How to control thatch lice, mites and other pests living in the roof

Posted on: August 25, 2023, in Blog

During the winter season in South Africa, when it is dry, it is important to carry out maintenance on thatch roofs. After our clients complete their thatching, our Service Master offices receive numerous calls regarding fresh infestations of insects and mites, as well as unexpected objects falling from the thatch.

Thatch roofs tend to attract various creatures & critters throughout the year, as they find these atmospheric spaces appealing for nesting. Common pests associated with thatch roofs include birds, rats, insects, geckos (or lizards) and squirrels. In the past, sparrows were even referred to as “thatch birds” due to their habit of pulling straw from thatched roofs for their nests in spring.

To minimize the likelihood of a pest infestation in your thatch roof, it is important to consider the following before installation:

  • Do thorough research and ensure you have a guarantee from your thatcher or thatch supplier.
  • If you are uncertain or want peace of mind, you may consider fumigating your thatch bundles before they are placed on the roof.

Once the roof is installed, there are additional precautions you can take:

  • Install wire netting over the main part of the thatch and the ridge to make it harder for pests to enter the loft space, access the straw, or cause damage to the roof.
  • Regularly inspect your thatch roof by walking around the property once a week. Look for any signs of unwanted animals or nests, as well as any holes or protruding straw that may indicate the presence of pests.

While some people try using canister foggers like “Doom,” they are not very effective for thatch roofs. These foggers struggle to penetrate the dense thatch, only eradicating pests on the outer surface at the time of use. Additionally, canister foggers are limited in treating a specific cubic meter area per can, which can become costly since thatch roofs often cover large open spaces. People often miscalculate the number of foggers required or place them in ineffective positions, leading to unsuccessful results.

Canister foggers are highly toxic to humans, pets, fish, and birds. It is necessary to vacate the area for 6-8 hours or as instructed on the label. Therefore, our recommendation for tackling thatch roof infestations is as follows:

  • Ideally, have the thatch bundles professionally fumigated in a stack under a tarpaulin using a gas fumigant before using the thatch grass on the roof.
  • Consider thermal (hot) fogging carried out by professionals on a regular basis or as needed. This method is cost-effective in the short term and helps control thatch pests. It may need to be repeated periodically for optimal long-term results. Thermal fogging involves pumping smoke-like hot fog toward the thatch roof, allowing it to settle and penetrate the thin outer layer before dissipating. Occupants only need to vacate the area for an hour or two until the “smoke” dissipates, after which the room can be ventilated.
  • Alternatively, some individuals choose to let geckos and nature take their course. Geckos will move in and help control insects to some extent, but it comes with the drawback of constantly dealing with messy gecko droppings falling into the room.
  • Another option is to install a ceiling, although this contradicts the purpose of having a beautiful thatch roof in the first place.

If you are struggling with a pest infestation in your thatch roof, give Service Master a call to advise the best pest control solution.

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