Professional Pest Controller Magazine Issue 98

26 February 2020

If you can make it here: Rat detection on the streets of NYC

Your association | PPC98 March 2020

Davy Brown and Tom Naden run BPCA Associate member company,, a specialist drain inspection and repair company.

Started in 2007, they work solely in the UK pest control industry, finding out how rats use defective pipework and enter properties, and fixing the defects.

Here they write a guest blog about their recent trip to check out the infamous rat problems in New York City. 


New York has a well-documented rodent problem due to several reasons.

With some studies showing there is at least one rat to every four people, New York is the city where not even the pests sleep.

The city is so densely populated that there is nowhere for businesses to store their garbage for collection other than the sidewalk (which they are entitled to do for up to an hour before they close for business).

As a result, garbage starts to build up from late afternoon, and sits there until collection the following morning, creating an all-night rat buffet.

New York sewers are a combined foul and stormwater system, so all toilet waste and rainwater go to the same sewer system.

The catch basins (what we in the UK would call a road gully) take rainwater off the roads and discharge it into the sewers.

However, the catch basins do not have a water trap in them, which allows rats to leave the sewer system easily at road level, adjacent to the rat buffet left out by local businesses.

There has been a major public awareness programme in Chinatown and Little Italy with regards to dropping litter and encouraging rats to populate the area.

Special rat-proof bins called Big Bellies have been designed and introduced across NYC at around $7,000 each.

There are solutions available but like any large city, getting all parties to work together and getting the funds to do so is not easy, and this is NYC so there are unions and politics involved.

Teaming up against rodents

Bobby Corrigan PhD advises numerous cities across the US on rodent control and runs seminars for pest control professionals.

Tom and I were thrilled to be asked by Bobby to attend one of the New York events and deliver a presentation about our work.

For context, Bobby has published over 160 technical articles in pest control and has authored or co-authored four textbooks.

His 2001 book ‘Rodent Control: A Practical Guide for Pest Management Professionals’ is seen as the definitive guide in rodent behaviour in the US and more recently he featured in the 2016 Netflix documentary ‘Rats’ discussing the New York rodent problem.

We spent a week in New York and the event itself was over three days, mainly classroom-based but included field trips to Columbus ParkCollect Pond Park and subway stations to see how the city operates its rodent control programme at present.


On the second day we gave our presentation at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene building in Lower Manhattan.

The 30-minute presentation covered our work investigating defects in pipework that allow pests ingress, dealing with around 1,000 domestic rodent infestations a year.

The presentation was incredibly well-received. One attendee told me he made a call to his office immediately after to organise a drain inspection on a site he had been dealing with for four years and I have since been asked by the head of a sanitation department in California to put together an online version of the presentation for his staff.

We took a lot from the trip: we are not pest controllers ourselves but we like to study rat behaviour, as this helps us in our line of work.

In this regard, you could not be in a better city than New York or better company than Bobby Corrigan, who is both generous with his knowledge and enthusiastic in his delivery of it.

In 2019 we delivered our day-long ‘Drain and Sewer Pest Awareness Course’ for Killgerm Chemicals.

The course is designed to assist pest control technicians in determining when an infestation is down to drainage issues, when to call for a drain survey inspection and what to expect from one.

This will continue in 2020 and after interest from the New York trip, we’re looking at doing an online version for the US market.


How are you and your team spreading a pest awareness message around the world? Share your story in PPC magazine.

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