Rats can and do squeeze through holes as small as a quarter. -- Photo source: cdc.gov
Unwelcome houseguests coming
Rats making seasonal surge in Clearing, Garfield Ridge
By Tim Hadac
Fall is the time when pest-control companies see a surge in calls from homeowners who see mice and sometimes rats trying to get inside sheds, garages and even homes to find shelter for the winter.
But in Clearing and Garfield Ridge, the menace appears to have worsened in recent years.
“I own a three-flat in Clearing, just a few blocks north of 65th Street,” said Terry Leyden, an exterminator working with Amigo Pest Control, headquartered at 7121 W. Archer. “And we all know what all the construction [in Bedford Park] has done in terms of disrupting rat burrows.”
Leyden made his observation earlier this month as an invited speaker at the Midway Chamber of Commerce’ October meeting.
“Rats are looking for a nice, warm, cozy place to settle in for the winter—and your house, your garage can look very inviting to them,” Leyden added. “Once they’re in, those devils can reproduce quickly; and if rats become established in your home or garage, it can take quite a bit and time and work to get them out. So that makes early action, preventive action, that much more important.”
Why rats? Why now?
Why so many people in Clearing and Garfield Ridge have started seeing rats for the first time on residential blocks is not entirely clear, but there are several possible explanations.
First is the pandemic. Rats hang out where food is readily available; and for years, that often meant the garbage containers behind restaurants. But with so many restaurants shut down—or at least shifting gears largely to carryout and delivery—restaurants are generating far less food waste than ever.
That means rats have to look elsewhere for food. The obvious choices are garbage carts behind houses. And more people “eating in” means more food waste in those garbage carts.
Second, rats seem to be adapting to some of the poisons that have kept them at bay for years, experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said.
Third, for Clearing and Garfield Ridge, the construction that has occurred this year and in 2021 appears to be a contributing factor. People in the northwest corner of the community have wondered aloud if the ongoing sewer line replacement along 53rd Street and other streets has disrupted longtime rat burrows and pushed them into people’s backyards. People in the north central portion of the neighborhood have pointed to construction in Forest View, north of 51st Street and west of Central, as a reason.
A block-by-block battle
To protect homes through the area, Amigo is offering an incentive program to local residents, now through Oct. 31. If at least four out of every five homeowners on a given block participates, Amigo will offer a free initial inspection/consultation (which normally costs $140), plus a service package of $25 per month (a savings of $20 a month).
Amigo is trying to get whole blocks to sign up because it wants to show how a concerted effort among neighbors can eliminate a rat infestation (or at least greatly reduce its impact).
One block that signed up is Laura Farrell’s in nearby Brookfield.
Known locally as a hydroponic gardener whose meticulously neat backyard has won awards for its beauty, Farrell was astounded when she started seeing rats in and around her property. She cleans homes for a living and is proof that rats can and do set up shop anywhere.
“We were shocked,” she told the Clear-Ridge Reporter & NewsHound. “I’ve lived here 40 years and have never seen anything like this. There were so many so fast that we started seeing them in the day. People tried everything to get rid of them” bleach, ammonia, peppermint oil, you name it. We even started sitting on our porches and shooting at them with BB guns.”
But then she heard about Amigo Pest Control and reached out to owner/operator Jose Yanez.
“He responded almost immediately,” she recalled. “It wasn’t like when you deal with one of these big, national companies and maybe they’ll call you back, maybe they won’t.”
Working quickly, Farrell took Amigo up on its block-discount offer. “I got 10 or 12 houses on my block to sign up. It was not hard. Everyone is aware of the problem and is fed up with it. Jose even gave me flyers I could pass out. That made it easier.”
The results, she said, have been remarkable. In just two weeks, rats have almost completely disappeared from the block, thanks to action by Yanez, Leyden and technician Joseph Martinez.
“Jose’s guys put down these bait stations,” she explained. “It’s a small plastic box with a circular hole that only a rat can get into—not a dog or a cat or even a rabbit or squirrel. And that bait seems a lot more powerful than the stuff you’d buy [at a home improvement store], because the rats have almost entirely vanished.
“And [Amigo’s workers] come back frequently to check the boxes and re-bait when necessary,” Farrell continued. “They also sometimes put different kinds of poison in the boxes, so the rats can’t adapt. All I can say is we didn’t think we’d find a solution on our block. Now it looks like we have one.”
The lesson for others, she said, is don’t wait until rats are out of control.
“The minute you see a rat hole, take action. Don’t ignore it. Call a professional,” she said. “And get rid your pumpkins and hay immediately after Halloween. Those decorations very quickly can become food for rats.”
Amigo can be reached at (708) 925-1213.
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