Oklahoma State University

The Litter Beetle Project

An overview of the litter beetle project including images.

An ongoing project

Overview of litter beetles and why it's important to control them.

Introduction

  • The most common of the litter beetles is the lesser mealworm Alphitobius diaperinus
  • Vector and competent reservoir of several poultry pathogens and parasites
  • Causes damage to poultry housing and is suspected to be a health risk to humans in close contact with larvae and adults
  • Adults can become a nuisance when they move en masse towards artificial lights generated by residences near fields where beetle-infested manure has been spread

Life Cycle and Biology

  • After mating, a female beetle will on average lay 200 to 400 eggs
  • Adults lay their eggs in cracks and crevices in the poultry house, in manure or litter, in grain hulls, and under feed and water lines
  • Adults can live three to twelve months, with females continuing to produce eggs most of their life at one to five day intervals
  • Larvae hatch in four to seven days and complete development to the adult stage in 40 to 100 days, depending on temperature and food quality
  • Environmental conditions required for optimum development are 70° to 95°F
  • Beetles prefer the litter to contain 12% moisture but can thrive when moisture levels are higher
  • Both the larval and adult stages are primarily nocturnal, with greatest activity occurring at dusk
  • Adults are long lived, normally persisting for more than a year, and under experimental conditions have survived for more than two years
  • A typical adult can live up to a year (365 days)
  • An adult female has the potential to lay 200 eggs every 5 days
  • 365 / 5 = 73 * 200 = 14,600 / 12 mo. = ~1,200 eggs / month

Damage Caused to Poultry House

  • When searching for suitable pupation sites, larvae will chew holes in styrofoam, fiberglass, and polystyrene insulation panels in the walls of poultry houses
  • Energy costs in beetle-damaged broiler houses are reported to be 67% higher than in houses without beetle damage
Medical & Veterinary  Importance

 

Important vectors of a number of poultry pathogens and parasites:
  • Marek's disease
  • Gumboro disease
  • Turkey coronavirus
  • Newcastle disease
  • Avian influenza
  • Salmonella typhimurium
  • Escherichia coli
  • Aspergillus spp.
  • Staphylococcus ssp.
  • Eimeria spp. that cause coccidiosis

Monitoring Infestation

  • Monitoring is a key function that allows the operator to make sound pest management decisions
  • Preference of mealworm larvae and adults to get under objects has been used to develop a trap to monitor them in poultry litter
  • No treatment guidelines in terms of numbers of beetles caught
  • Detect them early and look at changes in trap counts over time
  • Trap catches also let you evaluate control measures that have been applied
  • Trap is a 9-inch length of 1-1/2 inch PVC pipe
  • Contains a piece of 8-inch x 11-inch corrugated cardboard rolled up so that the 8-inch length is inside the pipe
  • Litter beetle adults and larvae will crawl between the cardboard layers to hide
  • Holes should be drilled at each end of the pipe so that stakes can be used to hold the trap in place in the litter
Fig. 1. Example of PVC Trap.

 

pvc trap

 

 

Fig. 2. Population maps of the lesser mealworm in a broiler facility having each successive week grouped with its respective flock grow-out. (A) Adult lesser mealworm population. (B) Larval lesser mealworm population. Strother and Steelman, 2001, Environ. Entomol. 30: 556 - 561
litter beetle dispersal

 

Project Details

This project is currently still in the research phase. Information will be posted as its gathered and processed.

 

Images and sorting techniques

The following pictures show the collection process of litter beetles from samples of litter taken from poultry houses.

 

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