Darkling Beetles

Small and Backyard Flocks May 05, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

The darkling beetle (Alphitobius diaperinus) is a common pest in poultry operations. It is known to eat feed, disturb chickens, cause damage to poultry house structure, and harbor diseases.


Development from egg to larva (known as the lesser mealworm) to beetle takes about 42 to 97 days, depending on the temperature of the environment in which the insect is developing. Darkling beetles are nocturnal and, if necessary, can fly more than a mile in one day. Also, they are attracted to ammonia.

Threats to Poultry Operations

Darkling beetles are a major concern for commercial poultry producers and pose small risks to small flock owners. As mentioned, they eat feed, pester the birds, and damage housing by burrowing into wood and insulation. Though annoying, these activities are not the primary threats posed by darkling beetles. The major concern is that the beetles and their larvae are potential sources of disease when eaten, and poultry, most notably chickens, will eat them. Some diseases associated with darkling beetles include Marek's disease, avian influenza, fowl pox, coccidiosis, botulism, Newcastle disease, infectious bursal disease, infectious laryngotracheitis, and infections from the bacteria Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella.


The best methods for controlling darkling beetles are maintaining a clean poultry house and treating the poultry house with an approved insecticide if the beetles become a problem.

For More Information

Understanding and Controlling Litter Beetles. Auburn University.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.