By: Al Dam and Kathleen Taylor
Published: ON Organic, July 2013

Photo Credit: FarmStart

The summer of 2013 has many farmers noticing increased insect pest issues in their area. On occasion, these insects issues have caused increased tension among neighbours (high fly populations), and increased disease challenges (high darkling beetle populations). Some are suggesting that the weather this spring and summer so far – with high amounts of heat and moisture – could be contributing to the problem. Infestation with insects is an issue in the industry regardless of your production status as an organic or conventional poultry farmer. For this article, we will be discussing the biology, management, and control measures for flies and darkling beetles.

Regardless of the pest species, dealing with the problem is all about understanding the biology of the insect itself, and managing the population according to their life cycle.  Pest management will not be as effective if you simply stick to a routine that’s more convenient for you. It is also critical that you are aware that the problem goes beyond what you can see, as there are many insect life stages that are not visible to you. For example, the adult flies that you can physically see in your barns are a mere 15% of that total fly population. If you are not considering all stages of the life cycle in your control program, you may suddenly be faced with an infestation when adults emerge in droves. For this reason, understanding aspects of the insect’s reproduction, behavior, habitat, and seasonality is essential.

Alphitobius diaperinus, also known as the darkling beetle is one of the most common pests found in poultry barns. The adult beetle is shiny brown or black in colour, and approximately 6 mm long. The larvae, (or grubs), can grow to 1 cm in length before they pupate. The darkling beetle goes by many other names, including the lesser meal worm, litter beetle, shining black wheat beetle, and black fungus beetle. This beetle traditionally consumes grain, however, poultry barns have provided an ideal environment for it to flourish, as it can survive on spilled feed and manure underneath feed lines.


To continue reading this article, see pages 2-4 of July’s issue of ON Organic 

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