Darkling beetles and their larvae can survive in empty broiler houses between rearing cycles and may cause damage to the building’s infrastructure by eating their way into insulation material in ceilings and walls.

In the broiler industry, the most important aspect of insect control is controlling darkling beetles.

Alphitobius diaperinus can cause significant damage and be a nuisance to poultry operations through disease transmission, structural damage and even invasion of neighboring buildings.

These insects are persistent in poultry houses and can act as carriers of zoonotic bacteria, including Salmonella and Campylobacter, and viruses such as corona virus.

The destruction of insulation materials causes a loss in the insulating value of the building and a decrease in the “tunnel effect” as the house becomes leakier. This drives up the amount of runtime for which the fans have to maintain a constant static pressure to keep air speed up, especially in summer.

As a result, there is loss both in the summer (leaky houses increase electric bills) and winter (less insulating value increases heating costs).

In addition, when litter is taken out of the houses, the beetles may spread.

When it comes to helping control beetle populations, create an effective pest control strategy that covers your entire operation as well as other pests that may be of concern, including flies, spiders and mites.

Two fundamental actions can help control infestations: practicing good sanitation and using appropriate chemical control.

Likewise, producers should divide pest control efforts into two key areas: facility and environment:

  • Facility. Where poultry eat, sleep and lay eggs are prime locations for pests and the diseases they can pass from one animal to another. Treating litter, cages and the flooring of the broiler or egg-laying operation can aid in stopping the spread of pests.
  • Environment. Pests may use the areas beyond the immediate housing facilities to breed and replenish their numbers. Treating those areas can play a significant role in reducing the pest population.

Focusing on protecting the facility and environment can help minimize issues from these pests, while on-animal sprays and dusts also can help protect birds from mites.

Proper documentation of the beetle population is equally important. Producers should consider using a scoring system to document the level of beetle population in each flock. Monitor changes in the beetle population weekly, and get a clear idea of infestation levels. Use a color-coded chart to determine when an intervention may be needed.

Producers also should look at testing for beetle sensitivity and susceptibility. This gives an idea of the insect’s tendency to be killed by an insecticide. The more susceptible the beetles are to an insecticide, the more efficiently it works against them. The test will use insecticides belonging to different classes based on mode of action (MOA), and results will shed light on the class of insecticides to which the darkling beetles are most susceptible to. This helps determine an appropriate rotation strategy.

The development of resistance to insecticides due to repeated use of compounds belonging to the same MOA is another concern for producers. Proper documentation of the products used for each flock in each poultry house is needed for insecticide resistance management. Producers who have proper documentation and a rotation of insecticides will have a lesser chance of experiencing problems.

An effective rotation strategy alternates between products from completely different MOA groups, not just between active ingredients from the same MOA group. Modes of action available include pyrethroids, organophosphates and neonicotinoids.

At the end of the day, reducing beetle populations that spread disease not only means a cleaner operation, but also potentially a healthier flock.

A study on the 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 see the full story, go to http://www.wattagnet.com/articles/26934-how-to-protect-poultry-flocks-from-darkling-beetles.

Photo courtesy of Bayer