University of Minnesota National IPM Network Consortium for International Crop Protection

Stored-product Insects and Biological Control Agents

Vera Krischik, USDA FGIS and the Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Wendell Burkholder, USDA ARS and the University of Wisconsin

Reproduced with permission of authors from Stored Product Management, Chapter 13
Stored -product Insects and Biological Control Agents.  Publication E-912, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078.

Stored grain is subject to insect infestation and deterioration from molds and bacteria. High grain temperatures and moisture, along with dockage and broken kernels, provide conditions that accelerate mold and insect development. Many grain insects are good fliers and move to newly stored grain from fields and from infested grain bins. Insects can reach a high population size in unchecked grain bins, in subfloors or aeration ducts in bins, in equipment used to move grain, or in discarded refuse grain. These areas must be kept free of insects to reduce migration to newly harvested grain.

Grain insects move within the grain mass at a rate that is determined by the and grain temperature. During the summer and fall, insect infestations are usually on the surface of the grain. In cold weather, insects congregate at the center and lower portions of the grain and may escape detection until high population numbers are reached.

The most favorable grain moisture range for stored grain insects is from 12 to 18 percent. In many instances, insect infestation amplifies mold problems in grain by exposing otherwise hidden endosperm surfaces to molds, transporting mold spores to new areas in the grain, and encouraging mold germination in microhabitats made moist by insect metabolic activity. Indeed, insect and mold metabolic activity can raise grain temperatures to 110°F (43°C).

It is important to control insect population size before grain is irrevocably damaged by insect boring, feeding, and mold germination. Grain should be inspected every 21 days when grain temperature exceeds 60°F (15°C). Plastic pitfall traps should be checked for the species and numbers of insects, and grain temperatures should be monitored. The number of insects found in a trap should be recorded and charts constructed so that changes in population size can be easily noticed. Increasing numbers of insects indicate that management tactics need to be changed to prevent levels of infestation that damage the grain. Also, grain can be inspected by screening or sieving and searching in the screenings for insects, examining kernels for damage, checking grain for webbing, and investigating off odors.

Some insects damage grain by developing inside kernels (egg, larvae, pupae), feeding on the inner endosperm, and producing holes in the kernel through which the adult insects exist. The cycle is repeated when the female lays eggs inside the kernels. The maze weevil, rice weevil, granary weevil, lesser grain borer, and Angoumois moth all develop inside the kernels. Other insect species do not develop within the kernels, although they may hide inside cracked grain, making detection very difficult.

Species such as the flat grain beetle, rusty grain beetle, and the foreign grain beetle feed primarily on mold. Other species such as the sawtoothed grain beetle, the red and confused flour beetles, the Indianmeal moth, and the larger black flour beetle feed on damaged grain or fines. Pest species vary in different parts of the U.S., although all stored grain insects are capable of decreasing grain quality.

Insects damage grain by boring into the kernels and reducing grain quality through weight, nutritional, or quality loss; spreading and encouraging mold germination; adding to the fatty acid content of the grain; and leaving quantities of uric acid that cause grain rancidity.
Insects also create fines and broken kernels when feeding that reduce air flow through grain and prevent proper aeration when fans are used. In addition, the presence of insects in a grain sample can cause cash discounts for the grain.

Two insects of any kind in 1,000g of wheat, rye, or triticale cause the grain to be graded as U.S. Sample grade, the lowest possible grade. In corn, soybeans, and sorghum, the tolerances for insect infestation are different. Grain may be designated as Sample grade if two weevils, one weevil and five other live insect harmful to stored grain (OLI), or 10
OLls are found in 1,000g of corn or sorghum. Insect tolerances in finished commodities such as flour or cornmeal are stricter.

It is important to distinguish between species of stored-grain pests since the insects have different damage potentials, biologies, growing temperatures, moisture requirements, and reproductive potentials. Insect species create different types of damage and have different activity periods.

The following colored drawings are part of the USDA Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) Interpretative Line Slide Series for insects. Both the slides and caption cards are available through Seedburo Equipment Co., Chicago, Illinois. There are three categories in which an insect can be placed according to the FGIS insect tolerances for a grain:

             LW is a weevil or borer;
             OLI is an insect injurious to stored grain; and
             NOLI indicates that the insect is not counted toward the tolerance.

These pictures and caption cards provide a way of identifying the insect pests and include a description of their basic biology. Identifying insect pests is the first step in understanding and controlling insect problems in grain bins and commodity storage warehouses. Insect traps are useful in either grain storage bins or commodity storage warehouses for collecting insects for proper identification. A knowledge of insect biology and appropriate control strategies is necessary for Integrated Pest Management programs in both grain bins and commodity storage warehouses.

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USDA FGIS Interpretative
Line Slides for Insects

        Granary Weevil
        Rice Weevil
        Maize Weevil
        Lesser Grain Borer
        Larger Grain Borer
        Angoumois Grain Moth
        Rice Moth
        Indianmeal Moth
        Mediterranean Flour Moth (Mill Moth)
        Tobacco Moth (Warehouse or Cocoa Moth)
        Almond Moth (Tropical Warehouse Moth)
        Sawtoothed Grain Beetle
        Rusty Grain Beetle
        Red Flour Beetle and Confused Flour Beetle
        Yellow and Dark Mealworm Beetle
        Khapra Beetle
        Carpet Beetle
        Black Carpet Beetle
        Cigarette Beetle
        Drugstore Beetle
        Spider Beetle
        Bean Weevil (Dried Bean Beetle)
        Vetch Bruchid
        Red and Gray Sunflower Weevil
        Grain Mite (Cheese or Flour Mite)
        Bracon hebetor (Parasitoid)
        Ansiopteromalus calandrae
        Warehouse Pirate Bug


-----. Degesch Americas, Inc. Principal Storage Pests, brochure, and Stored Product Pest, poster. Degesch America, Inc., Weyers Cave, Va.

-----. ICI Americas, Inc. Important Pests of Stored Products, brochure and poster. Actellic, ICI Americas, Inc., Wilmington, Del.

-----. U. S. Department of Agriculture Research Service. 1986. Stored Grain Insects. Agric. Handbook No. 500.

Cink, J. H., and P. K. Harein. 1989. Stored Grain Pest Management. Minn. Ext. Serv., Univ. Minn.

GASGA. 1987. Larger Grain Borer. Group for Assistance on Systems Relating to Grain After Harvest. Tech. Leaflet No. 1. Printed by Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Technische. Eschborn. Germany.

Harein, P. K. 1987. Preventing Stored-grain Insect Infestation. Minn. Ext. Serv., Univ. of Minn.

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources
Oklahoma State University

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