Home / Darkling Beetles (Tenebrionidae) / Litter Beetle (Alphitobius diaperinus)

Litter Beetle (Alphitobius diaperinus)

The litter beetle is a member of the family of darkling beetles, having a cosmopolitan distribution. They are infamous as a pest to stored food grains like flour, barley, wheat, soybean, cowpeas, peanut, and rice. At present, these beetles have emerged as a significant threat to poultry farms, causing severe damage to the farms and even harming the birds’ health if the latter ingests them.

Litter Beetle

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Tenebrionidae
  • Genus: Alphitobius
  • Scientific name: Alphitobius diaperinus

Physical Description and Identification

Adult 

Size: 6mm

Color:  They have a shiny black or brown body and reddish-brown elytra. The color however, varies from one individual to the other, also changing with age.

Other Characteristic Features:  It has an oval-shaped body, marked with a puncture-like pattern. The antennae are pale near the tips, covered with yellow hairs, while the elytra have shallow longitudinal grooves.

Alphitobius diaperinus

Larva

They are white on hatching but become darker yellow-brown on maturing. These grubs, closely resembling larvae of other mealworms, reach almost 11 mm, passing through 6-11 instars before advancing to the pupal phase.  They have a tapering and segmented body alongside three pairs of legs.

Litter Beetle Larva

Pupa

After maturing, they begin to pupate in secluded spots.

Litter Beetle Pupa

Egg

The eggs are narrow, with the color varying from whitish to tan, growing to a length of about 1.5mm. Females lay 200 – 400 eggs on average.

Quick Facts

Other namesLesser mealworm
Lifespan1 year
DistributionNative: Sub- Saharan Africa
Invasive: Europe and North America
HabitatWarm, humid environments
Seasons activeNot recorded
PredatorsPoultry
Diet of adultsBat guano, litter, bird droppings, mold, feathers, eggs, and carrion

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

The larvae can cause damage to poultry houses by chewing through the wood and polystyrene insulation, especially while searching for pupation sites. When these beetles enter into the bird’s habitat, they even end up consuming their feed and irritate them by biting. If the adult beetles are consumed by poultry, they can cause digestive issues like gut lesions, and intestinal obstruction in the latter.

Did You Know

  • This beetle is a vector of over 30 bird diseases, including rotavirus, turkey coronavirus, avian influenza, and Newcastle disease.
  • Like other darkling beetles, the larvae of this beetle also serve as animal feed, mainly for captive reptiles. They are either sold dried or made into pasta, snack bars, or burger patties. One could get them under the names of buffalo worm or even lesser mealworm.
Lesser Mealworm

Image Source: bugguide.net, mwiah.com, biolib.cz, researchgate.net, grainscanada.gc.ca,

The litter beetle is a member of the family of darkling beetles, having a cosmopolitan distribution. They are infamous as a pest to stored food grains like flour, barley, wheat, soybean, cowpeas, peanut, and rice. At present, these beetles have emerged as a significant threat to poultry farms, causing severe damage to the farms and even harming the birds’ health if the latter ingests them.

Litter Beetle

Physical Description and Identification

Adult 

Size: 6mm

Color:  They have a shiny black or brown body and reddish-brown elytra. The color however, varies from one individual to the other, also changing with age.

Other Characteristic Features:  It has an oval-shaped body, marked with a puncture-like pattern. The antennae are pale near the tips, covered with yellow hairs, while the elytra have shallow longitudinal grooves.

Alphitobius diaperinus

Larva

They are white on hatching but become darker yellow-brown on maturing. These grubs, closely resembling larvae of other mealworms, reach almost 11 mm, passing through 6-11 instars before advancing to the pupal phase.  They have a tapering and segmented body alongside three pairs of legs.

Litter Beetle Larva

Pupa

After maturing, they begin to pupate in secluded spots.

Litter Beetle Pupa

Egg

The eggs are narrow, with the color varying from whitish to tan, growing to a length of about 1.5mm. Females lay 200 – 400 eggs on average.

Quick Facts

Other namesLesser mealworm
Lifespan1 year
DistributionNative: Sub- Saharan Africa
Invasive: Europe and North America
HabitatWarm, humid environments
Seasons activeNot recorded
PredatorsPoultry
Diet of adultsBat guano, litter, bird droppings, mold, feathers, eggs, and carrion

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

The larvae can cause damage to poultry houses by chewing through the wood and polystyrene insulation, especially while searching for pupation sites. When these beetles enter into the bird’s habitat, they even end up consuming their feed and irritate them by biting. If the adult beetles are consumed by poultry, they can cause digestive issues like gut lesions, and intestinal obstruction in the latter.

Did You Know

  • This beetle is a vector of over 30 bird diseases, including rotavirus, turkey coronavirus, avian influenza, and Newcastle disease.
  • Like other darkling beetles, the larvae of this beetle also serve as animal feed, mainly for captive reptiles. They are either sold dried or made into pasta, snack bars, or burger patties. One could get them under the names of buffalo worm or even lesser mealworm.
Lesser Mealworm

Image Source: bugguide.net, mwiah.com, biolib.cz, researchgate.net, grainscanada.gc.ca,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.