Bugs in a Bag of Horse Feed

What should you do if you find unwelcome pests in your horse’s grain? Our nutritionist weighs in.

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Bugs in a Bag of Horse Feed
Adult weevils have elongated heads that form a distinct “snout.” | Photo: iStock
Q: When I opened a new bag of horse feed, I found a bunch of little beetlelike creatures in it. I’ve never seen this before, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I returned the feed to the retailer I purchased it from and got a new bag, but now I’m wondering whether I needed to do that? Could I have just kept it and fed it like usual, or could these bugs have hurt my horse? — via email

A: This time of year, owners occasionally find what appear to be beetles in bags of horse feed. These beetles could be bran bugs or weevils, especially if the feed contains whole grains. You can tell weevils apart from other bugs by the shape of their head—adult weevils have elongated heads that form a “snout.” Bran bugs look like weevils, but without the snout.

Weevils live inside and damage whole grain kernels; however, neither they nor other bugs commonly found in grain pose a risk to your horse. That said, such bugs could lower the feed’s nutritional content if they, themselves, are feeding on it. Bran bugs live on broken grain and grain dust.

You might also see meal moths, which tend not to discriminate the same way weevils and beetles do and will attack all forms of grain. The moths lay eggs on the grain’s surface. The eggs then hatch into caterpillars that look like little worms. These larvae create a web over the grain that impacts air movement and results in grain clumps

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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