Named after its love of all things tobacco, the cigarette beetle is very small, only about three millimeters long. It is a reddish-brown to yellow-brown color with a typical rounded, oval shape. The head of the cigarette beetle is difficult to see as it is tucked under the pronotum. The wing convers, elytra, are covered with fine hairs. Antennae are striated. Cigarette beetles are strong fliers.
Cigarette Beetle Habitat and Food Source
The cigarette beetle prefers a tropical climate but is found worldwide, especially anywhere that tobacco in any form is found.
Often mistaken for the drugstore beetle because of its habitat, the cigarette beetle is likely to be found indoors in convenience and grocery stores foraging for food sources. The cigarette beetle may be seen all year, but is most common in fall and winter months.
Cigarette beetles have a strange diet of tobacco in any form: tobacco leaves, chewing tobacco, cigars, or cigarettes. It is also known to feed on other stored food products such as paprika and other spices, chili, and even dog food. Because of its diet of stored food the cigarette beetle is an extreme nuisance in homes and stores. Both larvae and adult cigarette beetles are capable of penetrating packaging and are even resistant to certain types of pesticides, similar to the cockroach.
Cigarette Beetle Life Cycle
Depending on food sources and temperature, the life cycle of the cigarette beetle takes around three months. A female will lay 100 white, oval-shaped eggs at a time that will hatch approximately 10 days later. The hairy, white larvae are fed bits of food in a cocoon and will emerge within three weeks. Adult cigarette beetles live only one to four weeks. (Perhaps it’s their unhealthy diet.)
Cigarette Beetles and Humans
The cigarette beetle will infest many types of food products. Although it is named for its foraging of tobacco products, it may also rummage through and feed on beans, dried fruits and vegetables, flour, herbs, nuts, and even insecticides containing pyrethrum. The cigarette beetle will therefore commonly be found indoors and does large amounts of damage to stored food products.
The cigarette beetle may also pupate inside cardboard boxes, through which they bore looking for pupation sites. These beetles have been known to cause large amounts of monetary damage.
Cigarette Beetle Control
Fumigation using methyl-bromide or phosphine and large-scale heat treatment, in addition to certain types of pesticides, have proven to be the most effective form of control for the cigarette beetle. Proper and positive identification of the beetle species must be done before any control methods are applied. Here are some steps professionals may take in ridding a home of cigarette beetles:
Find out where the beetles are coming from: A professional will help locate the source of the infestation, which is normally some sort of food product. In most cases the product will be thrown out due to contamination, but cigars and cigarettes can sometimes be salvaged through a fumigation process.
Mass Trapping: Professionals may set out large numbers of traps in infested areas in order to reduce insect population initially. This is most often done in conjunction with chemical control.
Insecticide: All stored food products must be removed before insecticide application takes place. Most professionals will focus efforts on cracks and crevices in walls, ceilings, drawers, shelves, and other infestation sites. Professionals will treat infestations using a variety of liquids, dusts, and aerosol pesticides. Exterminators most commonly use a compound containing cypermethrin and will spot-treat areas that have been known to contain the insect.
Dust pesticides are applied to cover hard-to-reach cracks and minute harborage areas.
DIY and Green Solutions for Cigarette Beetle Control
Some small infestations, especially those that are caught early, may be able to be controlled using some do-it-yourself methods, but a professional should be contacted in the case of a large or widespread infestation. Whether you employ professional services should be dependent on the scope of your beetle problem. Here are some prevention and treatment techniques:
Find the Cigarettebeetle source: Locate any entry points and infestation sites for the cigarette beetle. Cracks and crevices, openings around utility pipes, wall voids, and other areas likely to be infested should be sealed, caulked, and repaired. Infested stored food products should be checked, thrown out, and good products properly and completely sealed. Check around doors and windows. Install tight-fitting screens, rubber weather stripping, and even replace doors and windows where needed. Keep in mind that the cigarette beetle may venture into even the tiniest crack in a foundation or exterior wall. Seal and caulk all entry points, large and small, with silicone or silicone-latex caulk, urethane foam, or glass or steel wool. Install insect screening (20-mesh at the largest) over attic entry points and other vents to prevent beetle entry.
Tidy Up!: Remove all clutter from your home or building. Keeping a clean environment is always a good idea to deter beetles from nesting indoors.
Insecticide: Insecticides are effective in controlling Cigarette beetle populations. Insecticides containing cypermethrin have proven effective against the Cigarette beetle, but only after all breeding and nesting sites have been identified and eliminated. Use pesticides specifically designed for cigarette beetles and only spray areas that you know have been inhabited by the beetle. When seeking to employ pesticides as a means of extermination, it is best to contact a professional. Some pesticides can perpetuate the problem.
Cigarette beetles are an extreme nuisance to store and home owners. Foraging through stored goods, these insects can do a significant amount of damage. Any sighting of the cigarette beetle should be acted upon immediately. With this particular species, the best bet for eradication is to contact a professional.