Red flour beetle

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Red flour beetle
Tribolium castaneum.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Family: Tenebrionidae
Genus: Tribolium
Species: T. castaneum
Binomial name
Tribolium castaneum
(Herbst, 1797)

The red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum) is a species of beetle in the family Tenebrionidae, the darkling beetles. It is a worldwide pest of stored products, particularly food grains, and a model organism for ethological[citation needed] and food safety[1] research.

The red flour beetle attacks stored grain and other food products, including flour, cereals, pasta, biscuits, beans, and nuts, causing loss and damage. It may cause an allergic response but is not known to spread disease or cause damage to structures or furniture. The United Nations, in a recent post-harvest compendium, estimated that Tribolium castaneum & Tribolium confusum, the confused flour beetle, are “the two most common secondary pests of all plant commodities in store throughout the world.”[2]

The red flour beetle is of Indo-Australian origin and less able to survive outdoors than the closely related species Tribolium confusum. It has, as a consequence, a more southern distribution, though both species are worldwide in heated environments. The adult is long-lived, sometimes living more than three years. Although previously regarded as a relatively sedentary insect, it has been shown in molecular and ecological research to disperse considerable distances by flight.[3]


This species closely resembles the confused flour beetle, except with three clubs at the end of each of its antennae.

Female red flour beetles are polyandrous in mating behavior. Within a single copulation period, a single female will mate with multiple different males. Female red flour beetles engage in polyandrous mating behavior in order to increase their fertility assurance. By mating with an increased number of males, female beetles obtain a greater amount of sperm. Obtaining a greater amount of sperm is especially important since many sexually active male red flour beetles are non-virgins and may be sperm-depleted. It is important to note that red flour beetles engage in polyandry to obtain a greater amount of sperm from males, not to increase the likelihood of finding genetically compatible sperm. [4]


Females in red flour beetles are usually polygamous having multiple partners in a mating season. This is though to be a mechanism to avoid consequences of inbreeding according to "Inbreeding makes female beetles frisky" by Jennifer Welsh. According to Welsh, having more than one partner increases the number of viable offspring.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grünwald, S.; et al. (2013). "The Red Flour Beetle Tribolium castaneum as a Model to Monitor Food Safety and Functionality". Adv Biochem Eng Biotechnol 135: 111–122. doi:10.1007/10_2013_212. PMID 23748350. 
  2. ^ Sallam, M.N. (2008). "Insect damage: damage on post-harvest" (PDF). In compendium on post-harvest operations. 
  3. ^ Ridley, A.; et al. (2011). "The spatiotemporal dynamics of Tribolium castaneum (Herbst): adult flight and gene flow". Molecular Ecology 20 (8). doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05049.x. 
  4. ^ Bennett, L, Pai, A, Yan, G (2005). "Female multiple mating for fertility assurance in red flour beetles (Tribolium castaneum)". Canadian Journal of Zoology (83): 913–919. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Granousky, T. A. 1997. "Stored Product Pests". In: Handbook of Pest Control, 8th Ed. Hedges, S.A. and D. Moreland (editors). Mallis Handbook and Technical Training Company.