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Pest control

Owners and occupiers have a responsibility to keep their land free from pests. As the council no longer offers a pest control service for any creature including mice, rats or wasps we suggest you approach a private pest control company to deal with any pest control work.

If you rent from a housing association or a private landlord, speak to them about treatment in the first instance.

Looking for a pest controller

If you are looking for a pest control company, make sure you:

  1. Get at least three quotations
  2. Find out if there is a call out fee or fixed charge
  3. Check their qualifications - do they have a certificate in Pest Control from the Royal Society for the Promotion of Heath (RSPH) or the BPCA?

They should also carry out a final inspection once the programme is complete to ensure no bait is left behind.

If rodenticides are used, your pest controller should carry out an environmental assessment to consider the possible threats to wildlife and domestic animals. Trading Standards approved pest controllers can be found on West Sussex County Council Traders Scheme (opens new window)

Dealing with pests

The British Pest Control Association (opens new window)  give advice about how to deal with the most common household pests such as rats, mice, wasps and bed bugs.


Bedbugs can be dark yellow, red or brown. Adults are around 5mm long. They can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.

Signs of bedbugs include:

  • Bites - often on skin exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
  • Spots of blood on your bedding - from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
  • Small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bedbug droppings)

For information on bed bug bites please visit NHS Bedbug Bite Advice (opens new window).

Getting rid of bedbugs

It's very difficult to get rid of bedbugs yourself because they can be hard to find and may be resistant to some insecticides. There are some things you can try yourself, but these are unlikely to get rid of bedbugs completely without a pest controller. 


The council's policy is that no action should be taken with regard to urban foxes. This policy has been in place for many years and is in line with neighbouring authorities and guidance set out by central government. The Fox Project (opens new window) charity provides advice on deterring foxes and can deal with sick and injured foxes.


If you or your neighbours are feeding the birds, we would advise you stop as bird feed and bread contains vitamin k1 which can act as an antidote to rat/mouse poison. If bird feeding is stopped the rats may go elsewhere without the need of a pest control service.

If you see rats in commercial properties and/or food businesses, please email the Health Protection team, Alternatively, you can call 01243 534 602.

False Widow Spiders

False Widow Spiders are now very common here in the south of England.

False widow is the name given to any one of three species that are now very well established in England (particularly the warmer south). Their name derives from the fact that they are commonly mistaken for black widow spiders which are in a different genus (Lactrodectus), but the same family (Theridiidae).

Steatoda bipunctata

(Sometimes known as the "rabbit hutch spider") is usually the smallest of the three and a very common spider of sheds and outbuildings. Its body, which rarely exceeds 7mm in length for mature females and 5mm for males, is dark and shiny with a pattern, when present, comprising a whitish line around the front and sometimes a white stripe down the centre. The impressed dots on the abdomen from which it gets its scientific name are not easily visible with the naked eye. 

Steatoda grossa

Steatoda grossa has a body length when mature of around 10mm for adult females and again males are generally smaller. It is variable in appearance, with only juveniles and adult males usually having a pattern and adult females often having none. This spider has become more frequent in the south-east and is probably spreading north. 

Steatoda nobilis

The "noble false widow", is the largest of the three with a maximum body length of 14mm for females and 10mm for males.

There have been a number of reports of people being bitten by spiders, and false widows are often the focus of this, particularly in the media. However, it is difficult to obtain accurate evidence as those complaining of bites often do not see the spider but assume they are the culprit because of the absence of a bee or wasp. Alternatively, they only get a brief glimpse. Rarely is the spider captured so that an accurate identification can be carried out.  

A false widow spider bite can cause an allergic reaction. The bite has been compared to a wasp sting. In fact, when one considers the undoubtedly large number of people who are stung each year by wasps and bees, the risk of being bitten by a false widow spider must surely be relatively small. False widows are sedentary by nature, remaining in their webs and the males are only likely to wander when they are ready to mate. Being bitten is therefore likely to be the result of putting a hand into a web, handling one roughly or sitting or lying on one by mistake. Reports of bites by false widows are difficult to substantiate and may be exaggerated by the media.

In summary, being bitten by a spider is unlikely in this country in normal circumstances, and the effect of a bite is unlikely to be worse than being stung by a wasp or bee. A more serious problem is only likely to arise in the event of an allergic reaction or if the person is already compromised by other health issues. Nevertheless, if severe swelling or ulceration results from a suspected spider bite it is recommended that you see your doctor immediately or visit an Accident and Emergency Department.

It is not necessary to report any sightings to this local authority.

Brown Tail Moth Caterpillars

Please note that the council's pest control contractor does not provide a treatment service for Brown Tail Moth - this information is provided for advice purposes only for land owners and for those visiting affected land.

Brown Tail Moth caterpillars have been found in some isolated areas within the Chichester District. This page gives general information on how you can help limit its spread and prevent you and your family possibly suffering from the painful rash that the moth's caterpillars can cause.

Although the caterpillars prefer hawthorn and blackberry, it will eat any type of bush. In big numbers these caterpillars can cause de-foliage of trees and bushes and can be a problem for gardeners.

When are they active?

The caterpillars become active in the spring. During March, caterpillars can be found in their winter tents. By April the caterpillars have begun to emerge from their tents and begin to feed. They expand the area of defoliation around their winter tents during May so that by June the caterpillars have moved away from the tents and become solitary. They spin a cocoon and pupate. Adult moths emerge in July/August and mate. Females lay eggs near the tip of shoots and then they spin a tent at the end of the shoot in readiness for winter.

What do they look like?

These caterpillars are between 7mm and 38mm in length (depending on age), dark brown in colour with a distinctive white line down each side. The whole body is covered in tufts of brown hairs and two distinct orange/red dots are noticeable on the caterpillars back towards the tail. The caterpillars carry spiked and barbed hairs, which can penetrate skin, causing an irritant reaction. Hairs can be released when caterpillars or their tents are disturbed. For asthmatics and hay fever sufferers, it is important that the hairs are not inhaled as these may cause breathing difficulties.

What should I do if I have an infestation?

Great care should be taken to avoid touching the caterpillars and in cases of large infestations, it would be wise to keep windows closed to prevent caterpillars entering into your house. The only certain way of eliminating any infestation is by pruning out and burning the tents during the autumn/winter period, when the caterpillars are inside them. During the summer months when the caterpillars are active, contact chemical sprays may give some immediate control, but as only some 10% of the caterpillars leave the confines of the tents at most times, this is not a totally effective option.

It is possible to self-treat for these caterpillars, but there is a risk of irritation so precautions must be taken. If you are uncertain of the chemicals to use and are not aware of the safety and application requirements, do not attempt to use chemical control. If you are happy to undertake this, various pesticides are available from most good garden centres where further advice can also be sought. It is important to closely follow the manufacturer's methods of application and to use protective clothing.  Always spray when the weather is fine and there is no wind or rain to avoid drift or run-off problems.

If attempting to prune out winter tents:

  • Wear appropriate protective clothing, which will ensure that there is no contact between the irritant hairs and the skin. If possible garments should be made tight at the wrists and ankles.  Protective clothing should be thoroughly rinsed in clean water after use as the irritant hairs will adhere to it.
  • Use heavy duty rubber gloves, a hood, goggles, boots and a dust mask to ensure that bare skin is covered
  • If you are using a ladder, make sure that it is fit for purpose and that someone can hold it steady
  • Either burn the tents if you can do so safely and without causing nuisance to neighbours or double bag them and seal tightly. You are advised NOT to attempt to deal with an infestation if you:-
  • are asthmatic
  • suffer from hay fever
  • have sensitive skin or eczema
  • do not have adequate protective clothing
  • are not comfortable working at heights

What if I get a rash?

If you are affected, the rash will be similar to severe nettle rash. The discomfort should subside after a few hours. A warm bath, with the application of calamine lotion or antihistamine cream may ease the itching. If any other symptoms are experienced or the irritation persists, medical advice should be sought without delay.