City of Levelland addresses beetle infestation after two years of concerns

Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 10:55 PM CDT
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LEVELLAND, Texas (KCBD) - The City of Levelland addressed the ongoing bug infestation in one of its neighborhoods at its special meeting Monday night. Citizens first flooded City Council with their concerns about the red flour beetle invasion of the Kaufmann Addition one week ago.

Residents of the neighborhood just north of Highway 114 report the tiny beetles cover their floors, climb into their pantries, fall from their attics and crawl on their skin in bed.

“If we resolve the bug problem we’re good to go. But, otherwise, we’re going to sell the house and move away from Levelland,” Stan Lee, a Kaufmann Addition resident, said.

Lee’s retirement dreams of moving back to his wife’s hometown are slowly slipping away. Since the red flour beetles invaded his home last year, he stated they do not cook, eat or keep food in the home.

He has spent hundreds on exterminators and sprays.

“The exterminator told me Monday when he was here, he said ‘I can kill the bugs out in the house,’ he said ‘but you’ll be calling me next week because they’ll be back.’ You have to find the source and you have to get rid of that source,” Lee said.

Danny Rios and several other Kaufmann neighbors believe they know that source: the grain company across Highway 114.

“If these bugs were at the Levelland Country Club, inside that clubhouse, something would’ve been done about it a long time ago,” Rios said.

The two were ready to confront their council at Monday night’s meeting, along with Claudia Maldonado. She has led the neighborhood’s efforts and spent hours researching the issue.

Maldonado said the grain company is only licensed to process cottonseed, and does not have the permitting to handle the large piles of almond hulls outside its facility.

When questioned, Interim City Manager José Cavazos said there is currently not a permitting process in the state of Texas for almond hulls. The almond is considered the commodity, the hull is only trash. But, it is considered treasure for the red flour beetles that feast on it.

The city’s emergency management coordinator, Cole Kirkland, stated the City is at fault for not taking action when this was brought to its attention last year.

“It seems to have been minimal and no mitigation actions taken. And a lack of due diligence on the city’s behalf, I believe is unacceptable,” Kirkland said.

Kirkland brought a list of tips to manage the beetles, like through weather sealing and bug zappers. For the people who have already spent hundreds of dollars, the advice went mostly unwanted.

Kirkland was put on the investigation Friday, and said he is working to get the affidavit needed to get on the grain company’s property so the hulls can be tested for larvae.

He stated the company has said it is fine the testing, as long as the tests are done on every facility in the industrial park.

“We’ll do sample testing of every commodity facility in the industrial rail park, just as, to cover all bases and cover all areas. Ensure our due diligence that we don’t miss any primary source or even a secondary source,” Kirkland said.

Kirkland said he hopes to get the affidavits and start the testing as soon as Tuesday. He stated it is just a visual test to find the larvae, so it should not take long to find the source.

If it is the grain company at fault, Kirkland recommended the city create an ordinance to regulate how it stores the hulls.