Bakers Journal

Pest-free patios

August 19, 2021
By Alice Sinia, Ph.D.

Enjoy patios reopening, and keep your space pest free

Cracks in the building’s exterior, worn down door and window seals, damaged screens, doorways or windows, unscreened utility vents and other types of openings in the building all roll out the welcome mat for pests looking for ways into your bakery. Photo credit: New Africa / adobe stock

With warmer weather and strict pandemic regulations beginning to lift, foodservice establishments can expect to see an uptick in foot traffic across Canada this summer season. As you prepare your restaurant for the post-pandemic rush, make sure pest-proofing your patio is on your checklist so patrons can have a pleasant outdoor dining experience. Below is a list of the most common offenders for patio pests. 

Flies, as a nuisance and germ-transmitting pest, are a top offender for pests that linger around patios. They are attracted to food aroma, such as garlic, and breed in decaying organic matter, which if not properly cleaned and maintained, restaurant patios can be full of. Flies can transfer disease organisms when they touch food and table surfaces. They prefer warm temperatures and are most active from late spring to early autumn. 

Cockroaches are attracted to food crumbs, spillage, waste and dark areas. While they do not need much moisture to survive, they are commonly found in damp areas, such as near a water leak, patio drains, gutters, garbage receptacles, flower beds and mulch. Because cockroaches are nocturnal and therefore most active at night, seeing one during the day can be a sign of an infestation. Even though flies are twice as filthy as cockroaches, roaches still have a much higher health and aesthetic risk factor for the majority of patrons. 

Ants come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, but if you’ve ever had an ant problem, you know that just a few can soon lead to the whole colony congregating on your patio. Subpar sanitation is the primary cause of ant infestations – dirty dishes, unkept trash areas, crumbs around the patio and spills left for too long can all attract ants and provide food sources. Once a few worker ants find the food supply, a major problem can occur if the rest of the colony establishes nearby, especially in a place like a patio where there is a constant flow of diners. Besides being physical contaminates of food, most ants can inflict painful bites and some species can sting, so they can be of health threat to patrons.

Mosquitoes, unlike these other patio pests, are attracted to the people themselves rather than the food. Mosquitoes feed on blood and are attracted to stagnant water – of which it only takes a thimbleful for them to breed. Notorious for spreading diseases such as Zika and West Nile, mosquitoes can pose a bigger threat than an itchy bite to your customers, so ensuring no standing water and utilizing mosquito netting, repellants and traps can go a long way in keeping them away.

Stinging pests like wasps and bees can be particularly threating to guests and are attracted to flowers, plants, beverages and outdoor dining areas. Spills that do not get cleaned up in a timely manner or unmaintained garbage cans, especially recycling bins, can be large wasp attractants. While wasps are mainly nuisance pests and rarely go out of their way to sting, they can become hostile if they are disturbed, and their stings can be painful. 

To help prevent these pests from affecting your patron’s outdoor dining experience, use these steps to fend off pesky patio pests:

  • Utilize fans in your outdoor dining areas. Many pests such as flies and mosquitoes are not strong fliers and a flow of air will keep them away.
  • Ensure patio pavement is draining properly to prevent standing water, which attracts mosquitoes.
  • Ensure any cracks in the pavement are quickly filled as they can easily trap crumbs, which pests will feed off. 
  • Maintain landscaping, avoiding overgrowth and over-watering. 
  • Clean up spills immediately as food and sugary beverages will attract pests such as bees, birds, ants, cockroaches and rodents to your patio. 
  • Utilize fly and ant bait stations on your patio to help keep them from bothering diners. 
  • Similarly, install mosquito and wasp traps to help control these flying pests.
  • Ensure trash bins are as far from the tables as possible, emptied multiple times a day and the bins themselves are rinsed and cleaned out at least once a week to prevent organic matter from building up at the bottom of the bin outside the bag. 

Maintaining a pest-free outdoor dining experience is always important for your patrons, but now more than ever. For patrons to be able to enjoy a meal out at a restaurant, while also taking in the summer weather is something many won’t be taking for granted this season. Because pests only need food, water and shelter to survive, a restaurant patio is a top destination for many pests. Ensure yours stays pest-free so your patrons can have the most pleasant dining experience possible. / BJ

Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is pest specialist and quality assurance manager/ regulatory/lab Services for Orkin Canada, focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 20 years of experience, she manages the quality assurance laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at or visit 

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