SenesTech is a pest-control company based in Flagstaff, Arizona, with an interesting approach. It has created a new product called ContraPest which when eaten by female rates accelerates their egg loss, thereby rendering them sterile within a matter of days. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is enlisting SenesTech to deploy ContraPest to counter the subway’s rat infestation. Caroline Winter writes about the ongoing research (“Turning Rats Into Old Maids” Bloomberg Businessweek 3/25/12–3/31/12, pp. 22–23):
“For the next two months, SenesTech will study rat behavior in New York subways. One goal is to pinpoint preferred foods in hopes of making the ContraPest bait more desirable than discarded pizza and candy.” (p. 22)
Interestingly, because rats are territorial, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority does not want to eliminate all rats. If that happened, new rats from surrounding territories would simply reinfest the newly vacated subways. Rather, the idea is to leave a rat population so small, rat territories are maintained, but the public rarely, if ever, sees the rats. Would this be a case where perception is not reality?
SenesTech is currently a small private company, hoping to become profitable by next year. The business plan is to license its technology to companies specializing in agriculture products and pest management. Loretta Mayer, one of the company’s cofounders, emphasizes the product is not harmful to people or the environment. She does admit one observer had concerns about rat mood swings by asking:
“‘Wow, don’t you worry? I mean, a whole bunch of large menopausal rats—aren’t they angry?’” (p. 23)
After all, you are messing with female rats’ reproductive cycles. I can almost see the movie titles now. Move over, Willard.