By Missy Henriksen
Self-storage operators generally invest a great deal of time and money in protecting their units from obvious threats such as fire, flooding, theft and vandalism. But a threat that may be less evident is that posed by pests. Self-storage can be especially susceptible to pest infestations, and the damage caused can be extensive and costly. Fortunately, there are simple steps operators and customers can take to protect their units and the items inside from damage.
Examining the Risks
Self-storage facilities face a unique set of circumstances that can make them especially attractive to pests. For one, unlike homes and businesses, storage units can go long periods of time without being checked by their renter or the facility owner, allowing an infestation to grow without disturbance.
By their nature, pests are experts at stowing away in items and infesting new locations. The fact that storage facilities house a lot of stuff and new items are always being brought in makes them particularly susceptible. A few pests that find their way into a stored box can quickly reproduce and lead to a major problem in a short time. Once a pest has found its way into one storage unit, it needs only a tiny entry point to get into nearby units, too. Many insects can fit through an opening as thin as a credit card, and mice can squeeze through holes as small as a nickel.
Of course, one of the main reasons self-storage units are at risk for pest infestation is because operators usually have little control over what’s brought into the units. Be aware of items that are attractive to pests, such as food, live plants and even bags or boxes of paper goods.
Specific Threats for Self-Storage
Certain types of pests are more likely to infest self-storage units and should be given special consideration.
Rodents and mice are a leading concern in this type of environment because they’re great stowaways, reproduce quickly and can fit through extremely tiny openings. In fact, a female house mouse―one of the most common rodent invaders―can give birth to up to a dozen babies every three weeks.
Once inside a unit, rodents can cause severe damage in a short amount of time. These pests will eat and gnaw at just about anything including cardboard, furniture, bedding, wiring and even decaying material. In addition, one mouse produces between 40 and 100 fecal droppings per day, which can accumulate quickly and become a health concern.
Cockroaches are also great stowaways, especially in cardboard boxes. They can squeeze through cracks as thin as a quarter, and they reproduce quickly. Cockroaches are extremely hardy, making it easy for them to survive for long stretches. In fact, they can live for a month without food.
Cockroaches also spread disease and can contaminate the items they touch or travel across. They are reported to spread at least 33 kinds of bacteria, six types of parasitic worms and at least seven other kinds of human pathogens. They pick up germs on the spines of their legs and bodies as they crawl through decaying matter or sewage, and then carry these onto other items. Studies suggest that cockroach droppings and skins can trigger asthma and allergies, especially in children, so infested items that are returned from storage to homes could pose a risk.