Food Safety News
Attention! How Soldier Beetles Drew the Attention of An FDA Inspector
By Ricardo John, A.C.E.
RK Environmental Services recently received an emergency call from a client to address new insect activity. The client simply described the pest as “having a red head.” The facility is U.S.D.A. inspected and the insects were observed by the Food Safety Inspection Service inspector during a routine visit.
While sitting in the employee break area, the inspector observed one of the insects on the leg of his pants. The pest sighting occurred outside of the production zone but was still considered serious and needed to be quickly addressed.
The soldier beetle (Cantharidae) is a relatively soft-bodied, straight-sided beetle. The pest is found in most parts of the world. Soldier beetles are a common outdoor insect that can be abundant accidental invaders as either larvae or adults.
Soldier beetles are nicknamed “leather wings” because of their soft, cloth-like wing covers, which when brightly colored are reminiscent of uniforms. The beetles are elongate, soft-bodied and about 1/2-inch long. Colors vary from yellow to red with brown or black wings or trim. Soldier beetles resemble lightning bugs but do not have light-producing organs.
An RK service specialist performed an initial inspection the same day, collected two dead samples in the break area by the radiator and identified the insects as soldier beetles. The client point of contact noted all insect sightings had occurred in the employee break room and adjacent areas.
The detailed inspection of the interior and exterior revealed the following:
- A business directly across the street had significant trees on their property and fresh mulch had been recently installed.
- The client’s facility had three potential points for insect entry along the exterior: 1.) The break room radiator vent to break room was not screened; 2.) Crevices in the exterior wall and 3.) The unscreened vent on the rooftop.
- Based on inspection findings, it was believed the soldier beetles originated from the neighboring business’ landscaping/mulch and had migrated across the street and entered through the openings listed previously.
- RK specialists performed treatments of exterior and interior areas using an appropriately labeled insecticide. The client was also instructed to have the break room radiator screened and the crevices screened or otherwise sealed to prevent further insect entry.
These steps were successful in eliminating the soldier beetles from the facility.
Take Away Tips:
- Proper identification of the target pest is crucial to understand the biology and ensure proper course of treatment.
- The client interview is important as they can have more relevant details than they realize. A member of the Food safety team later shared the facility had this same pest issue at the same time in prior years.
- A timely response is critical – The facility manager was under pressure regarding this pest activity as the USDA inspector had threatened to shut the plant down if further activity was observed.
- Soldier beetles are a common outdoor insect that can be abundant accidental invaders as either larvae or adults.
Ricardo John, A.C.E. is regional operations manager for RK Environmental Services