University of California

Natural sources, habitats, and reservoirs of insects associated with stored food products


E. Gorton Linsley

Author Affiliations

E. Gorton Linsley was Assistant Professor of Entomology and Assistant Entomologist in the Experiment Station.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 16(4):185-224. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v16n04p185. July 1944.

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Insects have long infested man’s household and his stored food products, as is evidenced by their presence in Egyptian tombs (Alfieri, 1931)4 and by references in the Bible (Marlatt, 1896). Yet their place and mode of origin are not well known—an unfortunate fact, since the natural habitats may provide a clue to sources of infestations and other matters of economic import. Apparently no serious attempts have been made to account on this basis for more than a few of the numerous species that infest stored products. (See (Marlatt, 1896); (Good, 1933); (Linsley, 1942a); (Hatch, 1942); (Hinton, 1943b).) Hatch, in a discussion of the habitat and distribution of some of the more important stored-grain pests, emphasizes the ecological aspects of the problem:

The entomologist. … sees in these creatures not pests that are competing with humans for the product of their agricultural labors. Rather he finds in them a group of beetles and moths and other insects that at the time when man began the cultivation of wheat had evolved in such a fashion that they fit in with the sort of conditions furnished by the storage and processing of grain. The grain elevator, the flour mill, the grocery store, the housewife’s kitchen are simply an enormous insect habitat extending its tentacles into all portions of the wheat-consuming world. The factors governing the occurrence of insects in this vast complex constitute an ecological problem of considerable magnitude.

Entomological literature seldom records the occurrence of stored-products insects in nature. The better the species is known to the economic entomologist, the more is this likely to be true. Since the important stored-products insects are mostly cosmopolitan in distribution, the average collector ignores them and fails to record their capture. Field entomologists have likewise generally ignored them, often assuming that their presence was accidental or resulted from contamination. The present paper will bring together the records5 available to the writer, together with personal observations, in the hope of clarifying certain problems and of stimulating further research.

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