Darkling beetles belong to the family Tenebrionidae – which is a vast and varied family of beetles including over 20,000 recognized species across the world and close to 1,500 species in North America alone. Several home gardeners who maintain poultry or ducks are probably more familiar about mealworms. These mealworms are the larvae stages of the Darkling beetles before it fully grows.
Darkling beetle can be a wonderful feast for birds, fowl, or an attractive bait for fishing, but they can also become a nuisance for gardeners. Some adults darkling beetles and their larvae may munch on plant seeds and lower plant leaves. They create damage marks similar to cutworms or other pests and feed on leaves to fill their appetite. Fortunately, more mature plants which are over 5-6 inches tall are usually unaffected by these beetles.
Among the dozens of different varieties of darklings, certain species, such as the red flour beetle targets the stored grains. They may in fact be regarded as pests in food stores and households, and they are a big issue in grain storage silos and food crop storage facilities. Fortunately, many darkling beetle infestation issues may be addressed with proper garden management and cleanliness.
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How to Get Rid of Darkling Beetles
While the harm they inflict may not be severe at first, darklings can be carriers of several infections, potentially worsen the damage caused to garden plants. Darkling beetle infestation can cause problems in poultry production since they can transmit bird diseases and spread infection-causing bacteria like Salmonella and others.
There are several methods to prevent and control the Darkling Beetle infestation problem. Here are some of the best and working methods for Darkling beetle pest control.
First, we need to understand the fact that the larvae of these Darkling beetles are a highly nutritious meal for poultry chickens, ducks, and other birds. Hence, using chemical insecticides for eradicating darkling beetles is not advisable as it can lead to the transfer of toxins up the food chain (Biomagnification). For example, darkling beetles are consumed by poultry which is then consumed by humans – thus the chemical toxins ultimately cause problems at the higher levels of the food chain.
However, poultry farmers use Pyrethrum based insecticides to control and prevent darkling insects. You can also check out the environmentally safe ways to control darkling infestation in your garden.
Natural and Eco-Friendly Methods to Control Darkling Beetles
Eliminating the Food Sources
The first thing you should do is eliminate all food resources which are available to these darkling beetles. They may usually be found lurking in decomposing plant debris and organic matter. You must inspect the areas where decaying plant matter and infested leaves are prevalent. This will simplify the process of getting rid of darkling pests from your garden or yard. These insects are typically observed in dark locations since they dislike strong lighting. These pests deposit their eggs in decomposing organic matter. As a result, you may readily discover them in dark or shallow areas across the yard.
Proper Garden Maintenance
Regular garden inspection can help in removing unwanted weeds and decomposing organic matter like leaves, etc. Once you address this problem, darkling beetles can be prevented and controlled.
Removal of Decomposing Garden Debris
Decaying plant leaves and other organic garden waste become thriving grounds for darkling beetles. These pests mostly prefer feeding on decomposing organic plant material. Apart from eating, these insects also find it easy to hide and lay eggs in such gardening debris.
Basic Information about Darkling Beetles
Adult mature darkling beetles are generally in black or dark brown color. Tenebrionidae beetles are frequently confused with predaceous ground beetles (of Carabidae family), but these insects have clubbed antennae. Both families of beetles, however, are often nocturnal and are flightless.
Because this beetle family is so diverse, adults of various genera or subfamilies vary in size and appearance. Most have elongated oval bodies that are convex to flattened. Their size spans from 1 to 60 mm globally, with many species in North America being between 2.5 and 20 mm.
Tenebrionidae beetles which can be found inside the Grand Canyon region can grow to be 1.5 inches (38 mm) long, as per the information from National Park Service.
The body of the darkling beetle, like those of other insect species, is split into three sections: head, the thorax, and abdomen. This family’s distinguishing features include emarginate eyes, a distinct epistemic margin, closed prothoracic coxal chambers, heteromerous tarsi, clubbed or stout antennas, along with abdominal defensive glandular reserves. This final characteristic allows the beetles to produce a foul-smelling fluid as part of their chemical defenses against predators.
Darkling Beetle Life Cycle
Darkling beetle passes through four phases of development: the egg, larvae stage, pupa stage, and adult beetle. Many darkling species are only active from spring through October. Most adult beetles can lay eggs before winter arrives, and all these eggs will remain dormant until the spring season arrives when they will emerge as beetle larvae.
During her lifespan, every female darkling can lay hundreds of small white sticky eggs. The eggs develop into light brown or yellow-colored larvae commonly referred to as mealworms or faux wireworms. Even during the 8-10 weeks of its larval stage, a mealworm can increase up to 20 times in size and grow to be 1.5 inches long.
Following their final molt, darkling beetle larvae develop into frail, white pupae which take 1-3 weeks to grow into a fully grown adult darkling beetle.
Darkling Beetles Common Habitat
Adults, as well as larvae, are found on or near the soil’s surface in areas of extensive outgrowth. They seek refuge in weedy areas, leaf litter, behind rocks, or under decaying wooden logs. A few specialized species have evolved to survive in caverns or barren dunes. Some are experts in the habitats of other insects and bug species. Small rodents, worms, termites, and insects may all be unintentionally sharing their habitats with these pesky intruders.
Red and confused flour beetles specialize in devouring grains and are naturally drawn to food grain warehouses and poultry coops. They may also congregate in areas where gardeners or farmers leave food crop material for drying, like sheaves of wheat before threshing. These beetles are especially drawn to grains which have more moisture content.
In most cases, darkling beetles do not infest houses and human settlements. In fact, many individuals would buy mealworms to cultivate at home, and others will even create companies selling these worms. Inadvertent guests, on the other hand, may congregate around the kitchen or pantry, where they might find food. They are drawn to places that are dark, cool, and safe.
What do Darkling Beetles Feed on?
Adults and larvae feed on plant detritus, dead decaying insects, as well as decomposing plant matter such as rotting wood, garden litter, etc. Though they are not considered as a major agricultural pest – if left unchecked they can cause huge damage to crops and grains. They also act as vectors for transmitting diseases and infections.
Different species of these darkling beetles specialize in feeding on various food sources. Some darkling beetles, for example, are surface feeders that eat lichen, moss, bark, or fungus in the woods. They are adept scavengers in arid and dry regions, feeding on anything they can find, including animal waste or carcasses.
Are Darkling Beetles Invasive?
Darkling beetles are a widespread and diversified insect family that may be found across the planet. There are invasive as well as native species of darkling beetles. Because of the increasing risk of invasive species to global commerce, the United States Department of Agriculture is currently studying the movement and population growth of these pests
Are Darkling Beetles Harmful?
There are thousands of different subspecies of darkling beetles. By munching on growing young leaves and plants, these pests can damage gardens and farm crops. Several species feed specifically on food grains and may be a nuisance in storage silos, poultry coops, and even at homes. They cannot sting or bite people, but they can act as a carrier for plant and bird infections.