SHAWNEE, Kan. – Your flocks face threats from all sides. That’s because when pests invade your operation, you are at risk for damage to your birds, facilities and your bottom line.

Insects, such as flies, darkling beetles and mites, can wreak havoc on the productivity of your poultry operation, transmitting disease and causing damage to your birds and facilities.

Once populations have become high, control options become more costly and may not deliver desired results. A proactive plan is the better approach.

To get in front of pest problems before they become an issue, it is important to understand the various insects, their impact and, most importantly, how to defend your operation against them.

Darkling beetles

Darkling beetles pose a unique threat to poultry operations. This threat includes the spreading of diseases such as Salmonella, avian influenza, Marek’s disease, infectious bursal disease (Gumboro), corona virus and Newcastle disease. They also consume poultry feed and can destroy property by burrowing into insulation and wood. Darkling beetles pose a specific threat to chicks and poults, which will eat beetles rather than poultry feed, exposing young birds to the bacteria and parasites beetles carry.

Reducing beetle populations that spread disease can mean a healthier flock, and a study on economic impact of darkling beetles determined that a good beetle control program can save producers as much as $4,262 per 100,000 birds. To help control beetle populations, producers should use sprays or dusts in their facilities and in the environment around the facility.

Controlling flies

The main fly species poultry producers should be concerned about is the house fly, which can be a nuisance to you, your family, your workers and your neighbors, as well as spread disease to your flocks.

When approaching control of house flies, it is important to consider where the flies eat, rest and breed in your facility. House fly larvae breed in manure piles and other moist, warm, decaying organic matter, such as spilled feed. Adult house flies feed and rest on decaying organic matters, buildings, walls and other structures in your facilities. To provide effective control, producers can use baits and sprays in the production facilities or in the environment around the facility.

Managing mites

One of the most common external parasites affecting poultry is the northern fowl mite. While more of a cold-weather pest, mites can infest poultry any time of the year. Mites are spread primarily through bird-to-bird contact, and infestations can result in a drop in fertility in breeding poultry, bleeding, feather blackening and scabbed, cracked skin. Mites also can bite poultry workers handling infested birds, creating a work hazard for poultry facility employees.

Defend your operation

One of the most effective ways to defend your operation and your poultry from damaging pests is to divide your operation into three key treatment areas. These include:

  • On-Animal — This treatment focuses on targeting pests, mainly mites, that infest birds directly. These pests can cause pain and feather and skin issues for birds, reducing productivity and profitability. On-animal treatments include dusts and sprays.
  • Facility — These treatments target pests where they feed and rest. Facility sprays and baits can help target flies on buildings and structures, and dusts and sprays can help target darkling beetles in litter, insulation and building structures where they eat, rest and breed.
  • Environmental — Pests use areas around facilities to eat, rest and breed. Flies in particular seek out manure or other decaying material for food and breeding sites. Eliminating or treating these areas around your facilities with sprays and baits can significantly reduce pest populations.

Rotating ingredients

Insecticide rotation is important to help minimize the development of resistance. Pests can develop reduced susceptibility to an active ingredient over time.

To help prevent this, it is important to rotate to a product with a different mode of action (MOA) every year or so, depending on the situation. An effective rotation strategy alternates between products from completely different MOA groups, not just between active ingredients from the same MOA group.

  • Pyrethroids — Sodium channel modulators that disrupt the normal flow of sodium ions
  • Organophosphates — Cholinesterase inhibitors that prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine
  • Neonicotinoids — Acetylcholine receptor agonists that mimic the action of acetylcholine

Limiting pests’ exposure to any one insecticide MOA can help reduce selection pressure for resistance to any MOA, minimizing the emergence of new resistant pest populations.

Use what fits your management style, but be sure to keep your method of fly control active.

To learn more about insecticide modes of action or insect identification, check out these training modules:

Keep safety in mind

Finally, be sure to read the label and know what personal protection equipment is required for the products being used.

Also, be sure the employees applying these products are trained in the proper use of each product and the use of the appropriate equipment.

Dr. Larry Hawkins is senior technical service veterinarian with Bayer HealthCare, Animal Health.

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