Drop in egg production, plucked and injured birds or reduced reproductive capacity are some of the possible consequences of bed bug infestations (Cimex lectularius) in poultry farms. This is a complex pest control problem, given the characteristics of this type of installation and the limitations in the use of insecticides.
Bedbugs, in the spotlight of the pest control sector due to their reappearance in environments inhabited by humans, such as hotels, schools or homes, can also represent a serious problem in environments inhabited by animals, such as poultry farms.
These insects, which feed exclusively on blood, have humans as their main host, but they can also feed on chickens, other birds and mammals, if they have the opportunity.
An article published by Mississippi State University (USA) exposes the consequences of bed bug infestations (Cimex lectularius) in laying and broiler farms, and the serious difficulties to carry out effective treatments in this type of environment.
Bedbugs are extremely efficient at passive dispersal; they hide in suitcases, clothes, furniture, etc. and are transported to new environments, where they reproduce. They can easily reach a farm, in the form of eggs, nymphs or adults, introduced into cages, clothing, slats or other materials from other infested facilities.
Likewise, insects can also get onto chickens or replacement chickens when a new batch is placed on the farm.
The population can double every 16 days.
The lifecycle of Cimex lectularius consists of eggs, five instars of nymphs and adults. Each nymph stage needs a blood meal to develop into the next, and how long each stage lasts depends on temperature and blood availability.
On a poultry farm, since the animals have a readily available blood supply, temperature is often the determining factor. At about 27°C the interval between nymphal stages is about 4 days. Therefore, the complete cycle from egg to adult takes about a month. Given the number of eggs a female can produce under favorable conditions, the bed bug population can double every 16 days.
Both nymphs and adults can survive several months without a blood meal, which makes it very easy for a bed bug infestation to survive the dormancy period between breeding flocks and once a new flock is put in place to start feeding on the new group of animals.
Lots of hiding places and few resources
The difficulty of treating bed bug infestations is marked by the high resistance of these insects to insecticides and the limited number of products that can be used when birds are present.
Another fundamental aspect that makes treatment difficult is the bedbugs’ habit of hiding in crevices and hidden places, which they can easily find on farms, whether in nests, wooden slats, structures or various crevices.
It is usually easier to control the infestation after the birds leave the house and the premises can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. After cleaning and disinfection, an insecticide with good residual activity can be applied to crevices, nests, holes, and other places where bedbugs roost. You can also use diatomaceous earth or apply heat treatments.
Severe bed bug infestations on farms can cause excessive feather loss in birds, irritation of the vents, chest and leg lesions and, in extreme cases, anemia. Due to animal stress, production can suffer in the form of decreased egg laying, decreased fertility and/or reduced hatchability of eggs.
After treatment, vigilance is essential as there are many hiding places for bed bugs and complete eradication is difficult.