Red-legged Ham Beetle

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Identification

  • Colour Metallic Green
  • Size (Adult) 3.5mm-7mm long. (Larva) 10mm long. (Eggs) 1mm.
  • Description The Red-legged Ham Beetle has a metallic blue/green body. The legs and base of the antennae are reddish in colour. It has a prominent 4-segmented clubbed antenna. It can crawl very quickly and takes to the air easily but is quite slow while in flight.
Close up image of a Red legged ham beetle

Identifying Red-legged Ham Beetles

Unlike most pests that feed on dried stored foods the Red-legged ham beetle is somewhat brightly coloured. A shiny metallic insect with reddish or amber-coloured legs and is thought by some to be quite visually attractive as far as a pest goes. Their slightly elongated body features 6 legs that can propel it across surfaces with surprising speed. The antenna is clubbed, being larger at the ends than where they meet the body. The larvae have a characteristic lavender-purplish colour with both ends reddish brown. Both the larvae and adults have mouthparts suited to chewing through meats and dried foods. The adult will scavenge from the surface of their chosen food while the larvae tend to bore through food sources while feeding.

Signs Of An Infestation

The Red-legged ham Beetle is a major pest in food processing and storage facilities, that process and store animal protein based materials such as cured meats, cheese, pet foods and bone meals. The Red-legged ham beetle has also been found to feed on plant-based products such as cocoa beans, spices, garlic, dried figs, and coconut (copra) as well as museum specimens. A white chalky web-like substance will be left behind anywhere that Red-legged ham beetles are active and laying eggs.

How to Prevent a Red-Legged Ham Beetle Infestation

Their name is derived from a tendency to be drawn to cured meats such as ham or bacon. Red-legged ham beetles are attracted by odours and will seek out foods that consist of or contain meat or animal protein (such as such as cheese, dry milk (powder milk), hides or skin). The primary risk of a Red-legged ham beetle infestation is food contamination, infested food is unpalatable. The best course of action in preventing an infestation of The Red-legged ham beetle is proper sanitation and storage practices. Cleaning tools and surfaces associated with food processing and storing or wrapping food products will help to prevent these pests from seeking out any food items in your home or business.

Prevention

Since the Red-legged ham beetle often infests areas of food production it takes considerable care to get rid of an infestation. Good sanitation, exclusion and good storage practices are the best strategies in preventing infestations. Clean up spills and readily assessable food sources to deprive them of egg laying medium. Seal cracks and services that would otherwise provide harbourage spots for adults.  Monitoring and frequent inspections are key to detecting early infestations where they can be controlled promptly.  Because of the nature of products often infested and their general resilience, it advisable to contact a pest control professional for control. The best course of action when encountering an infestation is to contact your local Orkin Pro as they will have the training and experience to resolve the infestation effectively.

Habitat, Diet, and Life Cycle

Habitat

The Red-legged ham beetle is native to Africa but is an invasive species that has spread worldwide. Infestations have been identified in Brazil and Rio De Janeiro, as well as throughout Europe and North America. They may have travelled throughout the world in shipping containers of raw goods such as coconut, spices, figs, and meat proteins.

Diet

While the Red-legged ham beetle received its name due to a tendency to be found in proximity to ham or bacon it is originally tropical in nature and is also fond of coconut meat or “copra”. A frequent pest in the pet food industry, the Red-legged ham beetle can very quickly spread through pet food processing plants and retail outlets. As they are drawn to drying meats the Red-legged ham beetle is sometimes used by museums and in the taxidermy industry to clean off the flesh and meat of animal carcass in preparation for display. As a predatory insect the Red-legged ham Beetle will also cannibalize other insects as well as feed upon the eggs, pupae, and larvae of other insects or other Red-legged ham Beetles.

Life Cycle/Reproduction

A female Red-legged ham beetle will lay anywhere from 100 to 2000 eggs that hatch between 4 and 8 days depending upon temperature, humidity, and the quality of food consumed prior to laying. Eggs will be concealed in narrow cracks to prevent their discovery by other Red-legged ham beetles. Once hatched, the tiny larvae burrow into the food material to feed and grow. They molt 2 to 3 times before pupating.

The process of larvae reaching the pupae takes from 35 to 130 days with the adults emerging from the pupae after 6-9 days. When larvae are about to pupate, they leave the food source, seek dry areas and they create whitish cocoons in which they pupate. These cocoons are main indication of infestation.
Once the adults start feeding, they can survive up to 14 months with an adequate food source and can provide several generations of new beetles per year.

Commonly Asked Questions

Are Red-legged ham beetles dangerous?

Red-legged ham beetles do not pose a threat to humans because they do not bite. They can contaminate food sources if they feed on something intended for consumption. Foods that have been infested by the Red-legged ham beetle will take on a distinctive acrid smell like the beetles themselves. Any foods or raw materials that have been infested by Red-legged ham beetles should be considered unusable and disposed of.

Closeup Image Of Red Legged Ham Beetle On a Cookie

Larvae Of Red Legged Ham Beetle

Closeup Image of Larvae Of Red Legged Ham Beetle

The smaller one is early instar (first instar), the larger one is mature larva (third/late instar) and the other one is mid-instar (second instar).

Other pests related to Red-legged Ham Beetle

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