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New Barrier Blocks Pesky Beetles

By Tara Weaver-Missick
July 26, 1999

Poultry farmers may no longer have to worry about replacing beetle-damaged hen house roofs, thanks to a new invention called BEETLBAR, developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists in Gainesville, Fla.

BEETLBAR is a non-toxic physical barrier that prevents crawling insects from boring into wooden structures. Two insects in particular pose problems for poultry farmers—darkling beetles, also called lesser mealworms, and hide beetles.

The larvae of these beetles develop in poultry litter and manure under high-rise poultry houses. Floor-reared birds feed on migrating beetles, which can harbor Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli, tapeworms and avian leukosis virus—leading to major economic losses for farmers.

This new plastic barrier, developed by research chemist David A. Carlson and research entomologist Christopher J. Geden, can be placed around trees, poultry house foundations, and a variety of residential, commercial, industrial and farm buildings. Carlson and Geden are with the ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology’s Mosquito and Fly Research Unit.

Beetle larvae usually migrate from litter and crawl up walls and posts into ceiling insulation, burrowing holes and causing major structural damage in timbers. BEETLBAR’s slick surface prevents this migration. In Georgia and Virginia alone, annual losses from these insects are estimated at $9.8 and $15.9 million, respectively.

Carlson says the new barrier is strong, long-lasting, lightweight, and easy to apply and clean. He says a major advantage of using BEETLBAR is that it reduces pesticides needed to control litter beetles.

Another advantage of this new barrier is it will save poultry farmers money in losses from beetle-damaged broiler houses that cost thousands of dollars more to heat and cool than non- damaged houses. Beetle damaged insulation can cost more than $30,000 a house. Carlson and Geden have filed for a patent on this new invention.

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

Scientific contacts: David A. Carlson and Christopher J. Geden, Mosquito and Fly Research Unit, ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, Fla., (phone) 352-374-5931, (fax) 352-374-5922, (Carlson), (Geden).