Grain mites are problematic for a wide variety of grain products including people food such as wheat germ, flour and other finely ground grains. They may also infest products such as powdered milk and other dry, processed, finely ground foodstuffs. They are also a big problem in horse feed. In this article, we will describe grain mites and provide good advice to help you prevent having them infest your horse feed. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
What Do Grain Mites Look Like?
The mites are incredibly tiny. You cannot see them with the naked eye. You will only know they are there by the signs they leave.
This video provides a microscopic view of grain mites with musical accompaniment!
Grain mites have a very quick lifecycle. In fact, it only takes a couple of weeks for them to go from egg to adult at typical room temperature.
Because they reproduce quickly, they also overpopulate their food sources quickly and may travel in search of more food.
When this happens, you may notice a fine layer of white dust in the areas surrounding the infested foodstuffs. When you see this mite dust, you know that you have a problem.
In addition to mite dust, in a feed room you may notice a slightly sweet/sugary or honey-like smell.
This can be an indication of a mite problem. Fine dust may not only be on surfaces, but it may also be mixed in with your feed.
How Can You Deal With Grain Mites?
Because they do invade foodstuffs, you cannot use a chemical to get rid of them. Instead, you must focus on prevention to keep them out of your horse grain.
If you find that you do have a grain mite infestation, you must remove everything from the feed room, wipe down all surfaces with hot soapy water and then clean out all of your grain containers and dispose of all of your grain.
While you may think that you should only dispose of grain that is obviously affected, the fact is it’s very hard to tell. If you want to deal with the problem completely you need to start over fresh.
Grain Mites Can Hide In Tiny Places!
When you’re cleaning out your feed room, be sure to pay close attention to any crevices and cracks in the walls, floors and shelving.
A thorough cleaning is absolutely essential. In fact, you may even wish to give the interior of the feed room a good coat of paint as an extra precaution.
Follow These Tips To Keep Grain Mites Out Of Your Feed Room
1. Moving forward, you must strive to be sure that your feed room has a consistent temperature, a low humidity level and good ventilation. All of these conditions will help discourage grain mites.
2. Keep all of your feed in very tightly sealed containers (e.g. galvanized metal garbage cans with tightly fitting lids).
3. Be sure that your feed is kept out of direct sunlight as super-heating grain encourages grain mite infestation and reproduction.
4. Be careful not to over purchase. For example, while you may be used to buying large amounts of horse feed in the wintertime, remember that you’ll typically want to reduce your feeding in the summertime when horses usually have more access to grazing. For this reason, you will not go through feed as quickly, so don’t buy more feed than you can use in a reasonable amount of time. Summer weather conditions more conducive to grain mite infestation.
5. Be sure that your feed supplier keeps his or her establishment clean and rotates stock regularly.
6. When you purchase feed, inspect the exterior of the bags and the shelving and surfaces surrounding the bags that you purchase in the feed store. If you see mite dust on the surfaces, naturally you should not purchase that feed.
7. Be sure to double check the expiration date of feed before you purchase it. If you have your feed delivered, check the date on the bags before accepting shipment.
8. Always keep your feed room clean. Anytime you spill feed, sweep it up immediately and dispose of it properly.
9. Always keep your feed room dry. Don’t allow water to stand, and if there any leaks in the roof, fix them right away.
10. Don’t pour new feed on top of old feed. Instead, use up all of your old feed before you open a new bag. This is true of both feed and hay. Don’t stack new hay on top of old hay. Rotate the older hay to the front and use it up before you start newer hay.
11. Be aware of when the grains that you typically buy are harvested. For example, if you typically buy barley and oats, remember that they are usually harvested in August. This means that when you purchase them in June, they’ve been sitting around for nearly a year. Be extra vigilant about signs of grain mites in these aged bags of feed.
12. Avoid sharing your feed containers with others. Even if you keep your horse at a stable where feed is stored and shared communally, you may wish to be a bit standoffish and keep your own feed separate. For example, you may keep your grain bins in your car or in a separate area to avoid contamination.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cleaning the entire area around the infestation, as well as any infested containers is the best way to eradicate the pests. Use a cloth soaked in hot, soapy water. Rinse it frequently. Change the water frequently as you work. Clean regularly in the future to prevent a return of the pests.
Unfortunately, there are no chemicals that are safely effective against these pests. It is not safe to use pesticides in your feed storage area. Prevention in the form of secure grain storage and scrupulous cleaning is most recommended by experts.
Use a shop vac with powerful suction to pull the pests out of their hiding places. Use of a crevice tool is especially helpful. Be sure to dispose of the contents of your vacuum quickly and safely. If you can, use a bag in your shop vac. Remove it and burn it when you are done. Wipe the vacuum, inside and out, with a cloth soaked in hot, soapy water. If it is a wet/dry vac, use the shop vac to vacuum up some hot, soapy water to clean the inside of the hose and attachments.
Grain mites cannot live in a dry setting. Keep the relative humidity in your feed room below 55%. Don’t overbuy feed. Buy at a rate that will allow you to use it up before it has a chance to get stale or moldy. Be sure to keep all feed securely stored in airtight containers.
Keeping your feed room cool will definitely slow grain mites down, and it may even kill them dead. They cannot survive at temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. At temperatures lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, they go into dormancy. Their rates of reproduction are hampered at temperatures lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Vigilance and best practices can keep your feed room grain mite free. The University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Department of Entomology: Grain Mites offers this interesting PDF document on grain mite control.