Preventing Pests In Insect Farms

It may be no great surprise that preventing pests is far more efficient than managing pests. We have all heard the old adage “A stitch in time saves nine” right!.  Unfortunately most people learn this the hard way, as when they don’t have pests they become complacent, the prevention drops off, then you get pests…then you realize that prevention is really important. Take it from me, after you have spent 2 or 3 weeks (if your lucky) cleaning hundreds of trays and containers constantly…all the meanwhile hoping desperately it works, then you will understand the importance of prevention.  There is a saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. Below are ideas we have found useful to prevent pests.

 

Reducing Pest Entry

In the below table we identify common entry points and ways to reduce or eliminate pest entry.

Common Entry points for Pests

Managing Options

Photos

Egg Cartons for breeding or harvesting insects . Many restaurants/cafaes leave egg cartons exposed prior to pick up and collect all kinds of pests ((mites, spiders, beetles, moths, cockroaches).

Large breathable plastic bags similar to the type used for carrying meal and pellets can be purchased from large hardware and stock supplies stores with various sizes available. Place egg cartons in them once they arrive back to the farm. Purchase one for the restaurants/cafaes that supply the egg cartons so they prevent entry of pests whilst on premises. Use twist ties to secure the opening.

Larger commercial facilities use microwaves to “Zap” residual pests. A large standard kitchen microwave works well for small to medium facilities.

photo of two piles of egg cartons stored in large white bags. Bags prevent pests infesting egg cartons for insect farms.

On insects you purchase for breeding stock and substrates.

Check all new incoming stock you purchase for breeding stock or for supply genetic diversity. Inspect and look very closely for mites and quarantine them for a week or more. Check the substrate they come in as this can harbor a variety of pests from the breeding premises. If possible throw away the substrate the insects come in and replace with fresh substrate.

Photo of pest species of dark brown insect with furry border. Pests came in on mealworm breeding stock.

Pest insect species that hitch hiked a ride with a order of mealworm breeding stock.

Pests climb onto Containers and trays left outside during storage or maintenance (mites, spiders, cockroaches, moths).

Avoid placing cleaned containers directly on the ground. Where possible place them on raised structures to get them off the ground (eg. tables, chairs, or security screens raised above ground horizontally).

If this is not possible then wash or spray any hard surfaces prior to placing containers on them. Avoid placing cleaned containers/trays flat on the ground. Where possible stack them on an angle to minimize container contact with the ground.

Photo of black cricket containers drying against the outside of a caravan insect farm.

Many vegetables used as wet foods can have pests on the outside or inside (vinegar flies, mites, mold).

Vegetables can be frozen to kill pests and eggs however it does make them soggy and reduces their quality.  Reduce the risk by just placing the amount of wet food that they will consume in a day so that no or little residue remains to pass on pests. Remove any remaining waste food regularly.

Some insects such as crickets and cockroaches can rely on water dispensers for their entire water needs removing the need for fresh food. Some vegetables such as oranges are less prone to insect pests (waxy, thick skin) and have fewer issues for pests, humidity and mold than using some vegetables.

Many dry pellets and foods have pests in on the outside of bags of grain, pellets or meal (mites, mold, beetles).

Inspect all bags before bringing them back to the farm. In severe infestations pests such as moths, spiders and beetles are visibly present at the top of large bags of meal or pellets both on the outside (usually at the pull string join at the top) or you can see them fluttering/walking around in the bag.

Where possible find an alternative supplier that does not have infected food supplies as this is usually an indication of stock sitting around for long periods or poor hygiene.

Photo of moth egg debris coming from a large white bag of mealworm bran. Egg debris is coming out of the bag seal at the top.

Note the moth egg debris coming out of the top of bran bags.

Fiberglass screens on windows or insect ventilation containers. They allow the entry of vinegar flies and baby spiders and cockroaches.

If vinegar flies are an issue you can replace the normal fly screen with a finer “midgee” or “micro fly” screen. Note that this screen will prevent vinegar flies however it will reduce air flow and possibly increase humidity which could cause other issues such as mites.

For closed farms (indoors with closed doors and windows) any hole in floor, walls and ceiling (All pests listed above).

Seal all gaps with gap sealer or physical barriers such as wood or paneling. Doors can be fitted with cockroach flaps which prevent unwanted pests under doors. they also have the benefit of reducing heat loss.

During maintenance activities, doorways are usually left open for short periods to move containers and components for cleaning. Flying pests such as moths and flies are opportunistic and will make their way into the farm if your not careful. Freezer Clear PVC Strip Doors can be installed easily to reduce the ingress of flying pests.

Photo of mesh being used to block gaps between the roof and walls of a insect farm. The metal mesh has been cut to size and prevents large pests such as rats, mice and geckoes.

Metal mesh added over gaps between roof corrugation and walls to prevent entry of rats, mice, geckos.

For open shed farms pests can enter via gaps along doors, and joins between roof and walls. Prevent entry by installing physical barriers on containers/trays.

Where possible block gaps or put vermin control barriers. Refer to above for ways to add cockroach flaps on doors.

For smaller pests such as vinegar flies, ants, geckos you can install lids on all containers/trays with mesh. Where vinegar flies are an issue refer to “building a cricket container section” on ways to build a double mesh system to prevent entry of vinegar flies. (Add link)

For open shed farms pests can enter via gaps along doors, and joins between roof and walls. Prevent entry by installing physical barriers on racks or shelving.

Where possible block gaps or put vermin control barriers. Refer to above for ways to add cockroach flaps on doors.

For smaller pests such as vinegar flies, ants, geckos you can install mesh on the outside of your racks or shelving. Refer to “building a wood rack system” for details on installing mesh. (Add link)

Photo of a commercial mealworm rack system that has black shade cloth on the frame to exclude moths. Rack system is made from black wood framing and has large blue trays.

Dirt on shoes can move unwanted pests from outside areas to inside areas (mites, mold, other)

Vacuum regularly the farm to remove all dust and pests which commonly inhabit the floor. For larger facilities have all activities contained indoors (no coming in and out for cleaning) and sterilize shoes before entering using liquid dips.

  • Leaving doors open for long periods of time in your insect farm (all pests, including wasps and geckoes and ants).

During maintenance activities, doorways are usually left open for short periods to move containers and components for cleaning. Flying pests such as moths and flies are opportunistic and will make their way into the farm if your not careful. Freezer Clear PVC Strip Doors can be installed easily to reduce the ingress of flying pests.