Comparative Efficacy Study of balence BioPesticide and a Pyrethroid Insecticide for Control of Darkling Beetles in Broiler Facilities

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1 Comparative Efficacy Study of balence BioPesticide and a Pyrethroid Insecticide for Control of Darkling Beetles in Broiler Facilities SUMMARY A study of three broiler houses was conducted in the southeastern United States in midto late 2009 and early Two houses were treated with balence Biopesticide Beetle Feed and the third was treated with a top-selling pyrethroid insecticide. In each house, an 8.5 sq. inch area was sampled. Samples indicated: 1) A decrease in beetles of 61% in the balence houses when compared to the pyrethroid treated house 2) An average estimated population of darkling beetles at the end of the flock of 21 million in the balence houses and 54 million in the pyrethroid house 3) A high numbers of insects seen wall to wall in all three houses that was related to two major issues: 1) the colder than average temperatures experienced in the last 24 months, and 2) the extended period of time between the placement of flocks Data from other studies indicated that: 1) As the overall total numbers of beetles decreased, the highest levels of remaining beetles were in the brooded areas. 2) Lower numbers were in the first area of turn out. 3) The very lowest numbers were in the last part of the house in which birds were allowed. 1

2 4) By the end of the third treatment cycle, beetles were found in low numbers in the brooded part of the house, even lower numbers in the first turn out and few to none in the remainder of the house. balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed has been used in field studies since June Three farms have been involved in these studies. We now have data from three consecutive flocks as well as an additional two consecutive flocks from these locations. In one set of four houses there has been the standard between flock treatment of the litter. Cake was removed by a poultry keeper and then new litter was top dressed. Two flocks have been completed and a third flock has been started. Ten one pint litter samples were taken under the feed line five samples in the brooder area and five samples from the first turn out area. These samples were taken at the end of the flock and compared to the number of adult and larval darkling beetles under the feed pans at the end of the next flock. Adult and larval beetle counts from the end of the second flock had decreased from the first flock: 270 adults to 40 adults and larvae from 511 to 60 per sample. The third flock was 14 days of age and visual examination found four larvae under ten feed pans checked in the brood area and an average of five adult beetles under each of the ten feed pans. Results from a three-house farm that completed two flocks, then total clean out and one flock completed on new litter indicated: adult beetles at 274 (end of flock 1), 217 (end of flock 2) and 7.25 adults (end of flock 3) per sample at 62 days. Larvae numbers for these houses were 570, 40 and 27 per sample (houses one, two and three). What these numbers indicate are: 1) In houses where there has not been good beetle control and the starting population is high, it will take several flocks to decrease the overall level of beetles in a house using the standard single treatment prior to bird placement. There are several reasons that it will require several flocks to get the overall numbers down to minimal levels. 2) The length of time it takes adults to emerge from pupae is much longer than entomologists have previously thought. Based upon current data, it appears that we see a late emergence of adults in these houses (45 + days) that can only be coming from pupae in the ground from previous flocks. If these adults are not controlled, they will lay eggs and the level of beetle infestation at the end of a flock will remain 2

3 the same or increase. Using a program that is not designed to reduce the overall level of beetles in the house such as a pyrethroid insecticide that only lowers larvae and adult numbers for the first week or two of the flock does not address the problem of later emergence in high numbers of both adults and larvae at the end of the current flock, leading to continuing, significant infestation in subsequent flocks. 3) It is critical to lower larvae levels as much as possible in each flock to decrease the number of beetles that make it to pupation, which, in turn, decreases the number of eggs that are laid. When this goal is reached, the overall population in the house will begin to decrease rapidly. When using a biological like balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed, there are a number of differences from a pyrethroid insecticide: 1) Biologicals are slower to kill normally and require three to five days post infection. 2) balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed has a long duration of activity at 30+ days. 3) balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed is very stable in litter and does not degrade. 4) balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed allows for the application of a high number of conida/spores per square foot, but once the conidia attaches to an insect, they are gone from the environment and, in cases where we have very high starting levels of bugs, repeated treatments are needed to get a long term decrease of the population of beetles. 5) Biological control is accumulative at some point in the future, the target population of beetles undergoes rapid decrease in numbers. An ideal beetle control program includes: 1) Product with good duration of activity balence Beetle Feed maintains its activity for more than 30 days. 2) Product that will control as many life stages as possible balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed will control adults, all stages of larvae and, if the larvae carries a spore into pupation, the pupae will be killed as well. 3) Product that allows for flexibility in timing of treatments to match the beetle emergence cycle and extends the duration of activity. 4) Product that is not just on the surface of the litter relying on the beetles to move through it to be controlled, but one that will attract the beetles to it such as balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed. 3

4 With high numbers of beetles the ideal program includes: 1) Total clean out 2) New litter 3) Surface spray with balence BioPesticide Beetle Liquid Spray to control emerging beetles and existing beetles not concentrated under feeder lines and walls 4) Re-treatment at 28 days with balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed along feed lines the preferred site for beetles 5) By second flock, balence Beetle Feed applied under feed lines and re-treament at 28 days if needed 6) By third flock, a single treatment of balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed applied under feed lines prior to bird placement The data from the three houses are depicted in the following chart. Note that the first two columns reflect counts from 21 days post-placement and the last two columns are counts from the last week of the flock. Adults (21 Day Count) Larvae (21 Day Count) Adults (End of Flock Count) Larvae (End of Flock Count) TOTAL (Adults + Larvae) TOTAL (Estimated per House) balence House 1 balence House 2 MEAN ,547,310 (House 1 & 2) Pyrethroid House ,562,500 Table 1 Data Analysis Impact of balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed Treatment and Observation of Darkling Beetle Life Cycle Entomologists have not fully evaluated the impact of the colder than usual winter temperatures and the extended periods between flocks that have been experienced over 4

5 House Mean Adults 2008 and 2009 on beetle populations. It appears that, in reviewing data from summer 2009 to January 2010, the amount of time that eggs are lying in the soil and litter prior to hatching can be quite long more than five weeks. The pupation time is even longer at approximately eight weeks. These times also appear to increase even more when no birds are in the house and temperatures decrease the egg and pupae life stages do not develop further until heat stimulates hatching. In addition, emergence and the absence of birds allow for survival and further reproduction. The significance of this is that the beetles one is dealing with now very well be developing from eggs produced in three or four months ago. The graph below depicts data from another study conducted using balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed to control darkling beetles in late 2009 from a broiler facility. A large increase in adults experienced from day 35 to day 57 indicated the late emergence of adult beetles in the flock. Note: Bb, Beauveria bassiana, indicates balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed. Beetle Feed Mean # Adults Rice Farm pretrt 21 Flk 1-57 Flk2 58 Day of study Bb - Bb Bb - Bb Table 2 The Impact of Extended Beetle Lifecycles on Chemical Pesticide Resistance The very long life cycles of the beetle along with the existence of overlapping generations have set up a situation resulting in the failure of most of the chemicals relied upon to control this insect. Because the life cycle is long, switching chemical insecticides every one to two years has created a multiple resistance situation within a single house. The result of this multiple resistance is that no matter what chemical ingredient one chooses, many of the beetles will not die when exposed to the treatment. Further complicating the issue is the fact that none of the current chemicals lasts for more than seven to 14 days when sprayed on shavings and manure. This means that there is a very short period of time in which the chemical pesticide remains active enough to effectively kill darkling beetles in the house. The long life cycle ensures that a very large percentage of the beetle population in these 5

6 houses is present when NO chemical control exists for them to contact. This allows the population to increase to the levels experienced in the study houses. Below are two photographs illustrating the large number of darkling beetle pupae often found in broiler houses which will potentially emerge as millions of adult darkling beetles. This is a photograph of pupation/emergence holes from the floor of a broiler house where the darkling beetles have burrowed into the soil beneath the litter and laid their eggs. Within these burrows, darkling beetle pupae are developing and will emerge in the millions. This second photo is of pupae dug up from a 0.25 sq. ft. area in the same house. As pretreatment numbers of beetles were in the millions and they were distributed over the entire floor these pupae may not emerge for a whole flock. It will probably require at least two treatments to get these total numbers down to a manageable level. If the population was reduced to 1,000,000 per house, there would still be approximately 50 beetles per sq. ft. However, this would be a major improvement to the situation depicted here. Beetle Control Programs Past and Present - Pros and Cons The use of any of the synthetic pyrethroids (permethrin, deltamethrin, etc.) in litter is a questionable practice as these chemicals are de-toxified via acid hydrolysis. The normal activity in litter simply metabolizes the chemical molecule in seven to 10 days resulting in an initial decrease in the number of insects. However, and unfortunately, the beetles are repelled by the chemical treatment and burrow down into the litter. Since they do not contact the treated litter until later in the flock, a reduction in insects is observed during the first week post treatment, but by week three and going forward, the numbers of beetles begin to increase and breeding activity resumes. In addition, as the treated areas (surface of litter) is covered up with manure and scratch, less area exists to administer treatment by the chemical pesticides. 6

7 The ideal darkling beetle control product would be one that delivers a long duration of effective activity and, in cases of high populations where we have insects emerging and hatching throughout the grow-out cycle, has the option to be re-applied to lengthen the period of time when one has an active pesticide in the environment to contact and kill the insects. The balence Program balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed is comprised of a carrier that attracts beetle adults and larvae and puts them in contact with the active ingredient, Beauveria bassiana, a species specific fungus that attacks the beetles. The Beauveria bassiana fungus is an entomopathogen it is a disease that attacks insects and has no impact on anything but these specific insects in this case the darkling beetle and hide beetle. We can apply the fungus in two ways: 1) As a standard spray covering the entire floor surface, or, 2) As a beetle feed in a concentrated application under or near feedlines or walls. The fungus is applied in the conidia form (spore) and when the insect contacts the conidia, it sticks to the insect and germinates, shooting a germ tube into the insect that begins to grow. The insect cannot gain resistance as with chemical pesticides. However, the kill time is longer taking three to five days after the insect becomes infected for death to occur. The photograph at right depicts a darkling beetle that has become infected with the Beauveria bassiana fungus and died. The residual activity is 30 to 40 days with Beauveria bassiana as it survives very well in this type of environment. The concern one has with very large populations of darkling beetles is that all of the conidia applied in either spray or feed will be consumed or taken up by the existing beetle population and none will remain, without 7

8 reapplication, to provide a source of the balence active ingredient for the emerging larvae and adults. The other area that is very important when considering the population in a house is the distribution of the stages of beetle growth. In the case of balence treated houses, at the end of the flock one normally sees only adults and late instar larvae, i.e., no little larvae. This is an indication that one has, in fact, broken a segment of the beetle lifecycle and that, during the next flock, one will have substantially less emergence of adults as the larval numbers are not only decreased by 50 to 70% from the last flock, but there are no small larvae present. By re-treating for the next flock, one will kill those as well as any emerging adults and, therefore, reduce the environmental load of eggs and pupae for the next generation. When one looks at any of the chemical products, we see a distribution of life stages that includes all sizes of larvae as well as adults which indicates a strong, increasing population. The key differences between the balence program and a chemical insecticide program are: 1) A different rate of kill chemical insecticides are fast; balence is slower 2) The duration of activity chemical insecticides are short; balence lasts much longer 3) Generally, spray covers a large area and exposes more beetles, faster, to the treatment 4) Use of balence feed requires the beetles to move to areas where bait is and more time is required Expectations When Using balence Beetle Feed From day 0 to day 21, expect to see beetles, but look at their life stages to see if you have all stages of larvae or if they are all same size with no small larvae. The same comparisons are also helpful at the end of the flock as this tells us where the population is headed. By the end of the grow out one should see a 50 to 70% reduction in total beetle numbers. This is good, but if the beetle population is large, there may still be a lot of beetles in the house. To really get these numbers down, it will require two to three flock treatments depending on the levels present at the beginning of treatment. Getting these numbers down by the spring will allow us to get into the summer with the opportunity to make bigger strides in the reduction of numbers. 8

9 About Darkling Beetles in a Broiler Facility Darkling beetles transmit many poultry diseases as well as harbor several parasites. Examples include leucosis (Marek s), Infectious Bursal Disease (Gumboro), coronavirus, Newcastle Disease Virus, avian influenza, Salmonella sp, E. coli, Aspergillus sp, Eimeria spp., round worms and tape worms. Broiler, turkey brooder and grow-out houses are ideal environments for the darkling beetles to breed, thrive and multiply. The houses provide optimal temperatures and food for this pest and the beetles livability is near 100 percent from egg to adult. This results in very large numbers of insects in the house. Darkling beetles are also a very attractive food source to young birds, who, when exposed to beetles, prefer to eat them rather than poultry food. The consumption of beetle larvae and adults at the time of placement results in the young birds getting large and damaging doses of parasites and diseases. Darkling beetles also consume a tremendous amount of poultry feed, driving up the cost of production. In addition to spreading diseases among poultry flocks, large numbers of beetles in litter applied to fields have produced concerns for surrounding houses as the displaced beetles often seek shelter in human dwellings and, in addition to being a nuisance, cause damage to property by burrowing into insulation. Moreover, the cost of poor darkling beetle control may be measured in increased feed cost as described in an article by Dr. Karen Grogan: The value of a good beetle control program in this limited view ranged from $2, to $4, per 100,000, depending on the corn cost of the diet ($2 to $4.50 per bushel). 1 Conclusions 1) balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed is effective in controlling darkling beetles. 2) balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed reduces darkling beetle populations better that chemical pesticides. 3) Consistent treatment with balence BioPesticide Beetle Feed over two to three flocks will bring the darkling beetle population under control. 1 Karen Grogan, PhD., Special to Poultry Times: Beetles and houseflies play role in disease transmission, August 25,

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