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Rats, maggots, and snakes - oh my! Pests infest Hampstead and Highgate in summer heatwave

Dozens of rats have been sighted in Highgate Wood and Queen's Wood. Picture: Annmarie Meredith Dozens of rats have been sighted in Highgate Wood and Queen's Wood. Picture: Annmarie Meredith

Thursday, August 7, 2014
3:45 PM

A scourge of maggots, rats and other unwelcome pests have ­infested parts of Hampstead and Highgate since the summer heat wave began.

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Maggots have infested bins in The Miltons, Highgate. Picture: Cllr Bob HareMaggots have infested bins in The Miltons, Highgate. Picture: Cllr Bob Hare

Large numbers of rats have been regularly spotted scampering across Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood, in Muswell Hill, amid the soaring temperatures – including one snapped by A­nnmarie ­Meredith in Highgate Wood.

More dragonflies and squirrels are also flitting across the Heath and Highgate Wood during the hot weather, according to the City of London Corporation, which runs the open spaces.

It has brought in pest controllers to tackle the rodent problem.

Mrs Meredith, of Onflow Gardens, Muswell Hill, said she sees about 10 rats every time she walks through the parkland. “They seem quite tame,” she said. “But there are lots of children walking through the pathways and rats carry all sorts of diseases, they’re not very hygienic. The typical reaction would be to scream.”

Tony Bond, director of North London Pest Control, which covers Camden, blames a mild winter for the increase in rats, rather than the recent heatwave. “There must be a very local food source,” he said. “If you are seeing rats in the daylight, there has been a large increase in the population.”

Jonathan Meares, the City of London’s Highgate Wood manager, said: “There are a combination of factors, such as the heat and sunshine, and the fact that there are lots of wild foods available at the moment. We think the mild winter has also had an impact.

“We expect this to die down as it gets cooler, and there are also a number of predators on site, like tawny owls and sparrow hawks. We’ve also brought in pest control – and as part of the Highgate Wood team’s operational work we’re rat baiting down their burrows.”

In Highgate, hundreds of small, green maggots have crawled all over wheelie bins in The Miltons, Highgate.

Chris Riley, 45, chairman of The Miltons Residents’ Association, from Milton Avenue, branded it a “health risk”.

“People shouldn’t really be living like this,” he said “I’ve never seen maggots here before, that’s probably because of the weather.

“There will be more insects when it’s like this because the bins are there for too long.

“One resident was saying she has had people not wanting to rent ­because of the state of the bins.”

He said the pests are further proof that Haringey Council’s fortnightly rubbish collections do not work. Highgate Cllr Clive Carter called the infestation “disgusting”, and said that all three Lib Dem Highgate councillors will continue to press Labour-led Haringey Council to bring weekly collections back to The Miltons.

A spokesman for Haringey Council said: “We provide dedicated bins for people to dispose of recyclable waste, including all food and organic waste, and these are collected every week.

“This comprehensive recycling service means that only a very small amount of non-recyclable waste has to be left in general waste bins for fortnightly collection. Residents can take steps to ensure their bins do not attract flies, which lay eggs and produce maggots. This includes ensuring food and food waste is not left ­exposed, rinsing packaging before recycling and disposing of food waste correctly.”

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