Bed bugs are blood sucking insects that primarily feed on the exposed skin of humans while they sleep. Though they are not known to spread diseases to humans, their presence and feeding behavior causes great social, emotional and financial stress to many individuals and their families. Whether we choose to be believe it or not, bed bugs are real and they’re closer than we may want to believe. They can be seen in different shapes and sizes based on age and feeding status (fed vs. hungry).
Another common pantry pest of homes are flour beetles. Flour beetles are very common in homes. They can fly in from outdoors or be brought into the home on infested products from the grocery store.
There are two flour beetles that have similar biology, behaviors, lifecycle and feeding habits, the red and confused flour beetles. The red flour beetle has a three-segmented club, and the confused beetle does not. This difference though slight, provides an important difference when dealing with origin of the infestation because the red flour beetle is a flier and the confused flour beetle is not capable of flight.
Adult flour beetles are approximately 1/8 inch long and reddish-brown in color. The larvae are creamy to yellow-brown, with light hairs and pointed projections on the last segment. Before pupation, mature larvae are about 1/4 inch long. All life stages can be found in large numbers feeding on broken kernels and other grain products.
Signs of red flour beetle infestations in the home include:
1) Adult beetles flying around inside the house. They are attracted to light and may accumulate along the window sills.
2) Larvae and adults can be found together in the same food products that contain flour and grain products.
Prevention and sanitation is your best protection against flour beetles. Here are some ways you can prevent infestations in the home, minimize wasted food and save money:
- Before purchase, check expiration dates for old products that have been on the shelves for a long period of time.
- Be extra cautious buying plenty of heavily discounted products on clearance.
- Avoid buying in bulk and storing large quantities of products in the pantry.
- Store products in air-tight, transparent, insect-proof containers.
- Use the oldest products first to ensure freshness and proper stock rotation.
- Store infrequently used dry ingredients in the freezer.
- Clean up spills and crumbs in food storage areas so not to attract pests.
- Vacuum cracks and crevices where insects can hide and grains can accumulate.
- Dispose infested foods in trash and put outdoors.
- Flour beetles are often found devouring old dog biscuits forgotten on high shelves or trapped under furniture.
Treatment strategies for red and confused flour beetle do not include insecticide use inside the home. A thorough inspection is necessary to locate and eliminate the source of the infestation for a long term solution. Most people overlook prepackaged and prepared foods, unopened packages and non-food items, but a variety of products are vulnerable. There are pheromone traps available, that will trap beetles in a pitfall trap, but these are preferred as a monitoring tool, rather than a control method.
Flour beetles can occur year round in heated buildings. Keep your eye on your food and don’t share it with pantry pests.
Confessions of an Extension Entomologist: I bake so infrequently, that our flour is stored permanently in air tight containers in the freezer. If I didn’t have this job, I might be a professional pantry specialist. I enjoy organizing other people’s stored food products and finding insect-infested products. Note: Always check the pancake mix.
For more information on pests found in and around the home, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest.
Stay calm and respect the critters,
Fruit flies are small, but not microscopic, have short life cycles and can reproduce rapidly in tiny spaces with limited resources. These characteristics make fruit flies the model organism for genetic research, but are the very reason why fruit flies are such a nuisance when they appear in our homes.
Identification and Biology
Fruit flies are 1/8 inch long and typically have red eyes. They are one of the smallest and most common flies in houses, restaurants and grocery stores – anywhere food ripens, rots and ferments. Fruit flies begin as eggs before they hatch into legless larvae or maggots. The maggots enter a pupal stage so they can develop into mature, winged adult flies. They are active year round indoors, but their life cycle will slow considerably at cooler temperatures. Under optimal conditions in the summer, they can complete their life cycle in 7-10 days.
Pantry pests are the name given to insects, usually beetles and moths, which tend to infest stored food products. Many food-processing plants and supermarkets struggle with controlling these types of pests, but they can also become problems at home. One of the most commonly reported pantry pests in the United States is the Indian meal moth.
Indian meal moth adults are ½ inch long with a wingspan of 3/4 inch. They can be distinguished from other moths by their two-toned markings on their wings, which are whitish-gray closest to the head, and reddish-brown with a copper luster on the end of the forewings.
I get a lot of requests to identify specimens from photos. Emailing a photo of a pest sample rather than finding a container, catching it and bringing it into our office can save considerable time for our clients in the community. If you are able to send me a good photo accompanied by some details of the situation, it can save me considerable time too.
A good photo is one preferably in focus, one which includes some identifying characters of the pest. This can be as simple as the overall shape or as detailed as the presence or absence of wings, hairs, pits, segments or clubs on a specific body part. With spider identification, it is helpful to count the number of eyes and note the eye arrangement on the cephalothorax in order to positively identify the family.
Some pests are considered seasonal or occasional pests and their grand entrance into your house in the fall may go unnoticed, but they are not accidental. Overwintering pests require a protective place to spend the adult stage of their life without freezing to death. They normally require a winter habitat between 40-50°F for hibernation. In the fall, large populations congregate on the warm, sunny side of the structure, usually the southwestern facing exterior wall and begin moving upward to find a gaps that leads inside.
Mention the word head lice and you will hear the parents in the room groan. Talk a little longer and someone is bound to start scratching their head. I seem to have that effect on people. The feeling that overcomes an individual who has had experienced head lice is usually one of stress and frustration. Battling these blood-sucking insects can be laborious, time-consuming and at times, a never-ending nightmare. Summer has come to an end and a new school year has begun. Bring on the teachers, pencils, friendships, books and…head lice?
Why do the incidences of head lice correlate with the return to school?
Believe it or not, head lice are rarely transmitted in schools. Although cases spike after extended periods away from school such as summer vacation, they are most often transmitted among close friends, cousins, siblings and other relatives during events such as sleepovers, camps, and extended visits. The discovery occurs when children return to school, but seldom does it get spread on school property*.
*Transmission activities that may occur that can be the source of transmission in childcare, preschool and elementary school.