Factors that influence the localized abundance and distribution of lesser mealworm, Alphitobius diaperinus (Panzer), in litter of two compacted earth-floor broiler houses in subtropical Australia were studied using various experimental manipulations. Numbers of lesser mealworms substantially increased inside caged areas and under uncaged empty feed pans placed in open areas of the houses. These populations were found to be localized and independent of chicken-feed, manure, and high beetle populations that normally occur under existing feed pans. Substantial horizontal movement of larvae to under feed pans was recorded. Placing metal barriers around these pans significantly restricted this movement. In almost all treatments, lesser mealworms typically peaked in numbers during the middle of the flock time. This temporal pattern of abundance also was observed under pans within barriers, where relatively low insect numbers occurred, but it was not observed in uncaged open areas (where chickens had complete access). It is likely that larvae do not establish in open areas, but fluctuate in numbers as they either move to refuges away from chickens or suffer high rates of mortality. In these refuges, larvae peak in numbers and then leave the litter environment to pupate in the earth floor before the end of the flock time. This behavior might be exploited for management of lesser mealworm by targeting applications of control agents.
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Vol. 101 • No. 1