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Prevent Pests on Patio Dining

By Frank Meek

Various Bugs The summer season means restaurants can start using patios and decks again, which also means increased dining space, and hopefully a rise in customer traffic. The fact is your summer menu may attract more than one type of customer - pests.

Though outdoors, a pest sighting on your patio can still make your customers think twice about visiting your restaurant again. Pests jeopardize food safety by potentially spreading dangerous disease-causing bacteria and threatening customer health. A sighting can attract negative media coverage and lead to a failed health inspection, or worse, the closing of your business.

Take precautions now to prevent pests from taking a seat on your patio this summer. Check out the following key pests you'll typically find in outdoor dining areas and work with your pest management professional to put proactive steps in place to prevent them.

Flying Pests: House Flies and Mosquitoes

While flies are a fairly common pest you'd expect to find when dining outdoors, this pest is a big food safety offender. Flies can carry more than 100 pathogens and transmit bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella every time they land. Mosquito bites can cause itchy, red welts, but the pest is infamous for serving as a transmitter of West Nile Virus, among other diseases. Use the following tips to prevent flying pest activity on your patio.

  • Cover all trash cans with tightly sealed lids to restrict attractive odors from escaping. Empty trash cans regularly, especially if they contain food waste. Ensure all trash is sealed in plastic bags, and tied tightly, before disposal.
  • Clear customer plates as quickly as possible, which can serve as an open invitation for flies. Wipe down tables and chairs in between customers to keep crumbs at a minimum.
  • Replace outdoor fluorescent lights with sodium vapor bulbs. At night when the lights come on, flies are less attracted to sodium vapor lights, cutting down on flying action around the patio.
  • Mosquitoes look for nectar and rest on the underside of leaves when not in flight. Keep bushes and other branches cut away from your patio.
  • Mosquitoes only need a thimble full of water in which to breed, so keep free standing water to a minimum.
  • Work with a pest management professional to assess any decorative water features and determine the need for additions such as mosquito-eating fish to eliminate mosquito larvae.

Stinging Pests: Bees and Wasps

Stinging pests are more a threat to your customers than food safety, and you should take precautions since reactions to stings can vary - from an infection at the site of the sting to severe or deadly allergic reactions. Reduce access to food and water on your patio to prevent stinging pests and consider the following tips.

  • Avoid planting brightly colored or fragrant flowers and trees.
  • Choose umbrellas, awnings or outdoor décor with dark or neutral colors to further discourage stinging pests.
  • Clean up spills immediately, even if it is just water. Wipe up any small puddles formed by rain on your patio deck.

Crawling Pests: Ants and Cockroaches

Ants and cockroaches look for crumbs left behind by diners and spills not properly cleaned. Cockroaches can carry a number of disease-producing bacteria on their bodies, which can cause illnesses such as diarrhea, food poisoning and pneumonia. Pavement ants nest under stones, in pavement cracks and next to buildings. They aren't picky when it comes to meals, but do prefer grease, which is common in restaurant kitchens. Prevent crawling pests from getting inside with these tips:

  • Pressure wash your patio or deck each night after customers leave to remove any crumbs or debris that collect throughout the day.
  • Keep parking and sidewalk areas free of trash. Hose down these areas to remove any debris that might attract pests to your restaurant.
  • Cut down grassy areas and eliminate any mulch surrounding the patio area where ant nests or mounds might be found, before they make a break for your patio.
  • Keep doors closed when not in use, and install door sweeps and weather stripping around all entrances to eliminate potential entry points - and to keep pests from migrating to inside your restaurant.

While you might be ready to open your patio, pests are ready too, so make an effort to meet with your pest management professional and consider incorporating these tips to prevent flying, stinging and crawling pests from becoming your next customers.

Frank Meek is International Technical and Training Director for Orkin. As a board-certified entomologist and a 20 plus year industry veteran, he is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. Contact Frank at or visit

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