Alan Buckle retirement – Killgerm reflects on 50 years in pest management

    Dr Alan Buckle, Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Reading and Chair of the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticde Use (CRRU UK) reflects with PCN on over 50 years in pest management.

    Alan retires from his CRRU role at the end of April 2024, with a stellar career that has shaped the pest management industry for just over half a century. Many of our readers will be familiar with Alan as the Chair and driving force of the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU UK), the industry stewardship regime that has preserved the use of anticoagulant rodenticides when they were under threat of withdrawal. However, while the contribution of CRRU has been and continues to be hugely significant, there is much more to thank Alan for.
    Hinting at some early highlights, to whet one’s appetite to read on, Alan was instrumental in the development of anticoagulants in the first place! We wouldn’t have certain anticoagulant active ingredients and formulations without the work of him and his co-workers and it is almost certain these products would not remain without the efforts of CRRU UK.

    Early research

    Having graduated from Royal Holloway College, University of London, with a 1st class honours degree in Zoology, Alan completed a PhD there on the ‘Insect epifauna of British wild small mammals’, tracking marked fleas moving between Wood mice to see who was living with who. Alan’s contributions to pest management began as early as 1973, when he started research at Aston University (Birmingham, UK) that led to the development and commercialisation of a novel technology for mouse control.
    Alan met Mary Eastaugh at university. They married in 1974 and celebrate their golden wedding anniversary in July this year. They have two daughters, Laura and Karen, and in spite of Alan’s many and often long absences travelling abroad, Mary ably juggled being a mother to the girls with a successful career as a maths teacher.
    Development of key anticoagulants and formulations From Birmingham to the rice of fields of Malaysia…where Alan worked on the control of (Rattus argentiventer) the ‘Rice field rat’. Alan owes his start to Fred Rowe, who was the house mouse specialist in the UK Ministry of Agriculture and his mentor in Malaysia and the UK for ten years.

    Development of key anticoagulants and formulations

    Development of key anticoagulants and formulations From Birmingham to the rice of fields of Malaysia…where Alan worked on the control of (Rattus argentiventer) the ‘Rice field rat’. Alan owes his start to Fred Rowe, who was the house mouse specialist in the UK Ministry of Agriculture and his mentor in Malaysia and the UK for ten years.
    Seconded to the Malaysian Ministry of Agriculture, his work included damage assessment and damage surveys, field efficacy tests, rodenticide resistance, developing wax blocks and reduced baiting methods for brodifacoum baits, leading to the pulsed baiting concept. On departure for Malaysia, Alan remembers instructions from the project’s boss, David Drummond, pioneer of anticoagulant resistance work in the UK. David said, “If you ever do a project that involves catching a rat and letting it go again, I’ll have you back home before you know what’s hit you.” David was one of the ‘don’t study them get rid of them’ school, that is so different to current thinking.
    Malaysia also involved a cobra bite and stay in rural hospital. Alan remembers two other ‘patients’ in the ward. One was a cat that slept on the bed opposite the whole day, while in the next bed was a communist terrorist, hand-cuffed to the bed-frame and guarded by a police officer with a shotgun! Luckily the bite responded quickly to anti-venom but resulted in a tricky phone call to Mary back on Penang Island.
    I think many of us take wax blocks and ‘pulsed baiting’ for granted – now we know some of the history!


    While the Global Research and Development Manager at ICI, Alan was responsible for R&D of all formulations of the insecticide active ingredients permethrin, cypermethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin and pirimiphos-methyl. Bringing his expertise to Syngenta in the early 2000’s, Alan led projects on Vector and Professional Pest Management insecticides under the brand name ‘Icon’, which included microencapsulated formulations of lambda-cyhalothrin, wettable powder formulations and treated malaria bednets.

    Travels / international reach

    With the move from Birmingham to Malaysia already mentioned, Alan undertook vertebrate pest management projects in South-East Asia and has directed further research in many countries around the world. Both at ICI and as part of his later work at Alan Buckle Consulting Ltd, he has consulted on management of vertebrate alien species on islands of high conservation status including projects on Madeira and neighbouring islands with his friend Frank Zino, and in the Caribbean, Mauritius, Galapogos, Africa and the UK. As part of an industrial role, there have also been projects on barn owls as a biological control of rats in oil palm.
    All the travel gave Alan a taste for exotic foods. This unfortunately led to cholera after a sushi seaurchin dinner in Manila. The flight to Bangkok that night was spent in the loo and ended on a stretcher and an ambulance ride. The last he remembered on waking three days later in intensive care was an A&E doctor saying ‘if we don’t get this guy’s blood pressure up we’re going to lose him!”. The career nearly ended there!

    Industry stewardship

    When Alan retires from his CRRU role, he will have held the position of Chairman for over 20 years.
    Alan doesn’t take credit for starting CRRU. In fact, it began when a small group of like-minded industry people, including the late Jonathan Peck of Killgerm and Ian Pepper of Rentokil Initial, decided something needed to be done about wildlife exposure to SGARs, which was becoming an inceasing issue. Alan was soon appointed as Chairman and, as they say, ‘the rest is history’.

    Development of the UK rodenticide stewardship regime

    The development of a stewardship framework was not easy, taking three years of hardwork. There were the conflicting positions and interests of different user groups and the requirements of government to reconcile. Some stakeholders walked out but later came back. Alan led the CRRU team trying to pull it all together and there were countless meetings with usergroup representatives and government, including a meeting with the minister responsible for HSE. Three different proposals went from CRRU to government. Rupert Broome, who was beside Alan thoughout, remembers the first was received with the response ‘be more ambitious’ and the second with ‘almost there’. Finally, a third set of proposals was agreed with HSE and accepted to meet its ‘High Level Principles’ ( and stewardship could begin.

    Implementation of the UK rodenticide stewardship regime

    Training and certification

    One of stewardship’’s most important requirements is that all who buy professional rodenticide products must show proof of competence at the point of sale.

    Best practice

    Many aspects of rodenticide application practice are now supported by published CRRU guidelines, many of which Alan has written or co-written. The most important of these being the CRRU Code of Best Practice, a revision of which was produced in July 2021.


    A framework of monitoring has also been introduced covering all aspects of the regime, including residues in wildlife, anticoagulant resistance, barn owl breeding and understanding and adoption of best practice.

    Strengthening the regime

    However, after seven years of the regime and with environmental targets still unmet, it became clear to Alan, CRRU directors and other CRRU stakeholders that changes were required. So a series of strengthening measures is now being implemented with two main objectives: to reduce wildlife exposure to rodenticides and to keep SGARs available to all user groups in the essential use scenario – ‘in and around buildlings’. One measure to control levels of anticoagulant residues in barn owls, is that sales of products containing bromadiolone and difenacoum for use in open areas and at waste dumps will cease on 4 July 2024. These products purchased on or before that date will be authorised for use in open areas and waste dumps until 31 December 2024. After that, it will be illegal to use any SGAR product to treat a rodent infestation not associated with a building.
    The CRRU Code of Best Practice offers a range of effective methods for rodent management away from buildings, including elimination of harbourage, food and water; lethal non-anticoagulant baits; and trapping, shooting and dogs. Adding further strength to stewardship – from January 2026 onwards, all buyers and users of professional SGAR products must hold either a stewardship-specific training certificate less than five years old, or an older one with proof of membership of a stewardship-specific Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme. As five-year certificate expiry dates approach, holders can either repeat the training and requalify, or join a CPD scheme. Most recently, further rigour has been applied to training and certification with a requirement that CRRU-approved courses are Ofqual regulated.
    This complex and nationally-implemented stewardship regime is entirely operated by voluntary contribution of resources from the CRRU stakeholder organisations and member companies. Pest Control News and Alan offer grateful thanks to those organisations, and to the individuals involved, and on behalf of all whose livelihoods depend on our continued ability to conduct effective rodent pest management to protect human and animal health and hygiene.
    One of stewardship’’s most important requirements is that all who buy professional rodenticide products must show proof of competence at the point of sale.
    Finally, what with cobras and cholera, you could be forgiven for thinking that Alan is accident prone! But there’s more! A few years ago he contracted leptospirosis when he scratched his arm working in a garden compost heap that had months earlier been home to a rat. It is a salutary story that Alan stood in front of three NHS doctors, including one in A&E, and told them what he had. All said it was ‘flu and sent him home. Finally, late one night Mary thought she was going to lose him and went to a GP she knew. Antibiotics were immediately prescribed and acquired at an all-night pharmacy. Recovery was very quick after that and blood tests at Porton Down eventually confirmed lepto!

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