
  • Bed Bugs: The large number of people forced out of their homes and living in hotels and shelters or receiving donated furnishings or clothing create an increased opportunity for bed bug infestations. Bed bugs are a much greater concern in urban areas hit by the storm, such as New York City, where larger populations of people live close together and interact in enclosed spaces on a regular basis. Because of the bed bugs' ability to "hitchhike" on people and their belongings, bed bugs can become a problem for anyone living in close quarters while displaced from their home. 
  • Termites: Homes that were treated for termites in the past need to be retreated if the neighborhood was flooded and soil was moved or displaced by the water. The pesticide barrier was most likely disturbed and may no longer exist to protect the home from the serious structural damage termites can cause.

The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 7,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry's commitment to the protection of public health, food and property.