Sunday, June 21, 2020

Keep looking

Cigarette and drugstore beetles can be some of the most frustrating pests to deal with. Aside from putting out pheromone traps to try and pinpoint the origin of beetles in the house, and a good initial inspection, much of the work will have to be done by your customer.

A recent email from Devin Osborne of Osborne Pest and Turf in Austin, TX illustrates the problem. A new customer called with a persistent problem of small brown beetles he thought were emerging from an old headboard.  Rule number one: Don't assume the customer is right when it comes to diagnosing a pest. For insect identification nothing beats a good microscope or hand lens and ID guides. And keep an open mind about the likely source of an insect problem regardless of the customer thinks. 

Devin did trust his field guides and experience, and diagnosed the problem as drugstore beetle. The question remained, where are they coming from? A good PMP knows that no amount of insecticide spraying can solve a stored product pest problem.  Getting to the source is essential.

The customer took Devin's advice and went through "everything from grain to leather". The only real clue was that they only showed up in the adjoining master bedroom, master bathroom and closet.  Other rooms in the house appeared to be pest-free.  Rule number two: Don't assume it is not a stored product pest just because it's not in the kitchen.

A perfect protected feeding place for drugstore

Hot Booties contain linseed, one of many possible
foods for cigarette beetle.  
Eventually, after encouraging the customer to keep looking--success. An old pair of slippers called "Hot Booties" were suspicious. After googling the manufacturer, the customer learned that the booties (designed to be put in the microwave to heat for toasty tootsies) were full of linseed.  Rule number three: Exercise extreme caution when googling "hot booties".  Children should probably not be present in the room when you do.

Of course linseed is a type of grain, and any grain or seed or meal is fair food for stored product pests like drugstore beetle. In fact, any type of spice (paprika is a favorite), grains, nuts, seeds, breakfast cereal, bread, pet food, even some drugs can be food for cigarette and drugstore beetles.  These two species are some of the least discriminating stored product pest feeders.

Other situations to look for:
  • taxidermy
  • old rodent bait packets or stations
  • old kid's art project
  • accumulations of dead insects in lights
  • chili pepper decorations
  • cigars and cigarettes
  • furniture stuffing
  • potpourri 
And when the homeowner insists that there is no food source nearby, tell them to keep looking.  If you have any unusual places you have discovered stored product pests, I'd love to hear them. Just add a comment in the comment section below.

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