Pest control chiefs have warned of potential rat problems due to stockpiling and hoarding during the coronavirus crisis.

The National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA) said buying larger quantities of perishable goods could lead to similar problems created by rubbish piled up due to missed bin collections.

NPTA technical manager John Hope is appealing to the public to be even more vigilant than usual to combat the risks posed by the current circumstances.

He said "good housekeeping" is more vital than ever in order to combat the threat of pests such as rats, cockroaches and houseflies.

He told the PA news agency: "Stockpiling will have an effect on public health because, if you're stockpiling goods, there's more food there to attract rodents.

"It's the same as when rubbish piles up on the street due to missed bin collections - the more that's there, the more chance there is of attracting rodents without actually seeing them, because they can get in there unnoticed by time you get to bottom of the pile.

"Public health pests such as rodents, cockroaches and houseflies are known to carry bacteria and can pass this on to people."

Asked about advice to help people avoid pest problems, Mr Hope said: "There are some simple, sensible tips to reduce the risks.

"Move any rubbish to an outside bin as soon as possible and try and ensure that this is tightly sealed.

"Inspect your home or office for cracks or holes in walls, unfilled voids around pipework etc, and remember that mice can squeeze through gaps as small as 5mm. If you find any, fill or seal them as soon as possible.

"Inspect dried food packages for pest signs or activity before use, particularly where excess food is stored."

Mr Hope warned that where food is stored is important to avoid attracting rats.

He said: "Particularly relevant at the moment is the use of alternative storage options for bulk-bought items.

"Be careful about storing food in outbuildings or garages, as these will be at increased risk of pest damage as these buildings tend to be less secure than our homes.

"If possible, keep bushes and shrubbery away from the building to make the area less attractive to pests.

"Repair any leaking pipes, outside taps etc, as standing water can attract many different types of pests, including rats and, as the weather warms, mosquitoes.

"Clean work surfaces, dining tables and floors regularly as any food build-up can attract pests. This is particularly important if pests are present, to clean any bacterial residues left behind should they pass over them."

Addressing what people should do if they have a problem with pests, Mr Hope said: "If you develop a problem, call a pest professional.

"If for any reason they can't visit, consider using break-back traps for rodents - but ensure that they are placed in secure locations as they can cause harm to pets and people.

"Be very careful if you consider rodenticides or insecticides to ensure that these are purchased from reputable sources and are used safely and according to label conditions."

By Josh Payne, PA