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Grain mites are not really insects, but closely related to the in insects. They are microscopic (1/50”), pale grayish white, smooth, wingless, and soft bodied. Populations can increase to such large numbers that grain appears to be covered with a moving layer of dust. Adults have 8 legs, while larvae only have 6 legs. Each leg has one claw on the end along with a sucker.
Mites will attack not only grain but cheese, flour, pet food, oilseeds, medicinal herbs, hay, deep litter of poultry houses, abandoned beehives and just about any food used by man. Grain mites can feed on fungi so food that is going out on condition is often infested. In grain, mites eat the germ, although the endosperm may be eaten if it is moldy.
Grain Mites Life Cycle: Populations of grain mites are very sensitive to moisture conditions. If the grain moisture drops to below 13.4%, all individuals will die. They thrive at 24% m.c. Grain in the range of 15 to 18% m.c. provides conditions suitable for serious infestations. Environmental conditions are perfect for extreme population growth at temperatures between 20 and 25˚C (68 to 77˚F).
Development time for one generation ranges from 78 days at 4˚C (39˚F) to 9.2 days at 28˚C (82˚F) at 80% Rh. Longevity depends upon temperature, Rh, food, and reproductive activity. Under ideal conditions, females live 42-51 days (average) (maximum 63 days).
Male survivorship is generally a few days less. Virgin females live the longest (83 days up to 103 days) while virgin males live about 50 days. Grain mites are sensitive to antibiotics and antimicrobial agents. Low dosages inhibit their development, higher doses increase mortality and decrease reproduction.
Grain mites infesting bread
Grain Mites Infestation : Mites thrive at 14% moisture content (MC) and can become serious problems when grain moistures are in the range of 15-18%. This in turn can lead to insect and mold problems. Mites, mold, and fungus feeding insects (hairy fungus beetle and foreign grain beetle) often can be found together. The grain mite can feed on fungi associated with stored grain, Aspergillus flavus being a favorite.
The most common mite is the grain mite Acarus siro. It feeds on the germ of damaged grains and, if grain is moldy, will attack the endosperm. It cannot penetrate undamaged grains. Thus, cleaning of grain and removing fines prior to storage is very important for mite management.
Mite populations can explode when they feed on wheat germ, yeast, cheese, powdered milk, flour, or grain. In finely ground commodities such as flour and powdered milk, infestations are confined to the surface layer. Whole or cracked grains and nuts may be infested throughout.
Prevention: Prevention of infestation is the key and can be achieved by drying and maintaining commodities at 13% MC or below. In cereal/feed production where the final moisture content is high, ingredients should be critically examined before mixing air-dried diets and, when possible, dried to remove excess moisture. Contamination during storage must be avoided (cleansing and disinfection of stores, prevention of breaking packaging seals, etc.). Sanitation is the key to prevention. Control of Moderate Infestations.
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