The most sustainable strategy, for both the environment and your staff, is Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a business-savvy and environmentally friendly approach to pest management that focuses on non-chemical techniques to prevent pest activity, using chemical solutions as a last resort.
Published in Barn Management

May 6, 2016 - Poultry barns provide an ideal environment for house fly populations to thrive if sufficient control methods are not in place. Controlling house fly populations is important for maintaining a healthy barn environment. Without control methods, large fly populations can:

  • •damage equipment and increase biosecurity risk
  • •decrease poultry production
  • •affect relationships with neighbours

Flies can also be carriers of food-borne diseases, carrying bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli from one location to another.

Controlling flies involves the combined use of different methods:

  • •barn management
  • •biological control
  • •mechanical control
  • •chemical control

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA) book, “House Fly Control in Poultry Barns,” describes integrated pest management practices and provides information on different control methods for effective house fly control. The book is a great resource that can help you tailor fly control strategies to match your unique farming situation.

Visit to download a PDF version of the book.  You can also order free copies from ServiceOntario at or 1-800-668-9938





Published in Researchers

Flies are everywhere and can cause increased stress to both animals and workers.  As urban development rapidly stretches into agricultural areas, the demand for effective fly control has become a large concern, especially in large numbers, where flies can cause considerable annoyance to the farmer and surrounding neighbours. Poultry barns are the perfect breeding ground for flies, since they offer perfect conditions like heat, moisture and plenty of organic material. Fly control should be a regular and important part of managing any poultry farm.

Fly biology

The housefly develops in multiple stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Female flies will lay their eggs over three or four days in batches of about 150 eggs on various types of moist, decaying organic materials. Manure can contain as many as 3,500 eggs per kilogram!

The larvae, known as maggots, are white and will grow in the manure until they are ready to transform into an adult via the intermediate stage – the pupa. This stage in the fly’s growth cycle occurs in dry areas and the pupae are brown-red in color. In the barn, visible adult flies represent only 15 per cent of the population, whereas eggs, larvae and pupae that are hidden in the manure account for the other 85 per cent.

Like most insects, flies are capable of surviving winter inside barns that offer moderate climate conditions. Under ideal conditions, the life cycle of a fly can be as short as seven to 10 days when heat and moisture are high. Flies are active from the beginning of spring, will be present until winter arrives and are capable of traveling for many kilometres, but will usually stay within one kilometre of their breeding sites.

Integrated pest management

IPM consists of controlling pests at an acceptable level, because eradication of flies is almost impossible due to the nature of poultry operations. There are four steps in integrated pest management: prevention, surveillance, intervention and evaluation.

Integrated pest management means having a good knowledge of the pest that is infesting the barn. Identifying what pest is infecting your barn, in addition to their favourable conditions and behaviours are important first steps because different flies can have different biologies.

Installing a means of detection on the farm to evaluate the fly population will help to determine the threshold needed for intervention. Monitor flies with sticky sheets or spot cards, which are white 3‘’ x 5’’ cards, typically placed in fly resting areas. Install a minimum of five cards and count vomit or fecal spot on the cards weekly in a log-book to record results. A count of 100 or more spots per card indicates a need for intervention.

Apply, when needed, a combination of different means of physical, chemical, biological, and mechanical interventions to best control or eliminate fly populations.

Physical Control
Almost 85 per cent of the fly population in a barn is in the manure and bedding, and thus it is necessary to act not only on the adult flies, but also on the developing juveniles through management of the litter and manure. Flies reproduce in wet manure, feed and bedding, so wet areas in the barn must be limited wherever possible. With a life cycle as short as seven to 10 days, twice weekly removal of wet organic material will help to break the life cycle.

Stockpiling of manure near the barn is not recommended, as it may attract more adult flies, so the removal of manure from the proximity of the barn is the best solution.  Composting the manure can also kill developing juveniles, but the pile must be tarped to allow the temperature to rise to 50 C (120 F), and for better composting results, the manure pile should be turned every three to four days

As for the bedding, coarse sawdust is a better moisture absorbent than straw. It will create dryer litter and therefore fewer opportunities for flies to lay their eggs. When straw is used, the moisture level is higher; giving flies a better environment to reproduce in.

Flies reproduce in damp areas in the litter, especially under water lines, so proper maintenance is key to avid leaks.

Ventilation is another factor that can help in the process of controlling flies through adequate air circulation that keeps the litter dry.

Another physical control method is to install fine window mesh on the air intakes in order to prevent flies from infiltrating the barn. Additionally, removal and disposal of dead birds and broken eggs on a daily basis will help to reduce fly reproduction. Around the barn keep grass short – this will remove resting areas that are cooler for the flies and it will also maintain good airflow in the barn to help dry the litter.

Chemical Control
Insecticides are products that are used to help in the control of insects. There are many insecticides on the market and by nature these products are hazardous – therefore, precaution is needed at all times. Follow label instructions for proper use of products. Appropriate protective gear should always be worn when handling and applying these products.

In cases of heavy infestation of the barn at the end of a production cycle, fogging can be used to eliminate adult fly populations. This is critical because flies reproduce quickly, so it should be started immediately after birds are loaded. Flies will hide during barn cleanout and re-infest the barn when conditions allow. Be sure to close all doors, stop ventilation and fog the barn with a fast acting pyrethrin-based insecticide to eliminate adult flies. Finally, be sure to leave for two hours and ventilate the barn before re-entry.

Residual Application
A residual insecticide should be applied inside the barn when the cleanout is finished to ensure a residual activity for several weeks by applying the insecticide until run-off on walls, posts and ceilings. A common practice is to mix the insecticide with a disinfectant, but this should not be done unless both labels permit this concurrent use. The chemical reaction between insecticide and disinfectant may result in a solution that is unsafe, or with one or both ingredients being neutralized. For best results, applications should be done separately; start with disinfection and finish with insecticide.

Fogging a residual insecticide is not as effective as spraying directly on walls because there is often not enough solution in the fogger to ensure maximal surface coverage, and this can promote the development of fly resistance to insecticides. Insecticide active ingredient rotation is also necessary to prevent resistance from occurring.

Exterior Application
Another option during barn cleanout is to apply a residual insecticide on the outside walls of the barn as well. Apply insecticide only when the label allows for exterior application in accordance to municipal regulations. This application will offer additional treated surfaces for flies to come in contact with. However, this application should not be done while birds are in the barn because the mist will be taken in by the ventilation system.

Insecticide bait
Granular bait contains an insecticide, an attractant (usually sugar) and sometimes a synthetic pheromone. Some baits are coloured blue, because it is the color flies can see best. Be sure to spread out fly bait stations within the barn and apply the stations at a rate of 250g/ 100m2. The stations should also be put out at the beginning of the fly season and renewed once a week throughout warm weather near where flies congregate such as resting areas, windows and lights. Fly bait stations are available from manufacturers, but it is also possible to build stations with fine window mesh or plastic jugs. When setting up fly bait stations, take caution not to contaminate feed and water when doing so.

Biological Control
The use of biological control agents in fly management programs is an alternative to chemicals, with different parasitic insects available on the market. Please refer to distributors and users for information.

Mechanical Control
Capturing and preventing the infiltration of houseflies in barns is another means of control. There are different formats of sticky sheets and cords that can be used in the barn and when placed in the right areas and in appropriate quantities, these traps will reduce the population, especially when placed in the spring. It is possible to enhance the attractiveness of traps by adding an attractant such as sugar, molasses or fly pheromones. Installing a fine mesh on air intakes will also prevent the infiltration of flies into barns.


Lastly, evaluate the efficiency of your chosen interventions (efficacy, quality, quantity, cost, labor, etc.) in order to recall the events and to be able to analyse them. Keep records of your interventions in a dedicated logbook and make adjustments as needed.


A control program is successful if flies are kept at, or below, acceptable levels. It is difficult to determine just what factors have the greatest effect on flies, but combining different means of control will often be necessary. An early start in spring will give better results when summer heat and moisture arise.

You can also request the services of a Vétoquinol Biosecurity Technician to schedule a farm visit and help educate your staff and yourself on flies and how to control them. The technician can set up a specific biosecurity program for your property that is effective and simple to follow, as well as be a great resource to help you tackle the unique problems on your barn as they arise.

Published in Barn Management

Rodents in a farm environment are a fact of life, but not all of us realize the full extent of the financial and health threat they pose. Producers need to act quickly when they face a rodent infestation, because it is significantly easier to deal with the first pair coming into the barn rather than the 500 at the end of the year.

A barn provides an ideal home for rodents as they can have access to all the food and water they need, protection from harsh weather conditions and from outside predators.

Eating up profit
On the farm, your feed represents an easy all-you-can-eat buffet for rodents, as they eat and contaminate livestock feed supplies. The average mouse will consume two to four grams of feed a day, while a rat will eat up to 28 grams Although it does not seem like much, it can represent between 730 and 1460 grams for one mouse and 10 kilograms for one rat over just one year – and there is always more than one rodent in the barn! You may be buying extra feed just for the rodents without even realising it, which can directly affect your profitability.

Rodents can also cause damage to buildings. They gnaw at wood, water pipes and electrical wires, which can cause fires, equipment malfunction, power outages, water leakage and expensive structural damage. They also destroy building insulation, resulting in heat loss and increased energy and feed costs, all of which can also have a significant impact of the farm’s bottom line.

A health threat
Rats and mice can be responsible for transmitting diseases. They contaminate feed supplies with viruses and bacteria that are often detrimental to the health of livestock. Rodents are known to transmit such diseases as salmonella, plague, toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis, rickettsia and pox. They can also carry fleas, ticks and other parasites, which can potentially introduce additional diseases into your herd or flock. As well, rodents represent a food source that can attract predatory animals such as foxes, skunks and cats that, in turn, may pose another biosecurity risk to your herd.

With the Canadian Quality Assurance Program regulations, health safety considerations and economic pressures, one can’t just throw rodenticides into the barn and hope they work. 

Effective control of rodents involves three steps: 1) sanitation, 2) rodent-proof construction and 3) population reduction.

Although good sanitation will seldom eliminate rodents, it will help in controlling them. Conversely, poor sanitation is sure to attract mice and rats and allow them to thrive in greater abundance.

  • Keep barn premises and
  • surroundings clean.
  • Remove all sources of water.  
  • Remove manure and feed spillage as often as possible.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect the barn on a regular basis.

Rodent-proof construction
A lasting form of rodent control is to “build them out” by eliminating all openings through which they can enter a structure. A mouse can enter a building through an opening as small as a dime (0.5 centimetres) and a rat through a 1.25 centimetres opening that is approximately the size of a nickel. The most important places to rodent-proof are all areas where feed is stored, processed or used, if feasible.

Also, be sure to:

  • Make all necessary repairs around the buildings. Plug holes and burrows.
  • Keep building surroundings clean and free of weeds, bushes and litter heaps or animal carcasses.
  • Install wire netting over
  • ventilation traps and pipes.
  • Store food 30-45 centimetres off the floor and 30-45 centimetres away from the wall for easy inspection and sanitation.
  • Use rodent-proof containers when possible.

Population reduction
To help control the rodent population, using a highly palatable single-feed anticoagulant rodenticide containing active ingredients such as difethialone or bromadiolone is proven to be the most effective way. The key to success is to alternate the chemistry (active ingredient) a few times a year, and use the proper format (paste, pellets, mini-blocks, place packs) in the right locations. Alternating chemistry and format is the best way to prevent bait shyness and to improve bait acceptance during a rodent’s life cycle.

Always ensure that all rodenticides are securely placed in bait stations to prevent children and non-target animals from accessing the rodenticides, which is in line with all CQA programs.

Below are tips for every producer to keep in mind for a successful and cost-effective rodent control program:

  • Use rodenticides with proven effectiveness and high palatability, which will attract rodents. Difethialone is the newest and most active ingredient on the market against rats and mice and because of its high effectiveness, rodenticides formulated with difethialone can be formulated at a lower concentration, which makes the rodenticide virtually undetectable by rodents.
  • Buy a rodenticide product based on the price-per-placement and the price-per-dead-rodent rather than on the price-per-bucket of bait. Purchasing very low-cost rodenticides may require you use more, so the perceived low shelf price may not bring you the cost savings you anticipated.
  • Use enough rodenticides within the bait stations to ensure an uninterrupted supply of bait by visiting and re-supplying bait stations on a weekly basis. Mice gestate for only 21 days, so one needs to visit often to catch the mice before they give birth.
  • Place rodenticides in locations easy for the rodents to reach even if they may be inconvenient for you to attain. Use bait stations every three to four metres inside the barn and every five to six metres outside the barn.

You can also request the services of a biosecurity technician specifically trained in rodent control to come to your farm and educate you and your staff on rodents and how to control them. Biosecurity technicians can even set up a specific rodent control program for your property that is effective and simple to follow. By doing so, every staff member can positively contribute to making your rodent control program a success. A biosecurity technician can also be a great resource to help you tackle the unique problems of your barn as they arise.

By taking the time to develop an effective rodent control program with the aid of an expert biosecurity technician, you will have an effective in-house economical program you can manage, which will certainly contribute to increasing your profitability and reducing the health risks to your herd. With increased public concern over food safety and producers’ commitment to quality assurance programs, there is no doubt that you must have a simple, reasonably priced and effective continuous rodent control program in place.

Published in Barn Management

Keeping barns safe and secure is one of the best things you can do to keep the health and welfare of your birds in check.

Once poultry facilities are contaminated by pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, it can be extremely difficult and costly to correct. Therefore, it is imperative to stop micro-organisms from entering the barn in the first place.

“We want to make sure to keep whatever bacteria and viruses that are inside the barn area inside and anything that is outside, keep it outside,” says Dr. Mike Petrik.

According to experts, the most effective ways to control access to your barn are to:

  • set up protective zones around the barn
  • clearly identify where those zones are by using signs and/or barriers
  • set up an enclosed area (or anteroom) that:
  1. can be kept clean
  2. serves as a buffer zone between the exterior and interior of the barn
  3. prevents the entry of unauthorized people and animals

Biosecurity matters
Farmers should also set up a protective zone around the barn with clearly identified access points.1 This “Restricted Access Zone” (RAZ), should be a highly restricted area that is tightly controlled. The RAZ should be within a “Controlled Access Zone” (CAZ), which encompasses the entire property where poultry are housed.1

Give employees, service personnel, and visitors clear directions about where to go and what to do to when entering the CAZ and RAZ.1

The RAZ should also have visual and physical barriers (e.g., signs, doors, locks, etc.) to prevent easy entrance. It should be obvious to anyone entering the RAZ that these barriers surround areas where tightly controlled biosecurity protocols are in place and that they need to proceed with caution and look for instructions on how to enter appropriately.

“The farmer is the most common person to cross this barrier,” says Dr. Mike Petrik, so it is critical that the farmer follows – and enforces – these protocols.

Instructions can be posted in the anteroom with readily available booth and clothing, as well as hand washing stations to maintain proper biosecurity. This anteroom will also prevent wild and domestic animals from entering the barn.1

Keeping it consistent
Everyone who enters the barn (including family members, permanent or temporary employees, service personnel and visitors) must understand the importance of these barriers. Helping them understand why these are important, will help increase compliance and reduce the “overlooking” of procedures.1

Farmers should also strive to maintain a logbook inside the anteroom to monitor who is entering the barn, when they enter, and where they came from. This is crucial for tracking disease in case of an outbreak.1

“Many pathogens are brought into the barn on clothing, footwear, dirty equipment, and hands,” says Dr. Lloyd Weber. “Stations that contain barn-specific clothing where anyone entering the barn can change out of their street clothes into clothing that is only worn in the barn – to prevent the introduction of outside pathogens – should be set up and maintained.”

Lastly, separate barn-specific footwear and clothing (including a hat) and effective hand sanitation reduce the possibility of carrying bacteria that can be harmful to humans, such as Salmonella, into the farmhouse. Barn-specific clothing and equipment (e.g., shovels, tools, writing materials, buckets) will also prevent pathogens from spreading from your barn to neighbouring poultry farms2, which will thereby reduce the risk of disease transmission and outbreaks on other farms.3

If you keep your procedures and instructions quick and easy, employees and visitors will do it, says Sandy Brock, a broiler hatching egg producer.


  1. National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard, Canadian Food Inspection Agency Office of Animal Biosecurity,
  2. Ontario Veterinary Biosecurity Initiative Protocol On-Farm Veterinary Biosecurity, Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA),
  3. Practical Biosecurity Video, Poultry industry Council,

PIC’s Picks
By Tim Nelson, Executive Director
Planning and more planning - We’re at the end of two planning cycles at PIC. Both our business plan (three-year cycle) and the Industry Research and Education strategy (a five-year cycle) are due this year. The board of directors has reworked the PIC business plan and has concluded that a better understanding of “who does what” in Canadian poultry research will enable the PIC to work collaboratively with some “new” partners. Together, these groups can address problems and develop solutions that are then translated into education packages for possible direct application at the farm.

Our hope is that more farmers will want to hear about new technologies and attend industry events in order to do so.

When more farmers are taking advantage of new knowledge, and there is a robust system of creating knowledge to address specific issues, industry will be in a better position to respond to and prepare for emerging issues or crises.

This will also create a climate of confidence in the future of the Ontario poultry industry, among both producers and the industry at large and lead to a more positive employment environment for qualified personnel throughout our industry, including those in the R&D sector.

If an industry employs a range of highly qualified personnel across a variety of sectors and disciplines and has a broad stakeholder base, there is the potential to gain access to increased and more sustainable funding from a wider variety of sources than it could before. Industry investment will lead to government being prepared to invest in poultry, and as a result of the wider research discipline and stakeholder base, could increase overall investment by government in industry both directly and indirectly (via the university sector).

Consequently, the PIC has developed five major strategic objectives that it will pursue in the coming three years:

  • Increase our sustainable funding base by pursuing more diversification in our funding base
  • Ensure producers understand and appreciate the benefits of research
  • Be leaders in the development of a more efficient and robust Canadian poultry research and development system
  • Create avenues through which appropriately qualified personnel are recruited and retained by our industry
  • Continue to invest industry funds in research and education programs for the benefit of the poultry industry in Ontario.

Strategic Planning
Urgently seeking your opinions! - After our golf tournament in early September, the PIC will be seeking your input into what issues we should be concentrating our research and education investment efforts on through until 2017. This is not a task to take lightly. Research takes a long time to get started, to perform and to deliver results. It’s a long-term investment that needs careful planning.

Your input is essential because only you, the people working in the industry, can in any way predict what the future may hold and what we need to be planning and preparing to address through our research and education investment.

This is an initial notice for any of you who would like to submit your thoughts on what issues you believe deserve the investment of your valuable contribution. Please e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call at 519-837-0284 with your suggestions.

Published in Barn Management

Controlling flies in and around poultry barns can be a challenge, but if the flies aren’t controlled the farmer may face an even bigger concern – government officials buzzing around the barn.

Daniel Ward, an engineer with Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), told 120 farmers gathered for a producer update in London, Ont., that legislation protects farmers from nuisance complaints so long as they are following “normal farm practice.”

Flies are one of the seven nuisances listed under the Farming and Food Production Protection Act (FFPPA) and Nuisance Complaints. The others are: noise, odour, dust, light, vibration and smoke.

A normal farm practice is defined as that which is consistent with proper, acceptable customs and standards of similar operations or uses innovative technologies according to proper advanced farm management practices.

Complaints usually come from neighbours, and OMAFRA staff will investigate by talking to the farmer and the neighbours. The officials will try to mediate the dispute and 98 per cent of cases are resolved through mediation with agricultural engineers of environmental specialists.

If mediation fails the case can go to the Normal Farm Practices Review Board for a hearing. “Hearings are a last resort as they are time consuming and often result in a winner/loser, which can make for difficult neighbourhood relationships,” said Ward.

The board, which is a quasi-judicial body, will decide if the farm practice from which the dispute arose is normal, not normal and must stop, or can be normal if specific conditions are met.

But for a complaint to get that far is very rare.

Fly Problems
To deal with flies the key thing is to “know the enemy,” by understanding the fly life cycle and the ideal environment they seek, he said.

Flies seek moist, dark areas to lay their eggs and the eggs must remain moist to hatch. Although they will lay eggs in areas with moisture between 20 and 80 per cent, 60 to 80 percent moisture is their ideal.

Flies also like it warm and with ideal moisture and warm summer temperatures they can reach the pupae stage in five to seven days and mature is less than two weeks. In the most favourable conditions it can take “10 to 14 days egg to egg,” he said. In cooler temperatures the cycle can take up to 30 days.

Fly larvae require a nutrient-rich environment such as rotting vegetation, garbage, spilled feed or manure, which is why flies lay their eggs in those areas.

And a small fly problem can explode almost overnight if it is not dealt with immediately. A single adult fly will lay an average of 500 eggs in its short life and there can be as many as 10 generations of flies in a year. The arithmetic is frightening. In the unlikely event all survive generation to generation, one fly lays 500 eggs, so if they all survive those 500 flies would become 250,000 and the 250,000 would become 125 million.

“The population can just go crazy,” Ward said.

Even in the real world where most don’t survive it can easily become a big problem that must be controlled.

To deal with flies Ward said there are three basic approaches: barn and sitemanagement, biological controls and chemical control. These can be used alone or in combination, he said.

But no matter the approach the key is to break the fly cycle because “adult flies only represent a quarter of the problem.” “Even if you kill all the adults there are more flies coming,” he said.

Barn management sounds like the simplest solution but it takes a lot of time, he said. It involves: eliminating water leaks; increasing ventilation rates to ensure the manure and litter are too dry for eggs or larvae to survive; cleaning up feed spills and water leaks immediately; regularly mowing vegetation around the barns; cleaning up spilled manure; and keeping dead stock disposal sites operating properly and clean.

The bottom line is that barn management involves more work walking the barn and dealing with wet litter, extra bedding to dry up wet spots and a higher ventilation rate (extra electricity) to dry the barn.

Biological control is an option that uses the fly’s natural enemies to control the population. The most common biological controls are parasitic wasps and a fungus.

The advantage of biological controls is the flies are unlikely to develop resistance.

But “you need to know where and when to use these products to achieve the best fly control results.”

“You need to plan ahead, they’re not a quick kill,” he said. In effect, you need to put the biological controls in place when you think a problem is coming, not after it has arrived.

The wasps are not what most people think of as wasps. They are tiny – about the size of a fruit fly.

The wasps do their work before flies reach the adult stage. When the flies begin the process of changing over from larvae to a pupae the wasp stings and deposits her eggs inside fly pupae. These eggs begin to grow and feed on the developing fly, stopping it from hatching.

The wasps have produced good results, but he repeated that they work best if you anticipate the potential for a fly problem.

The Beauveria bassiana fungus has a spore that attaches itself to the adult fly or fly larvae. The spore has a feeding tube that goes into the fly or larvae. It does not, however, work on pupae because the outer shell is too hard.

Using either the wasps or the fungus involves paying for the products, labour to walk the barn and distribute the product (in the case of wasps) or multiple spray applications during growout for the fungus.

Wasps are also perishable with a limited shelf life. In effect, you should order as needed, he said.

“These are knockdown products,” he said. They will kill adult flies on contact. Most offer some residual effect and will be viable for up to 30 days. In effect the chemical will land on a surface and if the fly lands on that surface it will pick up the chemical and die.

But none of the products can be used in barns as an aerosol when birds are present. “Their use is limited to fogging the barn before cleanout to gain control of a bad situation or surface application in a barn after cleanout and disinfection and before introduction of the birds,” he said.

If you plan to use a chemical control, read the label, because you need to use the correct rate. You should also rotate between active ingredients. Both of these actions are necessary to reduce the danger of flies developing resistance to the products.

Another option is a combination of bait stations and traps. These tend to be low cost, but involve lots of labour to replenish baits or traps, he said.

Published in Barn Management

Unfortunately for producers, poultry barns provide the perfect environment to allow insect and rodent pests to thrive.  Inside the barn, it’s like summer all year round, and food sources and hiding places are plentiful. 

Insect and rodent pests are of obvious economic concern because not only can they cause structural damage to the barn, they harbour a multitude of bacteria, parasite and viral species that significantly affect poultry health and productive performance.  These include Salmonella sp., Marek’s disease, Newcastle Disease virus, avian influenza, Infectious Bursal Disease and Eimeria sp. and E.coli sp., just to name a few.

Although the barn environment remains relatively constant, the change in the outside temperature from season to season has an effect on the life cycle and behaviour of insect pests.  This can be very advantageous and provide producers with the opportunity for a strategic reduction of pest populations in the cooler months so that the populations are much easier to control in the more troublesome spring and summer months. 

Rodents may be small, but they can cause significant problems in a poultry barn.  Not only are they carriers of disease, they can cause significant structural damage by gnawing on live wires and insulation, which greatly decreases R-values, says Dave Van Walleghem, a biosecurity specialist with Vetoquinol.

Rodents are in constant search of food, so it’s best to provide control in the form of a rodenticide.  Rodenticides are more advanced than ever before, and are designed with the understanding of what rodents like and how the chemicals contained with them work in a rodent’s body, says Van Walleghem.  However, the chemicals can be damaging to birds as well (and also require a withdrawal period if ingested) so rodenticides are best provided to birds in a bait station. 

Location of the bait stations is key – they need to be placed where the rodents are moving in the barn. Rodents have poor eyesight and feel safest if they can be close to or touching a solid surface, such as a wall, says Van Walleghem.  They do have a very keen sense of smell however and to aid them and others in their travels, they urinate anywhere from 300 to 3000 microdroplets a night, he says. This is a tool that can be used – avoid washing bait stations so that they smell inviting to others.  If an entry point into the barn is found, Van Walleghem says it’s a good idea to spray the hole and the path to the hole with a solution of 10 per cent bleach before plugging it to confuse and scare rodents away.

The fall is a very important time to bait outside the barn as much as possible, says Van Walleghem.  At this time of the year rodents are looking to move indoors, so this will prevent as many as possible from finding their way in. Once winter does come, rodents that didn’t make their way into the barn are hibernating, but this does not mean that the  rodent control program within the barn should be abandoned. Rather, the fall is a key time to increase the intensity of the program, and then it should be maintained throughout the winter to decrease populations before spring, he says. “You need to get the population under control before springtime,” he says.  “Think of it as an investment in the spring; if you take care of your problem in the winter, you won’t have such a big fight with rodents inside and outside come the spring.”

The rodents that were in the barn already or made their way into the barn before winter are essentially “trapped,” as they can’t go outside, so the only source of food they have is what they can find in the barn. It’s also important to remember that populations can still exist even if you don’t see much activity because the environment of the barn is perfect for rodents, he says. “Mice don’t take a vacation.”

An area that is important to have bait stations as well is the attics, says Van Walleghem. Mice are great climbers and don’t need a water source because they can get enough water from food.

Cooler fall and winter temperatures may extend the life-cycle of insect pests and seemingly decrease their populations, it is not the time to reduce control methods, according to both Van Walleghem and James Skinner of Terregena Inc. On the contrary, it’s an optimal time to maintain control methods, particularly with respect to darkling beetles because it will help reduce the “explosion” that can occur in the spring.

“Why add to the problem in future if you can catch them in the meantime,” says Van Walleghem. “Fall and winter is not the time to stop treating.”

Beetle control needs to be a 12-month program, says Skinner. There is a misconception that insects die in the winter, he says.  Their growth may slow, but it doesn’t stop. 

The biggest mistake that producers make is reducing, or eliminating, beetle control in the fall and winter months.  “It’s not as if they just go away,” he says.  They are still growing in the walls, cracks and crevices and when the brooders are turned on for a new flock and the temperature in the barn increases, “what beetles were there come out again.”

Both Skinner and Van Walleghem advise using a beetle control treatment between each flock year-round. 

When applying a surface insecticide, “remember to apply up the walls as well as on the floor so that when the beetles are climbing to get into the walls to pupate, they absorb the poison.”

A biological control method can be applied both before flock placement and during growout, which can be beneficial for treating late-emerging larvae, further breaking the reproductive cycle, says Skinner.

The Resistance Question
James Arends, an entomologist with JABB of the Carolinas, Inc. has been studying this pest for 30 years. His research has shown that darkling beetles “accumulate” viruses and are an important vector for reintroducing disease from flock to flock. However, the beetle we are dealing with today (as well as other insects, particularly those affecting crops) is not the same beetle of the past, he says.

Arends says what we normally expect to see in an insect species is a set number of days from the time an egg is laid to larvae, pupation and adult emergence. On a graph, this appears as a steep bell curve, where the majority of beetles will complete the life cycle in the same amount of time.

Insecticide resistance has been observed around the world, but it does not explain the poor performance (i.e., not achieving the expected reduction in populations) that can sometimes occur, he says. He and other entomologists have discovered is that the beetles that didn’t “fit” into the bell curve explained above, which don’t make up a significant portion of a typical population, are now increasing in numbers. The reason for this can be explained in part by genetic modification, but Arends says it’s also due to “adaptive behaviour” modification.  Instead of having eggs that only take one week to hatch, he’s now seeing eggs hatching as late as six weeks after being laid. Emergence patterns have also lengthened, and this is happening in both cool and warm weather.

The biggest cause of this modification is that we are treating based on our schedule, and not on the bugs schedule, he says.  Ideally, treatment should occur when the beetles emerge, even if birds are in the barn.

To help mitigate resistance, if using insecticidal products, a rotation should be employed and it’s crucial to follow the label directions carefully for mixtures and application rates, says Van Walleghem. 

Although it may take several flocks to achieve, the long-term goal is to reduce beetle populations and keep them as low as possible, he says. 

Before implementing any type of pest control program, seek professional help from a qualified pest control company and follow product directions. It’s also important to confer with your processor and marketing board to ensure that you are meeting any guidelines set forth with respect to pest control and its relationship with biosecurity, disease and food safety protocols.

Published in Breeders

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