Some pests are considered in law as a potential public health risk. This means there is a legal duty on both the occupier and owner of property or land to take all reasonable actions to keep their property or land free from these pests. These pests are:

  • Rats
  • Mice
  • Cockroaches
  • Brown Tail Moth Caterpillars

Rats and Mice

Rats and mice carry a wide range of diseases and parasites that are potentially harmful to humans and animals. Leptospirosis (Weil's disease) can be fatal to humans, although fatalities within the UK are extremely rare. Other diseases, such as toxoplasmosis and salmonella and parasites can present a further hazard.

Rats and mice can also spoil food, making it unfit for consumption, cause structural damage to properties and can potentially cause electrical fires by chewing through wires and cables.

Further information and pest control advice on rats and mice can be found on our rats and mice factsheet.


The two types of cockroaches found in the UK that may cause a health risk are the Oriental and the German Cockroach.

Cockroaches can contaminate food with their droppings, dirt carried on their body as well as broken wings and legs. Due to the environment they live in they can also potentially transmit dysentery, gastroenteritis, typhoid and food poisoning infections such as salmonella.

Further information and pest control advice on cockroaches can be found on our cockroaches factsheet.

Brown Tail Moth Caterpillars

The hairs of brown tail moth caterpillars are a skin irritant which can cause severe rashes. The hairs of the caterpillar when shed may be blown in the wind. Washing hung out to dry can collect these hairs as well as articles left in the garden.

Further information and pest control advice on brown tail moth caterpillars can be found by using this caterpillar factsheet.

Non-Public Health Pests

There is a wide range of potential pests that don't pose a significant risk to public health.

These include:

Information and advice about these pests and many others can be found on the British Pest Control Association website

What to do if bitten or stung

The NHS advises that certain people may suffer an allergic reaction to bites and stings or even a bacterial infection – but this is rare. If bitten or stung you'll need to make sure the wound doesn't get infected by cleaning it with an antiseptic wash or soap and water as soon as possible. Placing a flannel or cloth soaked in cold water over the wound will help reduce any swelling. Avoid scratching the affected area to reduce the risk of infection.  If there is a lot of swelling and blistering or there is pus in the wound this may indicate the wound has become infected.  If that happens we advise you get advice from your doctor.

If you experience any of the following symptoms as a result of a bite or sting then call 999 and ask for an ambulance:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • A fast heart rate
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Confusion, anxiety or agitation

DIY Treatment Safety Advice

When using DIY treatments you must follow all safety instructions on the product used, taking all reasonable care to prevent species, other than that which the product was designed for, from accessing the bait or traps.

Poisoning any other animals, even accidentally, can lead to prosecution by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), as this can cause unnecessary suffering.

Pest control service

If you require pest control services for your home/property/land, then we recommend that you find a suitable pest control contractor through the British Pest Control Association .

Find a pest control contractor