Despite industry advances in Integrated Pest Management, controlling darkling beetles can still be a major challenge if poultry producers do not take proper measures and prepare for future problems.
Darkling beetles are a widespread nuisance in broiler and turkey brooder production. In fact, darkling beetles are a common pest on broiler farms around the world.1 They can be found in the litter under feeders and in the walls and insulation of a poultry house. They can cause significant damage and be a major issue to poultry operations, including in the following ways:
- They can host and transmit diseases from one flock to the next, causing decreases in growth and productivity, and increases in mortality, especially during infestations with high beetle populations.2
- Birds will be more likely to shy away from the feeders where beetles thrive. This leads to a reduction of feed intake, the potential for slower growth, poor feed conversion rates and increased feed costs.3
- Beetles can cause physical damage to poultry houses, leading to costly repairs and increased energy costs.4
- They can spread foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella.5
Monitor darkling beetle infestations
A simple and effective way to monitor darkling beetle infestations is to use the Elanco Beetle Evaluation Form, which is a qualitative assessment tool. This can be done by selecting six locations in the house including the feeder, wall and center.
Evaluations are taken by creating a shallow trench several inches wide and observing the number of adults present and the movement of litter. It is best to conduct the initial evaluation just before the flock exits the house when the beetle numbers will be highest in the house and then again when possible; seven, 14, and 21 days after a new flock arrives.
Look quickly and score beetle quantity as follows:
- No beetles present would receive a rating score of 0
- Few present (1-10 beetles), rating score of 1
- Some litter movement (11-50 beetles), rating score of 2
- Moderate movement and the depression fills slowly (51-100 beetles), rating score of 3
- Entire area moving and the depression fills rapidly (101+ beetles), rating score of 4
Add the rating scores of the six locations to determine infestation level:
- Light infestation – score of 0-8
- Average infestation – score of 9-15
- Heavy infestation – score of 16-24
Using the form provides a qualitative assessment of the beetle population and a record of treatments.
Protect your operation
To help control darkling beetle populations, producers should consider establishing a chemical rotation program and treat every round or cycle.
The interior of the poultry house is a prime location for darkling beetles and the diseases they can pass from one animal to another, such as Salmonella. Chemical control through insecticides should target both the adult beetles and the larvae. Insecticides should be applied after depopulation, before bird placement, hatchery delivery, or during the production period. Producers should ensure the insecticide they are using is approved for use with birds present and follow proper safety, mixing and rotation guidelines.
An effective beetle control program with chemical control and monitoring can reduce the beetle population in the house over time. Contact your Elanco representative or distributor to discuss potential mitigation strategies, including the use of insecticides to control darkling beetle infestations.
2 Grogan K, Poult Times. 2008.
3 Despins JL, Axtell RC. Feeding Behavior and growth of broiler chicks fed larvae of the darkling beetle, alphitobius diaperinus.
4 Simpson G. The Poultry Engineering, Economics & Management Newsletter. Auburn University. 2007.
5 Hazeleger WC, Bolder NM, Beumer RR, Jacobs-Reitsma WF. Darkling beetles (Alphitobius diaperinus) and their larvae as potential vectors for the transfer of Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella enterica serovar Paratyphi B Variant Java between successive broiler flocks. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008;74(22):6887–91.