GLOBAL – The management of the Darkling beetle, which is endemic to poultry houses could be key to preventing Salmonella contamination in poultry.

Darkling beetles are a vector for foodborne pathogens, including Salmonella and E. coli, and poultry diseases like Marek’s disease, infectious bronchitis, and blackhead disease.

In addition, darkling beetles have been known to bite birds, leaving scars on their breast tissue, which can lower the quality of the meat and lead to rejections at the processing facility during bad infestations.

“The main part is food safety just because they can harbor pathogens. Birds eat darkling beetles – they’ll eat anything and that serves as a reservoir for all of those pathogens.

“I think sometimes people forget about insects as a vector for pathogens. If there’s some sort of program in place, I think that’s a really important way to reduce that load coming into the plant,” explained Dr. Alissa Welsher, Senior Monogastric Technical Consultant, Elanco.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service(FSIS) has redoubled its efforts to focus on preharvest Salmonella control, making the discussion regarding darkling beetle management in poultry houses particularly crucial at this time.

Darkling beetles come from invasive species of insects that feed on grains and love to congregate in hot humid environments, making prevention and control challenging. The pests thrive best in a chicken barn.

Larva, also called mealworms, gather under feed and waterlines. Pupa burrow into housing insulation and other hard surfaces. As adults, these beetles are active and can fly as far as a mile.

A single pair of beetles in a chicken barn can multiply into a population of more than 5 million in as little as four months if left unchecked.

Welsher notes that litter management is a crucial step to darkling beetle control. Cleaning out the litter or caking out the litter as often as possible directly removes as many eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults as possible.

Insecticides, she claims, can also be used to control darkling beetles that are found in dirt and tall grass along the sides of chicken houses, as well as on wall joists, below feed lines, and other places inside the house where they gather.

Welsher advises all producers to carefully read product labels before applying because only a small number of pesticides are allowed for usage while birds are present in a residence.

Insecticide classes should be frequently switched every two to three months to prevent the darkling beetles from developing resistance, she states.

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