Not everything about very warm winters is good. The fifth warmest winter since 1930 likely means that your heating bill for your farmhouse will be lower than in past years. But it may also mean you bump into other problems you're not accustomed to seeing, including issues with insects in stored grain. Richard Stroshine, a Purdue University corn quality specialist, and Matt Roberts, an Extension grain storage specialist in northern Indiana, are urging people to pay more attention to grain still in bins than they normally do at this time of year. One of the reasons is that due to the mild conditions and lack of an opportunity to cool grain as low as you normally do, there could be more opportunity for insects to flourish and cause quality issues by feeding on stored grain inside a bin.
Klein Ileleji, a Purdue University ag and biological engineer, has studied insects and how to control them in storage situations. He notes that cooling grain normally delays onset of insect activity. It's the kind of cooling that just wasn't possible in much of Indiana this winter because there weren't strings of enough cold days in a row to move a cooling front through the grain mass inside the bin.
Warming the bin earlier in the spring makes insect pest activity begin much earlier, based upon Ileleji's work. If you're trying to hold grain into June, July or August, or if you have grain you've carried over from the previous year still in the bin, this could result in more problems than normal.
The main culprits working on grain in storage will be maize or granary weevils and flour beetles. Look for early signs of insect activity by checking in the headspace inside the bin and above the grain mass. One sure sign of problems is Indiana meal moth webbing, which can usually be best detected on the surface of the grain at the center of the grain mass.
To pick up signs of injurious pests alone, bi-weekly inspections of grain still in bins is recommended, Stroshine says. It may be necessary to do more than just look at the surface of the grain mass. He also suggests probing from the top to determine if there are insects already at work below the surface of the grain mass.