Litter Beetle

Litter Beetle

Scientific Name: Alphitobius diaperinus

How to identify a litter beetle

Adult litter beetles are dark brown and 6-7 mm long, beetle larva are light brown-yellow in colour.

Where are litter beetles commonly found?

Litter beetles are commonly found in poultry houses and runs.

Why are litter beetles considered a pest?

Litter beetle larvae cause damage to poultry house insulation as they chew through the insulation to create harbourage sites within which they pupate. Adult beetles may also lay their eggs within these tunnels. This damage can be intensified by insect-seeking birds which enlarge the beetle-created holes as they dig out the pupating beetle. Both adult beetles and larvae can harbor various poultry pathogens, including bacteria like Salmonella and Escherichia coli, as well as viruses including the causative agents of both Newcastle and Marek’s disease. Beetles are also intermediate hosts for the chicken tapeworm (Choanotaenia infundibulum) which can parasitize birds that feed on these beetles. Beetles can be nuisance pests at neighbouring properties, especially when a large quantity of beetle-infested litter is removed from a poultry house and piled to dry.  As the litter dries, adult beetles removed with the litter will disperse by flight throughout the surrounding environment.

What is the biology and lifecycle of a litter beetle?

Beetle eggs are laid in the litter or in cracks and crevices of poultry houses. Eggs hatch in 4-7 days from which emerges an elongate beetle larva that is light brown-yellow in colour. There are 5-9 larval stages each lasting 5-11 days depending on environmental factors, after which larvae move away from their food source to develop into the pupal stage. 

Adult beetles are dark brown and 6-7 mm long and can live up to 12 months or more. Beetles feed on spilled feed, manure and, if available to them, dead birds and cracked eggs. 

Management Tips for Litter Beetle

Some chemical pesticides or dusts are available for premise application to control litter beetles, however many of these pesticides cannot be used if birds are present.  

Completely removing manure or litter in between flocks (or regularly in smaller backyard flocks) can help to reduce the number of beetles in poultry facilities. Following clean out of the poultry house, application of appropriate insecticides to walls and structural components of the house can be particularly effective.

Treated insulation or more beetle resistant insulation may be helpful to reduce damage to the insulation, though this will not reduce beetle numbers.



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