This pest is more common throughout the world than any storage insect pest; it is associated with 246 stored commodities (which is the highest number for a storage insect), and that's why, in grain-processing facilities, most pest management intervention tactics are used primarily to control this prolific pest.

Stored grain and grain-processing facilities can be vulnerable to red flour beetle infestations; processed and packaged grain products, such as cookies, crackers, pet food, etc., that are crushed or otherwise damaged during warehousing or other storage and transit to the point of sale also can be vulnerable. 

Subramanyam, who goes by "Subi," is candid in speaking of potential losses, but also intent on focusing his research to seek environmentally-friendly solutions to reduce -- and eliminate -- insect damage to stored grains and grain products caused by the red flour beetle.

Previous treatments in grain-processing facilities have relied on methyl bromide, which, while 99 to 100 percent effective in reducing adult and immature infestations, has been classified as an ozone depleting chemical and has been phased out in the United States and other developed countries except for certain critical (pre-shipment and quarantine) uses, Subramanyam said.

Alternatives to methyl bromide in grain-processing facilities include sulfuryl fluoride and heat, and Subramanyam has worked with both since joining K-State in 1999. He and collaborators in Grain Science and USDA’s Center for Grain and Animal Health Research have completed side-by-side comparisons of all three treatments during 2009-2010 at the Hal Ross pilot flour mill at K-State, which, as a state-of-the-art facility, enabled demonstrating, for the first time, the cost-effectiveness of methyl bromide and its alternatives.