Poison-resistant ‘super rats’ are driving an increase in Britain’s rodent population and increasingly finding their way into homes and gardens, a pest control expert warned today.
Mark Moseley, who pitched his expertise to Lord Sugar on this year’s Apprentice, said the decreasing effectiveness of rodenticides and a rise in food waste caused by Britain’s rising population is driving a boom in rat numbers.
The entrepreneur said lockdown forced more rats to hunt for food in residential areas where they were being encouraged to stay by plentiful food waste and people feeding birds in their gardens. Rodents also made nests in vacant buildings.
It comes as homeowners shared their stories of rat infestations, with one complaining the pests had been stealing bananas from the fruit bowl at night and another saying they had been crawling over beds.
Many people believe the problem is being exacerbated by less frequent bin collections, with some residents having to wait weeks for their refuse to be taken away. This year Leeds city council had to apologise after repeated missed collections were blamed for rat infestations on one estate.
A large rat crawls up the pole of a bird feeder in a garden in Surrey
TikToker Lucilla Dartford shared a photo of a rat that had come into her house (left). On the right is a photo shared by a pest control company
Rentokil told MailOnline its pest control experts had seen a 6.4 per cent increase in the number of rats over the year. Meanwhile, Mr Moseley – whose company PestGone Environmental operates in London – said the capital’s rat problem could get as bad as New York.
‘The main factor is that they’re getting resistant to the poisons we’re putting down,’ he told MailOnline.
‘It costs between £70-80million and as long as a decade to create a new product. It’s not something that can be made in someone’s shed.
‘There are also more people in the country so that is going to lead to an increase in rats. There’s more waste, so more food for rats. It’s a vicious circle.’
Mr Moseley, who was fired from the Apprentice in week eight, warned poor household habits were leading to rats getting fatter and being able to breed more.
‘People will sit in their gardens and feed pigeons. Rats come over to feed on the bird food, which also attracts foxes who feed on rats,’ he told MailOnline.
‘But rats aren’t only growing in numbers, they’re also getting fatter.
‘That’s because the foods that we’re eating – like chips and TV microwave dinners – are so fatty.
‘The rats we’re catching on traps are the size of small cats. We’ve seen ones as large as three feet – that’s one and a half feet for the body and the same again for the tail.’
A rat scurrying across a pavement in Burley, a village in the New Forest
Insulation that has been ripped apart by rats in St Albans, Hertfordshire
The UK rat population has grown by about 25 per cent in recent years to about 150million, according industry estimates.
One homeowner said the rat problem in her house has become so bad the pests are stealing whole bananas from the fruit bowl at night.
The mother-of-three said: ‘The first time I actually noticed we had a problem was when fruit started disappearing from the bowl.
‘Now when I come down in the morning, the rats have ripped into bananas and some of them have disappeared completely.’
Meanwhile a homeowner from St Ives in Cornwall said: ‘My neighbours and I have had real issues with rats since lockdown when the restaurants closed and second homes lay empty.
‘They have got into the rafters and have been running riot through the adjoining attics on our street. I have had pest control several times but they keep coming back.
‘It got so bad for one of my neighbours that they got into the main part of her house and ran across her bed at night – she was forced to move out.’
Pest exterminators have been laying traps along the clifftop overlooking the beach – voted as one of the best in the UK in 2019 – where several burrows have been found.
Other burrows have been found among the undergrowth close to the Tenby lifeboat station.
Hordes of rats have taken over a hill in the seaside town of Tenby in South-West Wales
Mark Moseley, who pitched his pest control expertise to Lord Sugar on this year’s Apprentice, said the decreasing effectiveness of rodenticides and a rise in food waste caused by Britain’s rising population was driving a boom in rat numbers
Earlier this year hoteliers and B&B owners in a pretty seaside town spoke of their fears that claims it had a rat problem would put holidaymakers off visiting.
The resort of Tenby in South Wales offers a sandy beach, a pretty harbour and scenic cliff views which attracts thousands of tourists each year.
Locals say their town has been invaded by an army of giant rats who have made their home on a huge hill overlooking Tenby’s famous golden sands – and they fear their ability to breed prolifically will soon lead to the seaside town being overrun.
But hoteliers today played down the fears, with one telling MailOnline: ‘It’s not true that we are being overrun with huge rats.
‘The council are doing their best to eradicate the problem, but we want the place to be perfect for a bumper summer season. Who wants to hear about rats all over the place?’
They added: ‘The last thing we want after two miserable years caused by Covid is to have another poor summer.’
A member of staff at harbourside said everyone was hoping for a busy summer – and they did not need visitors being deterred from staying by claims of giant-sized rats.
‘We all just want to be back in business with no distractions,’ he said.
Another B&B owner added: ‘We do no need people to exaggerate when there plainly is not a problem. It has been sorted by the council pest control.’
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Gas worker James Green with a rat he found near Hackney Downs, east London in 2016. The perspective of the photo makes it difficult to see the rat’s exact size, although he claimed it was 4ft in length. Experts believed the animal was a Gambian pouched rat that could have been kept as a pet