THERE IS NO MORE DEPRESSING SIGHT THAN, WHEN OPENING A BOX OF YOUR FAVOURITE HAVANAS, YOU FIND THE CIGARS INSIDE RIDDLED WITH HOLES. IT MEANS THAT YOU HAVE SUFFERED AN ATTACK BY THE TOBACCO BEETLE. The term Tobacco Beetle garners several images in the heads of those who hear it. Some people may have an image of a beetle relaxing in a recliner, smoking a pipe and reading the Termite Times, others may picture tiny bugs festering on the leaves of tobacco plants, sniffing in the aroma of luxury. But, for the cigar lover, the term Tobacco Beetle produces a chilling image that is unmistakable: a bug, a humidor, and a big problem.
What Is A Tobacco Beetle?
To defeat this enemy, you must first understand him. The scientific name for the tobacco beetle is Lasioderma serricorne. Adult Lasioderma serricorne are between 2 and 4 mm long, squat in appearance, being compact and almost hemispherical. Red-brown in color, and showing a covering of fine hairs, Lasioderma serricorne is relatively distinctive.
Larval stages are very hairy and generally reach 4mm length. The female will lay between 20 and 100 eggs singly, over several days (@ 20° c). The eggs generally hatch at 1 week, depending on conditions. Larvae mature over 6 - 10 weeks to puparium stage where they will lie in a cocoon of food particles for 1 - 2 weeks until eclosion or adult emergence. The process from egg to adult takes between 8 and 13 weeks. Larvae become dormant and may hibernate below 60° F / 16° c.
Eggs are also laid in the folds of bundled tobacco in storage, never in fresh tobacco in the field. The open ends of cigars are also sensitive areas for oviposition (placing of eggs), where product quality may be severely and detrementally affected. Generally however, they will not enter packaged product for oviposition. Adults are strong fliers, and are particularly active in subdued light at temperatures above 65° F / 18° C.
Why should I worry about having tobacco beetles, they are so tiny?
Don't be fooled by the miniscule size of these voracious villains. They attack your cigars in great numbers. Dozens, if not hundreds, of tiny beetles can infest your humidor, causing you to potentially lose one big investment in prized cigars.
The larval stage, just after the eggs have hatched, is the most destructive period in the pest's life. In this stage, the longest phase in the beetle's life, the insect forages fiercely for food and can wreak its most expensive damage in choice cigar wrappers, where just a few holes can ruin an otherwise perfect leaf in no time. Occasionally, the larvae burrow between tightly packed cigars, leaving channels down the lengths of both cigars. Or, they burrow crosswise, across through several adjacent cigars. The stage runs from six to 10 weeks.
And don't count on the safety of cellophane wrappers to create a barrier between cigars: the beetle has been known to punch right through even metal foil packaging. Lasioderma not only ruins cigars and cigarettes, but it is also a pest of mustard, chili peppers, cloves, raisins, and upholstery material. It can also cause serious damage to books and all kinds of dried plants.
In the next phase, the insect is harmless. As it turns into a pupa, it rests motionless within a cocoon for one to two weeks. Finally, more than two months after the eggs were laid, an adult beetle emerges, leaves behind the pupal casing and tunnels its way to the outside world. Adult beetles don't do any heavy eating, but leave 1/16-inch diameter holes in cigars' wrappers as they clamor outward.
An adult Lasioderma serricorne can burrow the length of a cigar, right down the inner center, without leaving a telltale hole in the wrapper. Often, there won't be any obvious signs. Warning signs could be a burn that's not even, a draw that's sticky, or one that leaves dust in your mouth. A dead give-away is reddish powder in the cigar box, or more obviously, beetles crawling around on your cigars.
To put it simply, The beetle will eat its way out of your cigar, leaving behind a tiny circular hole and a trail of black dust. Your cigar will be ruined. Even if you could get it to draw with the hole; or several holes, as the case so often is with a beetle-damaged cigar, you wouldn't want to because of the dust they leave behind.
What should you do if your cigars become victims of beetles?
The best way to prevent beetles from appearing in the first place is to make sure the humidity and temperature are kept on the low end. A temp/humidity level of 62°/67% is perfectly acceptable and will also help prevent mold. The main cause for beetle infestation is too much heat and/or humidity. They LOVE it. (It's actually the larvae that feed on the tobacco.) The only thing that kills them dead is COLD. If you find that you do have a beetle problem, put all of the cigars from the infected humidor in a sealed plastic bag and place them in your freezer for three days. I say "ALL" because if you find one cigar that's been attacked, you can assume the others may follow. Freezing the cigars will kill the beetles and their larvae and prevent the problem from spreading. When you take the cigars out of the freezer, don't put them right back in the humidor. Put them in the refrigerator for one day to avoid shock from the temperature change, which could cause the wrappers to split. Before you replace them in your humidor, wipe the empty humidor with a clean cloth lightly dampened with distilled water. DO NOT use any cleaners, bug spray or disinfectant. They'll just ruin the wood and give your cigars a foul taste. To help prevent the beetles from returning, purchase a good quality digital hygrometer/thermometer as the thermometer is very accurate. Also, make sure the room in which you keep your humidor is not subject to extreme changes in temperature. Don't place the box in direct sunlight and check your humidifier regularly. Leave putting bugs in your mouth to contestants on Fear Factor.