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RED FLOUR BEETLE 

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. 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. Badly infested flour is characterised by a sharp odour and mouldy flavour. They do not bite or sting humans or pets, spread disease, or feed on or damage the house or furniture.

 

IDENTIFICATION

Both the confused and red flour beetles are similar in appearance. They measure about 3-mm 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 segments at the tip of the antennae are abruptly larger than the preceding ones, forming a three-segmented club. Also, the confused flour beetle has a straight-sided thorax, while the thorax of the red flour beetle has curved sides. The eggs, larvae, and pupae are similar in both beetles. Eggs are whitish or colourless and microscopic in size, with food particles adhering to the sticky surface. Brown-headed larvae are cream to yellow, slender, and wiry, reaching a length of 6.35-mm. Larvae have six legs and two-pointed or forked projections at the last rear body segment. Pupae are white to light brown.

LIFE CYCLE & HABITS

Adults are very active, quickly running for cover when disturbed, and can be found either on the surface or deep within the food material. Because of their small size and shape, they can frequently invade storage containers. Both beetles breed in damaged grain, grain dust, high-moisture wheat kernels, flour, etc. Beetle specimens have been found in barley, breakfast cereals, corn, cornmeal, crackers, flour, millet, oats, rice, rye, wheat and wheat bran, nutmeats, dried fruits, legume seeds, beans, milk chocolate, cottonseed, peas, powdered milk, sunflower seeds, vetch seeds, spices, herbarium and museum specimens, and even baits poisoned with arsenicals. The red flour beetle can fly short distances, whereas the confused flour beetle does not fly.

CONTROL MEASURES

Usually the most simple and effective control measure is to locate the source of infestation and quickly get rid of it. Dispose of heavily infested foods in wrapped, heavy plastic bags or in sealed containers and leave for garbage disposal service. You can also bury these containers deep in the soil if permitted, practical, and regulations allow. If you detect these beetles early, disposal alone may solve the problem.

Carefully examine foods such as flour, pancake flour, cornmeal, cereals, raisins, dry dog and cat food, spices, candy, dates, dried meats and fruits, rice, and macaroni at the time of purchase. Check the packaging date to establish freshness. Examine broken and damaged packages and boxes to avoid bringing these stored product pests accidentally into the home. Purchase seldom-used foods in small quantities to prevent long storage periods of one month or more, especially during warmer months. Store susceptible foods in insect-proof containers of glass, heavy plastic, or metal, ideally with screw-type lids, or store foods in a refrigerator or freezer. Use older packages before new ones, avoid spillage in cabinets, and always keep food-storage spaces clean. Properly ventilate the storage area to discourage these moisture-loving pests.

Lightly heat infested or suspect foods with questionable infestations in a shallow pan in the oven at 48 degrees C for one hour or at 54 degrees C for 30 minutes; place in a deep freeze at -17 degrees C for four days; or heat in a microwave oven for five minutes. Heat-treat dried fruits or vegetables by placing in a cheesecloth bag and dipping in boiling water for 6 to 10 seconds. Sifting the food material will remove possible insect fragments, and any remaining fragments will not cause harm if consumed. After insects are killed, contaminated food might be used outdoors during the winter months for bird feed. Seeds saved for planting may have the germination reduced by super-heating or cooling.

Careful sanitation is the best method to avoid stored-product pests. After removing all food, food packages, utensils, dishes, etc. from the cupboard, shelves, or storage area, use a strong suction vacuum cleaner with proper attachments to clean all spilled foods (cornmeal, toaster crumbs, bits of pet food, raisins, etc.) from the cracks and crevices, behind, under, and in appliances and furniture. Scrub with soap and hot water. After shelves are thoroughly dry, cover with clean, fresh paper or foil before replacing with food or cooking utensils. The ability of these insects to find a small amount of food is amazing.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

HYG-2083-97

William F. Lyon

 Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

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