Overcoming the Challenges of Stored Product Pest Management

February 9, 2016 | Heather Gooch

Overcome the hidden challenges of stored product pest management with knowledge and customer cooperation.

Of all the pests that professionals have to treat for, the stored product group — beetles, moths, etc. — seems to be the most straightforward. Sanitation levels at the account make a significant difference, as does continual monitoring with pheromone traps to home in on target areas.

Yet, stored product pests (SPP) can still present surprises now and then. As Dan Collins, owner of Collins Pest Management in Evansville, Ind., points out, it’s easy to miss harborage areas because most SPP are tiny and easily overlooked.

Purdue University entomologist Dr. Mahsa Fardisi notes that the integrated pest management (IPM) approach, where sanitation is emphasized and the proper chemicals are used judiciously, is the right direction for controlling SPP. Not only will it reduce the possibility of chemical resistance, she says, but it requires customer cooperation — which leads to better buy-in when they help make the plan work.

“Get the involvement of customers in the plan by explaining the process,” she adds. “Customer education has an important role on the success of insect management plans.”

Collins laments the fact that many of today’s manufacturing plants, either built or overhauled in the middle of the last century, are made of sheet metal. They tend to favor economy over efficiency.

“Native air pressure is negative, and pulled in by overhead doors,” he offers as part of a laundry list of construction problems. “Oftentimes, overhead doors are not well sealed, so odors, heat and light escape. Warehouse beetles (Trogoderma variabile) are attracted to both, and they’re strong fliers so they can get around the facility easily.”

Keeping it clean

One thing Collins incorporates into his program is a deep cleaning service for specific areas.

“It lets us take apart equipment, conveyor belts and other hard-to-reach areas that aren’t sealed in the manufacturing plant,” he says. “We follow the advice of (Hall of Famer Dr. Bobby) Corrigan: ‘Become a void-ologist.’”

Collins, who has 10 technicians and specializes in industrial pest management, notes that identifying problem areas with pheromone traps, and looking at capture rates, usually tell the story the team needs to know in order to treat.

“At one pet food manufacturing plant, we kept getting captures in certain areas,” Collins says. “I asked whether we could add on a complete, head-to-toe inspection. We weren’t there 45 minutes when we found the issue: In one void, we found five pounds of larvae.”

That alone, he says, sold the client on the value of Collins’ methodical approach, as opposed to the regularly scheduled fumigation shutdown events previous companies had used. Getting results by eliminating previously unknown harborage areas sealed the deal.

Today, Collins offers quarterly SPP analysis service, which consists of walkabouts with management and an experienced technician to zero in on problems and potential problems. Collins explains there are always going to be inaccessible parts of equipment at a plant, and on those occasions, fumigation is a good option. But it’s targeted fumigation, which makes it directly more effective — and it’s one component in a multi-faceted IPM program.

“Partnership is an overused word, but it really applies here,” Collins says. “We tell clients that if you’re looking for spray applicators, we’re not your guys. We need access, we need cooperation, and then we’ll get you the results.”

Collins’ team also conducts annual awareness training for plant employees.

“We show them areas where we have continual problems. You can’t sweep a pile in the corner and let it sit there. It’s not just about pests, but food safety, the potential contamination from other processes you’re not doing,” he says. “How often are you cleaning your tool boxes? They’re just sitting in the corner, and residue builds up, attracting pests.

“We sell knowledge, not applications,” he says. “We have walked away from businesses who wouldn’t be true partners. If we recommend it, it’s got to happen.”

Collins will speak on the topic of “Food Pest Management in Unusual Situations” at the Purdue Pest Management Conference later this month.

What lies ahead

Dr. Linda Mason, entomologist and associate dean of the Graduate School Administration at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., will give a presentation on stored product pest (SPP) trends this month.

“Mites and psocids are two pests that continue to see resurgence in many accounts,” Dr. Mason says. “Another pest of concern is the Khapra beetle (Trogoderma granarium). Interceptions at airports for Khapra beetles continue to increase, which could indicate that this quarantine pest is a potential invader that we might need to deal with in the future.”

As for SPP’s long game, Dr. Mason says movement patterns could play a role: “This might include shifts in hosts, changes in the timing of pest pressure, and their population movement.”

Dr. Mason will also discuss insect resistance and alternative treatment methods during her Purdue Pest Management Conference presentation. Learn more at www.conf.purdue.edu/pest.