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Insect Pests Find Pet Stores Irresistible / December 27, 2002 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Insect Pests Find Pet Stores Irresistible

By Amy Spillman
December 27, 2002

Retail pet stores lose millions of dollars every year in stolen feed stock, but these thefts aren't reported to the local police. That's because the culprits aren't people--they're insects.

Until recently, little information was available about the types of insects that infest pet stores and the places in the stores where they're most likely to be found. Now, the Agricultural Research Service, Kansas State University and Nestlé Purina Pet Care Company are addressing this lack of data.

In February 2001, Jim Campbell, an entomologist at ARS' Grain Marketing and Production Research Center in Manhattan, Kan., began collaborating with KSU research associate Rennie Roesli, KSU professor Bhadriraju Subramanyam, and Nestle Purina division manager Kim Kemp in a stored-product insect study.

For seven months, the scientists surveyed eight retail pet stores in Kansas to determine the infestation and distribution rates of different insect species. They also evaluated the impact of chemical and nonchemical interventions on the insect populations.

The researchers placed food- and pheromone-baited pitfall traps and pheromone-baited sticky traps throughout each store to detect beetle and moth populations. They also swept, vacuumed and disposed of infested products in two stores, combined sanitary practices with an insect-growth regulator in two stores, combined sanitary practices with a pyrethroid insecticide in two stores, and left two stores untreated.

The scientists collected more than 41,000 insects, representing more than 30 different species, from the eight stores. The insects were most often concentrated near bulk food bins, on shelves holding wild bird seed and small animal food, and in stockrooms. Although combining sanitary practices with pesticide applications to specific floor areas helped reduce beetle numbers, it did not help reduce moth numbers.

Campbell says that no single pest management approach will stop insect infestations from occurring in retail pet stores. However, integrated pest management programs that include proper sanitary practices, frequent stock rotation and the targeted use of pesticides will help reduce the problem.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

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Last Modified: 12/27/2002