Confused Flour Beetles are a small black beetle that measures around 3/16th of an inch long when fully grown. They are among the most common of all pantry and cabinet infesting beetles and are easily mistaken for Red Flour Beetles or Saw Toothed Beetles. There are a few differences between the species which are subtle and generally only a trained eye can see.
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The most common differences include the antenna and thorax.
On the Confused Flour Beetle, the antenna gradually gets longer and thicker ending in a 4 segmented club whereas the Red Flour Beetle has antenna that come to an abrupt end after 3 segments.
Additionally, the thorax of the Red Flour Beetle has curved sides whereas the Confused Flour Beetle has a thorax which is straight.
And though both Red Flour and Confused Flour beetles have wings, only the Red Flour beetle will be seen flying.
Saw Toothed beetles are about the same size as the two flour species but their thorax has sides which are shaped like a saw – hence the name “saw-toothed”.
The most important thing about all these beetles is that all three can be controlled using the same integrated pest management explained below.
And though their biology is slightly different, these beetles will present a persistent and formidable foe once established in the home.
The following article will describe some basic biology of this insect and then detail what must be done to eliminate active infestations.
CONFUSED FLOUR BEETLE BIOLOGY *
Confused Flour Beetles have been around as long as Red Flour Beetles. Their history dates back several thousand years. This no doubt happened because most ancient civilizations used flour as a main food ingredient. Confused Flour Beetles thrive on the dust of flour though they’ll readily feed on just about anything found in the home. Generally found in the more northern states of America, Confused Flour Beetles are native in all regions of the United States.
No doubt this wide spread occupation is why they can be a problem in all four corners of our country. And one thing is for sure; once inside the home, they will readily target pet food, cereal, pasta, spices, rodenticide, dried fruit and vegetables, eggs of other insects, nuts, grass seed and just about anything which can provide nutrition. Unlike most pantry pests, Flour Beetles can find food which is well hidden and protected. Their strong chewing mouth parts will get them access to food which is stored inside boxes and plastic bags. All they need is the scent of something worthwhile inside and they will set their goal to reach it.
THE LIFE CYCLE OF CONFUSED FLOUR BEETLES *
Confused Flour Beetles live a long time. Their average life is 3-5 years which is quite long for an insect so small. Adult females will lay a few eggs daily which can amount to 300-500 over their life. Eggs will hatch in a couple of weeks and start to feed immediately. Larva will go through many instars or developing stages – as many as 20 – before they reach adulthood. The number of stages will depend largely on the sub species active along with local temperatures and food supplies. This process will take 2-4 months before the young reach adulthood.
CONFUSED FLOUR BEETLE TREATMENT *
For an active infestation, you first need to empty all cabinets, shelves and closets where they’re active. All food stuff with activity should be discarded in sealed plastic bags. This will help contain them until the garbage is picked up.
If you’re unsure something has activity, store it in a plastic bag and check it every week. If there are flour beetles in the item, they will emerge within a month. And if any are found, throw it away immediately. Since this pest is temperature tolerant, don’t waste your time trying to freeze adults, eggs or larva. Though you will kill some, too many will live prepared to continue their cycle.
Once food stuff which is thought to have activity is discarded, vacuum all closets, shelves and baseboards. This will help by removing eggs which are too small to see. Flour Beetles lay eggs with a glue like excretion which helps to attach them to surfaces where food is likely to be available. This helps keep them in place and vacuuming will undue some. Plus, it will no doubt remove loose food they could otherwise feed on once they hatch.
After a good vacuuming, you are now ready to begin treating. To start, use either DFORCE or TOPIA aerosol. These products come in a spray can with a straw attachment which makes them ideal for applying to cracks and crevices where both adults and larva like to reside. Be sure to treat all potential nest sites – not just where you think beetles may be hiding.
Dforce is the stronger of the two; Topia is federally exempt from registration because it uses food gradde actives which are very safe for use around people and pets. Its what we consider to be organic or “green”. Both aerosols will work fine; the Dforce tends to last longer and work faster so in the long run you’ll use less if you choose this option. Conversely, the Topia will need more frequent applications but overall, the difference is negligible.
Now if you choose the DForce, expect to treat once a week until you don’t see activity. In most cases, activity will cease in 2-3 weeks.
If you choose Topia, treat twice a week until you don’t see activity. In most cases, activity will cease in 3-4 weeks.
Keep in mind that confused flour beetles are small, fast and quick to hide when ever people are around or close by. For this reason, many will go unnoticed and missed so it is best to treat every cabinet to be sure you get proper coverage. After treating, let the area dry and “air out” for at least 1 hour before storing away dishes and food stuff. But after that, everything can go back without any hazard present to people or pets.
BEST SPRAY FOR WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE THEY’RE NESTING *
If you’re unsure where the source of the beetles is located, a better aerosol to use is PHANTOM. This product uses a very different active compared to Dforce or Topia. Instead of being “acutely” toxic to insects, Phantom is very slow and undetected by target pests. In fact it will take a good 2-4 days to kill pests which contact the application.
But since its not detectable by insects, they’ll readily walk on treated surfaces. And once they pick some up, they will then transfer it to others in their nest. This means when the active kicks in and starts to work, it will affect many more than just the few that may have crossed over a treated area. Another benefit of Phantom is that unlike the Dforce and Topia, it doesn’t have an odor and it goes on dry. This makes it ideal for use in sensitive areas.
GOOD HOUSE SPRAY FOR FLOUR BEETLES *
Once cabinets and pantry areas have been treated, you may have to treat other areas of the home. This is true if you’ve been seeing them all over. Laundry rooms, garages, basements and other areas where pet food and grain products like grass seed are stored are all prime locations for confused flour beetles to reside.
For small problems where you only have to treat one or two rooms, aerosols will be fine. But if you have several rooms with issues, get some concentrated PERMETHRIN which is more effective and efficient when needing to treat expansive areas. Focus on baseboards, moldings and floor joists if accessible. Since rodenticide is one of their favorite foods, be sure to check any bait placements you have done in the last couple of years deep in crawl spaces, basements or attics. In fact, if you have an attic equipped with rodenticide, be sure to remove any suspected of feeding flour beetles.
Mix 4-8 oz of Permethrin per gallon of water and use the mixture to cover 800-1000 sq/ft. Treat every 2 weeks until the beetles are gone; once every 2-3 months to make sure they don’t come back.
You’ll need a good PUMP SPRAYER to apply the Permethrin. This model is easy to use and has an adjustable nozzle that can be set to spray a wide fan pattern.
For commercial warehouses, stock rooms or food processing plants, go with DFENSE SC. This material is odorless like the Permethrin but its a lot more concentrated. Plus it “sits” on top of treated surfaces better because its micro-encapsulated so it will provide longer residual.
Mix 1/2 to 1 oz per gallon of water and use this gallon to treat 800-1000 sq/ft. Retreat once a month until the beetles are gone; once a quarter after that to make sure they don’t return.
CONFUSED FLOUR BEETLE TRAPS *
Now that you’ve treated all cabinets, pantries, rooms and baseboards where adults may be hiding, install some CONFUSED FLOUR BEETLE TRAPS. These should be placed in the back of any cabinet where you suspect nesting or activity. These traps use strong pheromones (sex attractants) to lure active adults. Once they crawl into the holding tray, the thick catching oil will hold them for good. Set at least one trap per cabinet tucked away in the back corner of any shelf. They’re discreet and easy to conceal too.
Replace every 3 months or sooner if they get filled or contaminated with dust, etc.
For wide open areas like the floor or counter tops, install XLURE TRAPS. These are designed for use outside cabinets and they also use a strong pheromone type attractant. But they also use a food lure so they can attract a wide range of feeding pests.
These should be replaced every months or sooner if they fill up.
Confused flour beetles can be a persistent pest once established in the home. To break their life cycle, you’ll need to remove infested food or other items they’re targeting. Next, clean and vacuum all cabinets or closets where you’ve seen activity. Next, treat with Dforce, Topia or Phantom aerosol to kill hatching larva and migrating adults. These treatments will provide weeks of protection should any new eggs hatch or if new adults come into the area.
If you have them throughout the home, treat with concentrated Permethrin or DFense to get better coverage. Finally, set out some confused flour beetle traps where activity has been noted. Be sure to keep the traps fresh so they’re catching adults before they can mate and reproduce. This integrated control program will help to break the cycle so it will eventually run out and the problem will be gone.
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