HOMEOWNERS in Exeter have been put on red alert amid fears that further flooding could spark a deluge of rats.
More than 7,500 homes and businesses in the UK have been badly affected by floodwater since the beginning of December.
And more communities are in danger over the next few days after forecasts of fresh heavy rain lasting into next week.
The gloomy prediction has prompted a warning from a professional pest control registry, which says rats will try to escape rising water levels.
Rob Simpson, managing director of BASIS PROMPT, said: “Infestations of rats often increase during very wet weather as flooding will flush them out and force them to find new homes.
“They will try to find some sort of dwelling to live in – it can be garages or sheds or even lofts to get away from the water and the knock-on effect is more infestations in homes.
“Rats are intelligent creatures able to adapt and replenish their numbers very quickly. They are always on the look-out for new opportunities.”
The number of call-outs to pest control experts has risen by more than a quarter during previous spells of prolonged heavy rain and Mr Simpson fears there could be a similar story this time around.
But he says only by adopting the professional approach can homeowners be sure pest problems are dealt with efficiently and comprehensively.
He added: “If people try to deal with issues themselves, or bring in unqualified controllers because they are cheap, infestations could get out of hand.
“It’s easy to get out of your depth when trying to control pests of all kinds, but particularly rats as their treatment is often complicated and specialised.
“I can understand people wanting to save money, but it’s important to make sure infestations are treated by professionals.
“If people don’t know what they’re doing, I would urge them to use a member of the BASIS PROMPT register. That way, they’re guaranteed a safe, effective and legal treatment.”
Pest controllers need to have achieved the Level Two award in Pest Management or Pest Control. Registration must be renewed each year, so members will always be aware of the latest techniques, products and legislation.