Dave’s Soapbox


Insects are a symptom of a condition. If you offer them the ideal temperature, food, and harborage they will thrive, many times reproducing hundreds of offspring in four to six weeks. If you take one of those conditions away, you may still have insect pests but they may not thrive. If you take all of these ideal conditions away they will die or go away. That is pest management in its purest sense.

We as humans often have a hard time imagining what an ideal condition is for an 1/8-in. beetle or 1/4-in. moth that has evolved differently than we humans. But in fact it is somewhat the same: sex, food, harborage, and moderate temperatures.

The food source can be as little as a dusty surface, where flour beetles graze like cattle on grass, or spoiled food trapped in a drainage pipe, where fruit flies are reproducing at a rate of hundreds a week.

Temperature is the one factor that can accelerate insect growth and development. For every 10 degrees Celsius you get a doubling of respiration and activity. So from 10° C (50° F) to 18° C (64° F) to 30° C (86° F) to 35° C (95° F) you get a 16-fold increase in insect activity. Like insects, humans become stressed in hot weather. Place an insect in your hand for a few minutes. Watch it increase in activity as it warms. This stressed activity can help the pest manager increase mortality faster with less insecticide or fumigants.


Harborage: insects can live outside and inside. Native populations of Indian meal moths are an example of how this Public Enemy #1 can contaminate a grain bin, a food or seed warehouse with the doors open while loading trucks, or your garage and infest stored bird seed or pet food. If you want to find out if you have outdoor pest insects, place a pheromone trap in a tree or fence line and check it for yourself.

As you perform your job of lowering customer complaints, start looking at things differently. For example, what if you check a pheromone trap and it is empty. What does that mean? Are there no pest insects in this area? Or does it mean that the insects that the pheromone trap is targeting flying moths or moths that are present but not flying yet.

At about 18° C (about 64° F) the temperature in the warehouse or storage bin is less than 64° F.

Pest managers create dozens of small oases under outdoor rodent bait stations and can’t see them. Moisture and organic debris seep under these bait stations and attract a multitude of miscellaneous insects and arthropods. Look under a bait station and see for yourself. These oases can be eliminated by simply moving the traps 1 foot away from the environment under which they are thriving. This is especially true in the hot summer months when moisture is scarce.

Poor Recordkeeping: So often I see that a technician has written a check on a pheromone trap that states: 0-4, 5-9 or 10 or more. Really! I was in a multi-million-dollar court case where this type of poor record keeping was used. The warehouse was said to be 68° F in Texas (year around). The pheromone traps were capturing beetles. In some areas 10 or more per week per trap. During the court proceedings I ask the question: What does 10 or more mean? They could not provide an answer. Was it 11 or was it a 1000! They lost the case. It is what you don’t see that is what is important. I recommend removing the captured insects every week and don’t write on the trap anything except the date the pheromone lures were placed. Period!

Finally, practice this when you drive your car down the highway. When the temperatures are above 65–70° F insects hit the windshield. When it is lower, they are not flying. So when you hit a ‘bug’ on your windshield, think pest management and how the insects are becoming active in your facilities and homes.

One of my favorite days of the year is when I see my first insect hitting the windshield. I shout for joy because the cycle begins again!!



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