Bad Bugs: E-ntomology

By Alain VanRyckeghem, BCE
Technical Director

New technology helps identify the smallest pests in the field.

Stored product beetles are among the most difficult beetles to identify in the field. Very small features need to be observed in order to separate the common and serious beetles from the less important ones.

The pest control technician is often faced with separating two similar beetles such as: Red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum) from the confused flour beetle (T. confusum); the saw-toothed grain beetle (Oryzaephilus surinamensis) from the merchant grain beetle (O. mercator); the cigarette beetle from the drugstore beetle; and the ever difficult Trogoderma species.

These beetles are very small and proper identification should be done under a microscope. A tool for field use is the palm sized microscope MiScope™. This device is connected to a laptop via a USB cord, and the image is displayed on the screen through software that comes with the microscope.

Excellent magnification is possible (40X–140X). The field of view for whole insects is between 2 mm and 10 mm; with larger insects, only portions of the specimen are visible. For small insects like the carpet beetles, the shapes of the scales which make up its varied colors are clearly visible at the highest magnification. Still photos or videos can be recorded on the computer and sent to knowledgeable entomologists for their identification.

The microscopes come in an affordable standard 1.3 mega pixel imaging unit for field use and a more expensive higher quality 2.0 mega pixel unit for lab/office use. The software has additional features that make it useful for publication such as the addition of a calibrated micron scale, contrast adjustments, drawing, and labeling.


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