Investigations of the destructive behavior, and method for control of the lesser mealworm, Alphitobius diaperinus (Panzer), (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae)

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The relationship between the types of construction of high rise caged layer houses and insulation damage produced by the lesser mealworm was examined. Polyurethane insulation which had heavy-weight paper glued to its surface and was installed with tape to seal off the seam between the insulation boards had no infestations. Structures with concrete block pit walls had lower insulation infestations than those houses with wooden walls forming the pits. Houses with a support structure set on top of the concrete block pit wall had lower infestations than houses built with the support structure set directly into the earth. The insulation installed nearest the pit was the most severely infested, and infestation intensity was inversely proportional to insulation height above the manure pit. Damage in extruded polystyrene insulation resulted in a substantial loss of volume of material in the corner areas of the insulation panels, and caused a significant reduction in insulating quality.

Observations were made on the effect of manure moisture and poultry house construction materials on lesser mealworm dispersal behavior. Larvae and adults preferred manure habitats of 30 and 40% moisture, and dispersal from the manure significantly increased when manure moisture was increased to levels of 50 and 60%. Larvae climbed a significantly greater distance up a vertical wooden surface than up a vertical concrete block surface under field conditions. Results indicate that structures built with wood pit walls are predisposed to infestations, and that fluctuating manure moisture levels in these houses can indirectly contribute to accelerated infestation by driving the larvae from the manure pits into the insulation.

Insecticide sprays, plastic films, paint barriers applied to the surface of extruded polystyrene, and different types of insulation were evaluated for lesser mealworm resistance. In a laboratory study, tetrachlorvinphos and pirimiphos-methyl sprayed on extruded polystyrene produced greater than 90% mortality in larval and adult populations up to 71 weeks postapplication. Larvae were unable to penetrate either chlorpyrifos-impregnated or non-insecticidal polyethylene films. Infestation intensity was inversely proportional to insulation cell size. Effective treatments identified under field conditions were permethrin and pirimiphos-methyl sprays, and two formulations of chlorpyrifos-impregnated latex paint. Insulation materials with a cell size of 1.5 mm were resistant to lesser mealworm field populations.