As the heatwave tightens its grip on the UK and forecasters warn of temperatures set to creep even higher, a new threat looms on the horizon.
On Thursday, several tabloid papers contained cautionary tales of hot weather leading to an explosion in the rat population, with dozens of the rodents spotted plaguing beaches and parks across the country.
The front page of the Sun recounted warnings from a ‘rat expert’, who told the newspaper that a surplus of food being thrown out and rotting more quickly in the sun was creating an abundance of leftovers for the animals to gorge on.
So are we really about to be overrun by rats?
HuffPost UK spoke to our own expert, who may be able to help put the minds of those of a nervous disposition at rest.
Ian Sharpe, a pest controller in Birmingham, told us he’d not heard of anything unusual in terms of rodent populations.
“I’ve not seen an increase in the number of people reporting rats,” he said.
Sharpe said if anything, rats are struggling just as much as humans in the heat, because even though it might be easy for them to come across food, finding water is probably getting a lot harder.
He added: “I don’t think there’s been a growth in the rat population, people are probably seeing more of them because they’re having to be more adventurous when finding water, because most of the puddles have dried up.”
So if you do see a rat, it’s probably one that’s thirsty rather than being forced into the open due to population density.
And even though sleepless nights make it feel like the heatwave has been here forever, in reality it’s only been a few weeks, and a usual rat pregnancy is around a month.
Sharpe said there hasn’t been enough time for the heatwave to have an effect on the rat population – although if it doesn’t cool down soon, it might.
So, we can all rest easy. For now, at least.