No More Pests! Prevent and Tackle Infestations at Your Self-Storage Facility

Whether pests were unknowingly brought in with stored items or found their way into your self-storage facility through a vulnerability of the building, you must understand which ones pose threats as well as how to prevent and quickly eliminate problems.

October 8, 2015

5 Min Read
No More Pests! Prevent and Tackle Infestations at Your Self-Storage Facility

By Jim Fredericks and Cindy Mannes

When consumers choose to entrust their belongings to a self-storage facility, they’re assuming the operator has taken all the necessary steps to protect the units and stored items from weather-related events, fire and theft. However, many may not think about the dangers of pests—that is, until they find them (or evidence of them) in their stuff.

Storage units typically stay unopened for long periods of time, which means any minor pest problem can quickly get out of hand and become a full-blown infestation. Once a pest has found its way into one unit, it needs only a small entry point to get into and infest nearby units as well. For example, mice only need an opening as small as a dime, and cockroaches can squeeze through a crack as thin as a quarter. Facilities in states with high humidity are at even greater risk for infestations.

Whether pests were unknowingly brought in with stored items or found their way into your facility through a vulnerability of your building, you must understand which pests pose threats as well as how to prevent and quickly eliminate problems. The following pests pose the greatest danger to self-storage properties.


Easily one of the most problematic pests in self-storage environments, rodents will eat and gnaw on just about anything including cardboard, furniture, bedding, decaying material and even wiring, which can cause electrical fires. They’re also incredible breeders, reproducing quickly and with many offspring. Rodents defecate constantly, leaving behind bacteria and germ-ridden droppings, the volume of which only increases with the number of rodents.

Because they’re able to hide fairly well, if you see droppings or spy an actual rodent in the facility, it usually means there are many more. According to the Mississippi State University Extension Service, there are fairly reliable guides to determine rodent populations:

  • Observed signs, but no rodents seen: One to 100 on the premises

  • Occasional sightings at night: 100 to 500 on the premises

  • Nightly sightings and occasional daytime sightings: 500 to 1,000 on the premises

  • Several seen during the day: Up to 5,000 on the premises


Although most spiders found in the United States don’t pose a significant threat to people, that doesn’t mean everyone is comfortable with spider-infested belongings. And there are those species that are a cause for concern. Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders bite and can cause serious harm when they feel threatened, which often happens when people reach into boxes or corners that have been left undisturbed for a while—like those in self-storage units.


Cockroaches are extremely hardy, making it easy for them to survive in a variety of environments and for as long as a month without food. They love dark, hot areas with lots of hiding spots. These pests contaminate items they touch or travel across and can also damage belongings, as they eat the glue that holds boxes together. Cockroaches also lay eggs in secluded spots, which means a customer could accidentally transport an egg sac or several of these pests to his home with his belongings.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs returned with a vengeance over the past decade and have been found in every state in businesses, commercial facilities, homes, hospitals and hotels. While they typically live and reproduce in close proximity to humans, as they rely on human blood for food, they’re also known to hitchhike in boxes, furniture, shoes and suitcases.

If a customer should store infested items, such as bedding, clothing, furniture or a mattress, bed bugs can spread into adjacent units as they search for food. However, since they can live approximately six months without a blood meal and survive temperatures from nearly freezing to 122 degrees, they can be there for the duration of a customer’s storage contract.


The No. 1 pest nuisance in America is ants, and they are everywhere. It’s not surprising when you consider there are 700 different species in the United States alone. Ants will search for food or shelter inside buildings, and can easily find themselves inside storage units. Since customers could be storing anything and everything in their boxes, ants could easily find something of interest, set up a colony inside boxes, and even get transported to tenants’ homes.

Pest Prevention

Given the array of pests that threaten storage units, operators must implement prevention and detection methods to protect customers’ belongings. Operators should take the following precautions part of their regular facility maintenance:

  • Keep trash containers away from storage units.

  • Sweep and inspect vacant or recently vacated units. If there are any signs of pests, work with a professional to determine the scope and treatment for the problem.

  • Share lists of prohibited storage items with customers, such as food and live plants, and encourage them to thoroughly clean their furniture.

  • Ensure storage units are airtight, sealed and climate-controlled if in states that experience high humidity.

  • Keep all landscaping away from storage units so as to not encourage pest habitats.

  • Ensure gutters and downspouts are properly functioning and flow away from units to reduce moisture buildup. Similarly, reduce areas where water may collect and stand near units after a heavy rainfall.

Ensuring Success

Pests need shelter, food and water to survive and reproduce. They’re experts at stowing away in hidden corners and areas where they can live out their days. As self-storage facilities provide perfect breeding and living environments, coupled with the unknown items customers tend to store in units, operators simply can’t afford to leave pest control to chance.

The best approach is to work with an experienced and licensed professional partner who can develop a comprehensive and customized prevention plan for the business. This strategy will ensure customers are aware of items they shouldn’t store, and that they understand the proactive measures you’re taking. After all, being proactive about pest problems is an added level of protection for them, and can go a long way in improving your company’s reputation, too.

Dr. Jim Fredericks is chief entomologist and vice president of technical and regulatory affairs, and Cindy Mannes is the vice president of public affairs, for the National Pest Management Association, a nonprofit with more than 7,000 members. It was established in 1933 to support the pest-management industry's commitment to the protection of public health, food and property. For more information, visit

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