Pesticide Note

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
North Carolina State University

Pesticide Note Number 5
February 1996

Insect Management by North Carolina Poultry Producers in 1993

Stephen J. Toth, Jr., Extension Pesticide Impact Assessment Specialist

S. Michael Stringham, Extension Livestock & Poultry Entomology Specialist

The information and recommendations in this Note were developed for North Carolina and may not apply in other areas.


North Carolina's poultry industry involves the production and processing of broilers, turkeys and table eggs. Nationally, the state ranks first in turkey, fourth in broiler, and ninth in egg production (Watson 1994). Turkey production in North Carolina reached a record high of 1.366 billion pounds in 1993, with a value of $519 million. The number of turkeys raised in the state equaled 61 million. Broiler production in 1993 was 3.1 billion pounds (615 million birds), with sales topping $1 billion. Egg production in North Carolina during 1993 totaled 3.1 billion. The value of the eggs produced in the state was $195 million.

Producers have a variety of pest problems in raising poultry, including ectoparasitic insects and mites which infest the birds, flies that breed in the litter, and darkling beetles which harbor disease organisms and can cause damage to poultry houses (Arends and Stringham 1992). These pests can be properly managed through the employment of a combination of cultural, biological and chemical pest management practices.

Poultry producers in North Carolina were surveyed by mail in July 1994 to determine pest management practices on poultry and in and around poultry houses during 1993.

Survey Method

The survey design was a modified version of a method described by Dillman (1978) and Christenson (1975). Producers of broilers, broiler breeders, broiler breeder pullets, market turkeys, turkey breeders, table egg layers, and table egg pullets in North Carolina were included in the survey. Broilers are generally produced by producers who raise the birds under contract for an integrator company (Knoeber and Thurman 1994). The companies provide the chicks, feed, medicine and advice, while producers furnish housing, labor and management. Twenty-seven poultry companies in North Carolina were contacted by mail to obtain their cooperation in mailing the survey questionnaires to their producers. Survey materials were reviewed by the participating companies.

On July 5, 1994, survey questionnaires, cover letters signed by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service poultry specialists, and prestamped return envelopes were mailed by cooperating poultry companies to 2,941 poultry producers across the state. Postcard reminders to return the questionnaires were mailed by the poultry companies to producers on July 12. Information in questionnaires returned by poultry producers was compiled and analyzed in the Department of Entomology at North Carolina State University.

Results and Discussion

Poultry Production. Survey questionnaires were mailed to a total of 2,941 poultry producers in the state. Twenty of the questionnaires were returned by the Post Office as undeliverable. Of the 2,921 poultry producers that presumably received questionnaires, 1,101 or 38% responded (Fig.1). A total of 1,035 poultry producers responding to the survey produced poultry in 1993. The survey respondents placed a total of 186,607,101 birds and sold a total of 170,228,156 birds during 1993 (Table 1). They operated 3,108 poultry houses, with a total size of 46,859,313 square feet. Survey respondents reported average yields of 24.85 pounds per bird for turkeys (140 respondents), 5.08 pounds per bird for broilers and hens (430 respondents), and 228.67 eggs per hen for table egg layers (9 respondents). By comparison, the statewide average yields in 1993 were 22.40 pounds per bird for turkeys, 5.10 pounds per bird for commercial broilers, and 232.81 eggs per layer (Watson 1994).

Figure 1

Fig. 1. Distribution of North Carolina poultry producers responding to mail survey, by county. Counties containing greater than 5% of respondents are indicated by dark shading, counties containing 1 to 5% of respondents by diagonal hatching; and counties containing 0.1 to 1% of respondents by vertical hatching.

Table 1. The number of birds placed and sold by survey respondents for each type of poultry operation.

Type of OperationNumber of Birds PlacedNumber of Birds Sold
Broiler Breeders /13,315,712---
Broiler Breeder Pullets /23,071,5562---
Primary Breeders /16,000---
Pullets (Undefined) /226,000---
Roosters /210,000---
Table Egg Layers /11,110,160---
Table Egg Pullets /21,016,367---
Turkeys (Breeders) /190,000---
Turkey (Market)13,330,26312,051,138

/1 Birds are sold for salvage value.

/2 Birds are placed in production flocks.

Insect and Mite Pests of Poultry. Seventy-two percent of survey respondents used insecticides or miticides in their poultry operations in 1993. These respondents were asked to report those insect and mite pests for which they used insecticides or miticides. Darkling beetles and house flies were the insects listed most often by the 689 poultry producers reporting. Eighty percent applied insecticide for darkling beetles, while 46% used insecticide to manage house flies (Fig. 2). Fire ants were treated with insecticide by approximately 10% of the producers and chicken mites were the target of miticide treatments by about 8%. Other insect and mite pests of poultry, each reported by less than 5% of the producers, include bed bugs, soldier flies, lice, mosquitoes, northern fowl mites and fruit flies.

Figure 2

Fig. 2. Insects and mites for which insecticides and miticides were used by poultry producers in 1993. Bars indicate the percentage of survey respondents using insecticide or miticide that reported the respective insects or mites.

Insecticides and Miticides Applied to Premises. The proper management of darkling beetles or lesser mealworms, flies, bed bugs, red imported fire ants and other arthropod pests require the treatment of poultry house premises with insecticides and miticides. Survey respondents applied Sevin, permethrin and Rabon on 23%, 16% and 10% of their poultry house square footage, respectively (Fig. 3). Ravap, Malathion, Tempo, pyrethrins, Cygon and Ectrin were each used on less than 10% of the square footage. The mean number of applications of these chemicals per square foot treated ranged from 1.82 for Tempo to 4.27 for Cygon. The majority of poultry house premise treatments were applied by the survey respondents before flocks were placed or after birds were moved.

Figure 3

Fig. 3. Insecticides and miticides applied to poultry house premises by producers in 1993. Bars indicate the percentage of square feet treated with the respective chemicals; numbers following bars are mean numbers of applications per square foot.

Insecticides and Miticides Applied Directly to Birds. Economic losses due to poultry ectoparasites include reduced egg production or hatchability, reduced weight, higher feed costs and increased mortality (Arends and Stringham 1992). Northern fowl mites, chicken mites and bed bugs are occasional pests of commercial breeder and layer flocks in North Carolina. Insecticides and miticides applied directly to birds by survey respondents to manage ectoparasites in 1993 are included in Fig. 4. Of the breeders, layers and pullets (8,645,795 birds), Sevin was applied to 42%. Rabon was applied on 18% of these birds, while permethrin, Ravap and pyrethrins were each used on 10% or less. The mean number of applications per bird treated ranged from 1.17 for Ravap to 5.51 for pyrethrins.

Figure 4

Fig. 4. Insecticides and miticides applied directly on birds by poultry producers in 1993. Bars indicate the percentage of breeders, layers and pullets treated with respective chemicals; numbers following bars are mean numbers of applications per bird.

Insecticide Incorporated Into Feed. Filth flies, which include house flies, little house flies and garbage flies, are one of the most troublesome pest complexes for commercial poultry producers. Integrated pest management approaches used to manage fly populations in chicken breeder and layer flocks often include the use of Larvadex (cyromazine) administered in the feed. Of the chicken breeders and layers (4,431,316 birds), 76% received Larvadex-treated feed from survey respondents during 1993 (Fig. 5). The mean number of weeks Larvadex-treated feed was provided to these birds was 7.67 weeks. Larvadex is registered for use in the feed of chicken breeders and layers only.

Figure 5

Fig. 5. Insecticide incorporated into bird's feed by poultry producers in 1993. Bar indicates the percentage of chicken breeders and layers treated with the insecticide; number following bar is the mean number of weeks the insecticide was applied.

Sources of Pest Management Information. Poultry producers were asked to indicate on the survey questionnaire their sources of information on managing poultry pests. Approximately 94% of the 895 producers responding to the question listed poultry company representatives as a source of information. Fifteen percent listed the Cooperative Extension Service and 14% listed other poultry producers as information sources. A pesticide dealer or salesperson was a source of pest management information for about 8% of the producers, while a veterinarian provided this information for 3%. Additional sources of information on managing poultry pests included magazines or newsletters (14% of producers), special publications (2%), radio or television (1%), and newspapers (1%).

Literature Cited

Arends, J. J. and S. M. Stringham. 1992. Poultry Pest Management. AG-474. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, Raleigh. 30 pp.

Christenson, J. A. 1975. A procedure for conducting mail surveys with the general public. J. Community Development Society 6(1): 135-146.

Dillman, D. A. 1978. Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method. John Wiley and Sons, New York. 325 pp.

Knoeber, C. R. and W. N. Thurman. 1994. Broiler Contracting. In NC State Economist, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, Raleigh. September 1994.

Watson, D. D., ed. 1994. 1994 North Carolina Agricultural Statistics. Publication No. 178. Agricultural Statistics Division, North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Raleigh, NC. 84 pp.


The following specialists in the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service are acknowledged for their help in planning the survey of poultry producers, providing the names and addresses of poultry companies, and designing the survey questionnaire: James J. Arends (Entomology), Thomas A. Carter (Poultry Science), and David V. Rives (Poultry Science). Also acknowledged are the poultry companies in North Carolina and their representatives for their cooperation and valuable assistance in reviewing survey materials (including the questionnaire) and mailing these materials to poultry producers across the state. Rebecca H. Osborne is recognized for preparation of survey materials and entry and compilation of survey data. This research was supported by the National Agricultural Pesticide Impact Assessment Program, Extension Service, United States Department of Agriculture under project 93-EPIX-1-0130.

Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact an agent of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in your county.

Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

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Web page last modified on August 14, 1996 by Stephen J. Toth, Jr.