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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sticking It to Our Furry 'Friends'

Spring is in the air. Flowers bloom, trees burst into brilliant verdure, young lovers stroll under newly benevolent skies. Spring: new life, new growth -- new rats.

As temperatures rise from minus to plus, Moscow's rats become more active, exhibiting more aggressive behavior and reproducing with felicitous ease. In order to offset their aggression and rising numbers, Moscow's central city disinfection station has an expanded plan to stick it to the rats: glue.

Grigory Ostanin, chief physician at the disinfection station, said the city will use hundreds of glue traps in Moscow's more rodent-infested areas, such as the southeastern region and the Bitch's Bog area near Lyublino. The weapon of choice: ALT, a non-toxic glue produced in Italy. ALT kills not just rats, but also mice, ants, flies, mosquitoes.

The pests' demise is viciously simple: The unfortunate approach the glue trap, get stuck and eventually suffocate or starve to death in the sticky mess. Their gruesome fate is justified by the very real specter of an epidemic, officials said.

"If we flag in our efforts," Aliya Batrshina, deputy head of the station's department for prophylactic disinfection and pest control, said this week, "the threat [of plague] becomes a reality."

Why glue? The city, which has long been in the pest-control business, has used domestically produced glue for approximately 10 years, but never in such a wide application, Batrshina said. The appearance of ALT in small tubes makes the use of glue more convenient. Glue traps are also more economical; they can catch several mice or rats at once, while mechanical traps catch one rodent and then have to be reset. Unlike poisons, glue does not enter the food chain and is more environmentally friendly. Furthermore, she said, glue may be used indefinitely, whereas poisons must be discontinued once the pests have developed a corresponding immunity.

Animal rights activists in other countries view the use of glue as barbaric; in Sweden, glue as a pest-killer is prohibited. But, as pointed out by Batrshina, killing rats with anti-coagulant poisons is also cruel: The rats eventually bleed to death.

Just how many rats are there in Moscow? Though there is no way of determining exact numbers, Batrshina said the station keeps a careful eye on each neighborhood's rat concentrations and movements. Rats can generally be found where there are two elements: garbage and water.

With the new Italian glue traps, the station's staff cannot hope to liquidate Moscow's rats. The idea, according to Batrshina, is "protecting the human population from diseases carried by rats." When the station identifies a rat problem, it goes in with traps, setting 33 per 1,000 square meters of area. It also conducts inquiries over a wider area to determine the scope of the problem. Finally, it performs minor construction repairs to block up holes that may permit entry of rats into buildings and apartments.

Outbreaks of plague, the greatest health problem presented by rats, are not a remote threat in our day, Batrshina said. Most associate plague with the the Black Death of the 14th century, which wiped out as many as 45 million people in Europe from 1345 to 1350. In Russia, the Black Death hit southern cities, such as Odessa and Kherson. But individual cases of plague have been reported recently in Russia, though its victims have brought the disease here from abroad, Batrshina said.

As Muscovites and rats continue in this uneasy symbiosis, the rats will have to adapt to increasingly effective methods aimed at their demise. Moscow's rodents have caught on to the dangers of mechanical traps and poisons; now they'll have to dance to the music of a more insistent, sticky Pied Piper.