Tobacco Beetles - A Cigar's Worst Enemy
Tobacco beetles, also called "cigar beetles", are extremely small pests the size of a pin head that can infest and detroy a collection of prized cigars in a matter of days.
Your treasured stogies make for both a perfect feast and home for these beetles, which exist in the form of larvae within tobacco leaves. In general reputable factories perform fumigation procedures along with other methods to insure the cigars they produce are free of these insects. But as hard as they try, some of them inevidebaly survive. If the temperature or moisture levels raise above a certain threshold within your humidor, they begin to appear.
Typically, the first sign may be a single cigar with a tiny circular pin hole through the wrapper. This is a clear indicator of beetle infestation. If beetle damage is only apparent on one cigar, do not ignore the problem as more damage is likely to follow! Tobacco beetle larvae hatch and rapidly spread when humidity levels are above 75% or when temperatures are around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. If the enviornment within your cigar humidor elevates to these levels, beetle larvae can hatch and beetles can begin boring their way directly through your cigars. If not attended to, these pests can quickly spread and multiply destroying large collections of cigars in 48 hours time.
The Short & Destructive Life Cycle of a Tobacco Beetle
Adult tobacco beetles are barely 2 to 3 mm in length and are reddish brown in color. They are oval in shape and their head is often concealed by their abdomen. Their wing covers are lined with fine hairs.
Female beetles general enter into a cigar through the open end and can pentrate directly through cellophane. They eat their way through the cigar laying eggs as they go and emerge from the wrapper leaving a tiny pin hole behind. The beetle eggs eventually hatch and the entire sequence is started again. The complete life cycle of a tobacco beetle is approximately 10 weeks.
How to Identify a Tobacco Beetle Problem
The primary indicator of tobacco beetle infestation are tiny round holes in the cigar wrapper. Sometimes these holes are hard to detect, but a damaged cigar will have a musty flavor or taste and a sticky draw. If the damage to the cigars is substantial, you may find evidence of a brown reddish dust on the inside of the humidor.
How to Get Rid of Tobacco Beetles from Your Cigar Humidor
Inspect the cigars to assess the extent of the damage. Thoroughly examine each cigar including the ends and edges of the wrappers. If live beetles are visible on your cigars or they have been seriously damaged, make certain they are disposed of and removed from your home. Do not keep these cigars in the trash inside your home as these pests can quickly find their way into flour and spice containers.
Place the remaining cigars that are salvageable (even the cigars that appear to be unaffected) into plastic zip lock bags and place them into the freezer for 3 days (this will not hurt the cigars). The cold temperature will kill off the beetles and their larvae. After the 3 days has passed, place the cigars in the refrigerator for one day. The higher temperature in the refrigerator will allow your cigars to slowly adjust to a warmer enviornment and prevent the wrappers from cracking or splitting.
While the cigars are being treated, clean the humidor to insure no residual problems are left behind. First, wipe down the interior with a clean cloth to remove any remaining cigar particles or dust. Next, dampen a cloth with a weak solution of ammonia and distilled water and wipe down the interior. The ammonia solution will evaporate and will not have an affect on the cigars but will assist in killing off any beetles that may have been missed.
Preventing Future Outbreaks in Your Cigar Humidor
If beetles hatched in your humidor, the enviornment inside your box was likely too warm or too moist. Making use of a good digital hygrometer that displays accurate temperature and humidiity values is highly recommended. Insure that your cigars are stored in an enviornment that is cooler than 77 degrees and that is under 75% humidity. To provide yourself with an additional cushion, shoot to maintain under 75 °F and 72% RH. Lastly, make sure your humidor is not subject to direct sunlight or elevated temperatures.