Beetles belong to the order Coleoptera, which is the largest order in the animal kingdom. There are over 350,000 named beetles and it is believed that many more distinct species exist. The United States is home to nearly 30,000 kinds of beetles. Beetles are exceptionally diverse appearing in nearly every shape, size, and color. Some beetles eat plant matter, while others are hunters, and some are parasitic. Beetle habitats are as diverse as the beetles themselves. Some beetles are found on the ground, on rotting vegetation or fungi. Other beetles can survive in cold mountain streams. Beetles are one of nature’s greatest decomposers and they act as “organic” pest control by preying upon caterpillars and aphids.
Colorful and bright, beetles are among the most beautiful animals on earth. However, when they come indoors they can cause food waste and damage. For some people, beetles in the home may be the cause of great anxiety, and for others, beetles may be treated as a passing inconvenience. Wherever you land on that spectrum, at Nextgen Pest Solutions, we have the technical knowledge to properly identify and treat your beetles.
Types of Beetles in Your Home
The key to getting rid of beetles in your home is to accurately identify the beetle. Of the 30,000 beetle species in the United States, the beetles that may infest your home are relatively few.
The main categories of beetles in the home are:
Stored Product Beetles
Wood Destroying Beetles
Occasional Invaders However, between the different categories, their characteristics, prevention, and treatment in your home will be quite different. Proper identification is crucial to eliminating the pest from your home.
The insect pests found in your pantry may be a type of beetle or an Indian Meal Moth. These are commonly referred to as pantry pests. You may open a bag of rice and find crawling organisms inside or add the flour to your cake batter only to find it infested with insects. Often, the first sign of beetles in your food will be small beetles traveling across the countertop.
The most common beetles that may infest the grains in your pantry are:
Red Flour Beetle
Confused Flour Beetle
Sawtooth Grain Beetle
Rice weevils are between ⅛” to ¼” in length. They are reddish brown with a snout like shape to their head. Rice weevils feed on whole kernels or grains. The larval stage actually develops inside the grain or kernel. Rice weevil adults can live for 6-8 months and may be found some distance from the infested pantry item.
The other beetles mentioned feed on processed grain, broken kernels, and some spices. Red Flour Beetle, Confused Flour Beetles, and Sawtooth Grain Beetles will also feast upon dry pet food, dried fruit, beef jerky, and many other food items found in the pantry. In addition to many other foods, Cigarette Beetles are partial to paprika and Drugstore Beetles like red pepper.
Treatment and Prevention of Stored Product Pests
The cure for beetles in the pantry is to locate the infested food items and throw it away. A thorough pantry clean out is necessary to get rid of all developing beetles. In addition to flour, grain, cereal, and cornmeal, beetles may infest pet food, dried fruits, spices, nuts, and candy. Some species like cured tobacco. To prevent future unnecessary waste, through out anything questionable on your first pantry purge.
Each of these beetle species has a unique timeline for their life cycle. A proper insect identification is important so that you know how long each life stage lasts. If a box of cereal with larval beetles is left in the pantry, the infestation will persist.
Locating the source of the infestation is often a difficult and time-consuming process. Inspect all food containers; some lids may allow insects to access the food. Check for spills in cabinetry and appliances. If in doubt, throw it out. Insect pheromone traps may help you to monitor to make sure the beetles are gone.
Once the source of the infestation is eliminated, seal all food in tightly sealed containers. Decorative metal containers are often not sufficient to keep beetles out of the flour. The containers should be air-tight and well-sealed. Consider leaving insect monitors in the area to catch a reinfestation early.
Wood Destroying Beetles – The Old House Borer and the Powderpost Beetles
Beetles may enter your home in wood furniture, flooring, or cabinetry. Sometimes beetles infest costly musical instruments and other family heirlooms. Active infestations of either Old House Borer Beetles or the Powderpost Beetle can be highly destructive and cause extensive damage. A proper identification of these wood destroying organisms often requires the assistance of an Entomologist or a highly trained and experienced Pest Management Professional. If the habitat is inhospitable, sometimes, these infestations die out on their own.
It is relatively rare to observe an adult Old House Borer Beetle as developing larvae remain hidden in the infested wood. Rather you will more often find the damage it has caused. Old house borers primarily infest soft woods, thus will be most likely found in studs, joints, and beams of a home rather than furniture of flooring. The most obvious sign of old house borers are holes in the infested wood. The irregularly shaped oval holes, between ¼” and ⅜” in diameter, are made when the larvae emerges from the wood before turning into an adult. The old house borer beetle larvae may be present in the wood for between 2-10 years before they cause any VISIBLE damage.
Powder Post Beetles can cause extensive damage. There are several categories of powderpost beetles, lyctids, anobiids, and bostrichids, each with individual wood preferences, geographic origins, and behavioral characteristics. Powderpost beetles are often brought into the home on wood that was improperly dried or stored. When these woods are integrated into your home in the form of custom cabinets or flooring, it can become quite a difficult and expensive problem to solve. Powderpost beetle larvae tunnel beneath the wood’s surface weakening the integrity of the wood. When the lyctid beetle larvae sufficiently develops, it creates a pin head size hole to get out of the wood.
Characteristic of some powderpost beetles is the powdery, flour like texture of the wood dust around the emergence holes. However, some species have gritty frass (beetle poop) and other species do not push the powder out of their tunels at all. There are many beetle species that look like a powderpost beetle, but do not cause structural harm.
If you suspect you may have powderpost beetles, call the experts at Nextgen Pest Solutions. We have an Entomologist on staff who can assist with identifying your wood destroying beetle.
Treatment and Prevention of Wood Destroying Beetles
Before costly and invasive beetle treatments begin, you should verify that the damage you observe is being caused by an active infestation. Because beetles are not social insects like termites and ants, treating their gallery is not effective. Each beetle has it’s own gallery and they do not spread insecticide between them like social insects do.
Often, the extent of the infestation is impossible to determine, however there are several options for treating beetles inside of wood. The most appropriate treatment is based upon the particulars of your circumstance, such as the exact species of beetle, the location of the wood and any aesthetic consequences of treatment, and the likelihood of a successful treatment.
Remove and Replace – If infested wood can simply be removed and replaced, this is often the most effective treatment.
Heat or Freezing – Wood used in construction should be heated and kiln dried to temperatures sufficient to kill beetles and their larvae and eggs. If the infested wood can safely be brought to this temperature (125℉ – 140℉) for an extended period of time the insects can be killed. This can be accomplished with a heat chamber, similar to a bed bug heat treatment. However, achieving these temperatures in structural components of the home can be difficult. Small items such as picture frames and wood carvings can be placed in the freezer to achieve low enough temperatures to kill beetles.
Residual Insecticides – Borate treatments, which can penetrate unpainted and unstained wood, may be used in certain circumstances to treat for beetles.
Fumigation – In extreme circumstances, whole home or vault fumigation may be the best option for treating wood destroying beetles.
Treating old house borer beetles or powder post beetles is highly specialized and technical. You will want to partner with experienced Pest Management Professionals to get these beetles out of your house.
Beetles that Occasionally Invade – Asian Lady Beetles and Carpet Beetles
Carpet Beetles occasionally invade causing damage to carpet and other textiles. Carpet beetle larvae consume the keratin in items made of wool, fur, silk, feathers, leather, and other natural materials. Adult carpet beetles are small, approximately 1/8”, and the adults feed on flower pollen. However, they lay eggs near our susceptible materials and the larvae consume the natural fibers. Carpet beetle larvae tend to consume items near the hem, collar, and cuffs, and the edges and underside of rugs. Items that are routinely used or vacuumed are less likely to become infested.
Commonly infested items include:
Accumulations of pet fur under furniture
Sweaters and Scarves
Down blankets and pillows
Natural fiber rugs
Dead animal carcasses in walls or attics
Carpet beetles may also propagate in accumulations of hair, lint, and other debris found near baseboards and air vents. The source of carpet beetles may also be in an animal carcass in the attic or a wall void.
Preventing carpet beetles is the primary defense against this pest. Any item in long term storage should be dry cleaned and packed away in tight fitting plastic bags or containers. Valuable furs may be placed in cold storage for safe keeping. To eliminate carpet beetles, you must locate all items infested and either dry clean it, launder it with heat, or throw it away. Vacuum along all edges and on the underside of area rugs. For severe infestations, a residual spray in problem areas may be necessary.
Asian Lady Beetles: Harmonia axyridis (Pallas)
Asian lady beetles disguise themselves as harmless lady bugs, but are actually quite the pest. Because they consume aphids and other scale insects, Asian Lady Beetles were intentionally released in the 1960s-1990s to help control agricultural pests. Asian Lady Beetles look nearly identical to the valuable lady bug, with a few small distinctions. The Asian Lady Beetle is slightly larger than a lady bug, and its color varies from tan to red or orangish. Most Asian Lady Beetles have an M or W shaped black marking on their head.
On warm sunny days in the fall, large swarms of Asian Lady Beetles attempt to enter structures to find a safe warm place to spend the winter. Sunny walls with contrasting colors attract them as they locate small cracks and crevices in our homes and businesses. Areas near farmland or woods are most prone to this invasion. Once inside, they spend the winter huddled together in attics, wall voids, cracks around window and door frames, and other protected areas.
In the spring, the beetles awaken and attempt to get outside. The problem is, they are attracted to light and often end up inside homes by thousands. Often they are trapped indoors near windows and doors. Asian Lady Beetles do not cause structural harm; they are an extreme nuisance. If they are squished, they release a terribly foul odor. If they are crushed on curtains, on bedding, or fabric, they secrete a yellowish substance which can stain fabric. Some people complain of eye irritation or asthma symptoms when these occasional invaders come inside.
Once the beetles are indoors, vacuum them up. Try to avoid crushing them on fabric. If you sweep them out with a broom, you will be more likely to smell their offensive odor and be left washing the drapes to remove the stains. To prevent Asian Lady Beetles, seal all entry points on the exterior of your home. Small cracks can be sealed with caulk and larger holes or access points can be sealed with copper mesh. Insecticide treatments targeting the exterior entry points can be an effective barrier to keep these beetles from overwintering in your home. This treatment should be timed to coincide with the beetle invasion in your area.
If you have a problem with Asian Lady Beetles, or any other type of beetle, call Nextgen Pest Solutions. Our experienced technicians can inspect, identify, and treat the beetle that’s bugging you!
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