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Red Flour Beetles

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Red Flour Beetles


Red Flour Beetles, Both the confused and red flour beetles, known as "bran bugs," primarily attack milled grain products, such as flour and cereals. Both adults and larvae feed on grain dust and broken kernels, but not the undamaged whole grain kernels.

Red Flour Beetle

Red Flour Beetle


These beetles often hitchhike into the home in infested flour and can multiply into large populations. Some survive on food accumulations in cabinet cracks, crevices, and furniture. Confused flour beetles are the most abundant and injurious insect pest of flour mills in the United States. Badly infested flour is characterized by a sharp odor and moldy flavor. They do not bite or sting humans or pets, spread disease, or feed on or damage the house or furniture.


Adult size at 1/10 to 1/8 inch long and are flat, shiny, reddish-brown, and elongated. Antennae segments of the confused flour beetle increase in size gradually from the base to the tip to form a club of four segments; in the red flour beetle, the last three segments at the tip of the antennae are abruptly larger than the preceding ones, forming a three-segmented club. The thorax of the red flour beetle has curved sides. This ridge is absent in the red flour beetle. When viewed from below. The eyes of the red flour beetle are separated by less than two eye diameters Red flour beetles fly but confused flour beetles do not.


Habits The red and confused flour beetles may be present in large numbers in infested grain, but are unable to attack sound or undamaged grain (Walter). The adults are attracted to light, but will go towards cover when disturbed. Typically, these beetles can be found not only inside infested grain products, but in cracks and crevices where grain may have spilled. They are attracted to grain with high moisture content and can cause a grey tint to the grain they are infesting. The beetles give off a displeasing odor, and their presence encourages mold growth in grain.


Red Flour Beetles

Red Flour Beetles

Life Cycle:This is a very prolific species. Both beetles breed in damaged grain, grain dust, high-moisture wheat kernels, flour, etc. Female beetles each lay 300 to 400 eggs in flour or other foods during a period of five to eight months (two to three eggs per day). Within 5 to 12 days, these eggs hatch into slender, cylindrical, white larvae tinged with yellow. The length of the larval period varies from 22 to more than 100 days; the pupal period is about 8 days. Fully grown larvae transform to naked pupae, and in a week adults emerge. The life cycle requires 7 to 12 weeks, with adults living for 3 years or more. Ideally this type of beetle prefers temperatures of ca. 30°C and will not develop or breed at temperatures lower than 18°C.


Damage The red flour beetles cannot feed on whole undamaged grain; they are, however, often found among dust, fines, and dockage. The beetle do cause damage by feeding but probably cause more problems by contaminating the grain. Large numbers of dead bodies, cast skins, and fecal pellets, as well as liquids (quinones), can produce extremely pungent odors in grain. The nauseous smell and taste caused by infestations of confused and red flour beetles can result in poor feed consumption by livestock and rejection by grain buyers. In most cases, the presence of live insects in a grain bin indicates that moisture buildup and molds are also present. The combination of these three factors can greatly reduce the quality and value of grain.


Control: Prevention is the best strategy to avoid insect problems in stored grains. Proper bin sanitation before introduction of new grain minimizes the need for pesticides. Good sanitation involves the removal of old grain and dust in and around the grain bin. This includes removal of old grain from corners, floors, and walls. Any grain remaining when a bin is emptied can harbor insect infestations which will move into the new grain. Grain that is to be stored for longer than six months may need a protective application of an approved insecticide.


Red Flour Beetles Larvae

Red Flour Beetles Larvae

Before grain is placed in a bin, it should be screened to eliminate fine materials and broken kernels. Grain placed in a clean bin should be checked at two week intervals during warm months and at one month intervals during cooler months for the presence of hotspots, moldy areas, and live insects. If any of these conditions exist, the grain should be aerated to lower the moisture level and temperature.


Fumigation should only be used as a last resort. Because of the high toxicity of registered fumigants and technical knowledge needed for their proper use, a qualified pesticide applicator should be contacted if fumigation is required.


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