A stored product pest infestation is no picnic for a QA or facility manager. An infestation in mills, processing plants, bulk storage facilities or grocery stores can result in wasted production time, lost sales and weakened consumer confidence, fines and damage to your brand.
It can also lead to a costly product recall and additional unbudgeted expenses to replace spoiled products, deep cleaning of equipment and contracts for additional pest management services.
One way to reduce the threat posed by highly destructive stored product pests is to deploy a mating disruption program in your facility.
Mating disruption is the process of introducing artificial pheromones into a facility with the intention of distracting male stored product pests so they cannot find females, thus preventing mating and suppressing the growth and spread of infestations.
Mating disruption works for stored product pests such as Indian meal moths, cocoa moths, almond moths, tobacco moths and Mediterranean flour moths. Since these moths share components of their pheromones, one pheromone works for all of them.
How does a mating disruption program work?
The artificial pheromones create ‘false trails’ that make it harder for male moths to find their soul mates and when that happens mating doesn’t occur, eggs are not laid and the populations of these destructive pests drops.
A mating disruption program consists of strategically placing dispensers containing large quantities of pheromone in areas of the facility where pest activity has been noticed. The male moths cannot differentiate between the “dispenser plumes” and plumes created by females, and they follow these diversionary plumes, exhausting themselves before they can mate.
Sprague’s stored product pest experts typically install pheromone dispensers twice a year - April/May and July/August – to ensure coverage through the entire mating season. The dispensers are placed within facilities and can treat an entire warehouse. They have also proven successful in treating specific sections and even aisles in a facility.
“Completing the life cycle is how the population grows and infestation spreads,” says Jeff Weier, technical director for Sprague and an internationally-recognized expert on stored product pests. “Because of the strong attractiveness of sex pheromones, they can be used as lures in traps to capture male insects and help detect activity.”
A thorough pest monitoring program is also a key part of the process. Sprague uses standard pheromone traps and light traps to track pest population levels, and the fewer female moths that are caught the more likely that the program is working.
“Mating disruption for stored product pests is a selective process and only works on the targeted pest but it is a significant advancement in stored product moth control,” says Weier.
8 Stored Product Pests Prevention Tips
With an appetite for rice, flour, cereal, dry pasta, breads, tobacco, grains, pet food, birdseed, dried fruits and chocolate, stored product pests are a costly nuisance in food processing and storage facilities. Facility and QA managers can take preventive steps to head off stored product pests by adding the following tips to their pest management program:
- Carefully inspect incoming shipments for signs of pest activity. Torn packaging or broken seals can provide pests with access to food products during shipment.
- Keep storage areas dry as moisture increases the likelihood of infestations. Store sacks of grain, flour and other food products off the floor.
- When storing or moving food products within the facility, use storage containers that can be sealed to deny pests access.
- Observe the first-in, first-out rule of inventory. Rotate products frequently, and do not store food products, especially those in paper or cardboard containers, for extended periods of time.
- Do not mix old and new food products. If the old product is infested, the insects will be transferred immediately to the non-infested product.
- Stored product pests can be small and hard to see, and can hang on in empty containers. A thorough deep cleaning of mixing, storage or transportation equipment should be done before the equipment is reused.
- Practice good sanitation in your facility. Clean up spilled food and eliminate conditions that pests find attractive.
- If an infestation is found, immediately discard the infested food and check surrounding food products for cross-contamination.