Vermin in two Berkshire towns have developed near-immunity to standard poisons, resulting in a huge surge in the rodent population. The British Pest Control Association (BCPA), who identified the two unnamed towns in question are ‘very concerned, from a public health point of view,’ according to chief executive Oliver Madge. The association is calling on the Government to respond to the burgeoning rat population by allowing the use of more powerful pesticides.

Rat numbers in England are estimated to have swelled by 13% in the last year alone to over 50 million – meaning that there is now one for every person living in the country.

Furthermore, infestations in towns and cities in particular have reportedly doubled. In Salford there was a 40% rise in vermin call-outs in 2008, and a massive 66% increase in Exeter. Local newspapers in Reading have reported that there is a three-week backlog there, as the town’s rat-catchers are so rushed off their feet. The BCPA and the Department of Health are holding talks this week over what can be done.

Pest Control experts will appeal for the law to be changed, in order to allow brodifacoum and flocoumafen to be used outside as well as indoors. As it stands these powerful rodenticides can only be applied inside properties. Other EU countries do allow the use of these potent poisons outside, but there is concern about the possible dangers to pets and wild birds.

Mr Madge indicated that the popularity of recycling may be partly to blame for the infestation, citing that the conditions created are ideal for rats. ‘We are encouraged to recycle, but the rats tunnel under compost and they find it’s both nice and warm and they have food.’ The mild winters and wet summers that England has seen in recent times create ideal conditions for rodents.

More than 35 diseases can be spread through rats and mice – these include a fever inducing nausea and muscle aches, passed via a bite or through contact with the rodent’s urine.

* Countrylife.co.uk’s top tips for getting rid of rats