Cigars 101

The Cigar Advisor Guide to Tobacco Beetles

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Meet the Beetles – What You Need to Know About Cigar Beetles

Lasioderma serricorne, commonly known as the cigar or tobacco beetle, is the dreaded scourge of cigar enthusiasts everywhere. Left unchecked, an invasion of these tiny and insatiable pests can render your collection of prized premium cigars to an un-smokeable stockpile of expensive trash.

cigar advisor guide to tobacco (cigar) beetles - large image of a tobacco beetle
Don’t worry, they aren’t nearly this big!

To summarize a common piece of folk wisdom, prevention beats the cure. And the best way to deal with cigar beetles is to prevent them from the get-go. In this guide, we’ll talk about tobacco beetle prevention along with pro tips on what do if your cigars become affected.

If you’ve got a tobacco beetle tip you’d like to share, please leave it in the comments below!

 

How to Prevent Cigar Beetles

cigar advisor guide to tobacco (cigar) beetles - header 1: how to prevent tobacco beetles

Here’s an unsettling thought—at this very moment there could be an army of tobacco beetle eggs sitting dormant in your cigar collection. They could be in one cigar or all your cigars, just waiting to hatch. Or there could be none.

Once hatched, cigar beetles don’t discriminate. They will seek and destroy without prejudice—whether an assortment of finely aged Fuente’s in a high rent humidor or a bounty of bundled budget blends in a Tupperdore. In fact, their journey began long before the tobacco leaves—where they started off as eggs—were crafted into the premium cigars in your possession.

Barely visible to the naked eye, cigar beetle females lay their eggs while the tobacco leaves are still in the fields. Despite the many quality control checks along the way—and due to the nearly microscopic size—cigar beetle eggs often find their way to the end product. The good news is that at this stage, they’re harmless.

The danger zone occurs when the humidity level reaches 72% (and above). These are the conditions when tobacco beetles begin to hatch. Then multiply. To prevent this from happening, keep your humidor under 70% humidity—ideally in the 65-67% range (at this point, it comes down to personal preference). Additional things to consider are moving your humidor to a cooler location during the warmer months and keeping an eye out for the early signs of a potential tobacco beetle infestation—tiny pinholes on your cigars or tobacco dust in your humidor.

 

How to Eradicate Tobacco Beetles

cigar advisor guide to tobacco (cigar) beetles - header 2: how to eradicate cigar beetles

Ok, don’t panic. Despite your best efforts, you’ve got unwanted guests—but all hope isn’t lost. There’s still time to save your treasured cigar collection.

First, you need to identify—by tiny pinholes in cigar wrappers and tobacco dust coming from the foot—and isolate the sick cigars. Then, and this is the hard part, throw away the cigar beetle infested sticks. They aren’t salvageable and are beyond hope. At this point, I wouldn’t blame you for pausing for a moment of silence for the fallen or ‘pouring one out for the homies.’

Now to save those handmades still standing in your humidor. The enemy of cigar beetles is the cold, so the challenge is to freeze your cigars without damaging them. If you rush the process, you risk your cigars swelling and cracking. The best way is slow and easy—and with protection.

Begin by putting the remainder of your cigars in an airtight bag—like a Ziploc® freezer (or generic equivalent). You’ll want to use the smallest size that will accommodate your collection. Squeeze out any air and seal the bag before placing it in your refrigerator for 4 hours. Remember, slow and easy. From here, you put the bag(s) into the freezer for a minimum of 8 hours. But why rush, it’s recommended to keep your cigars in the freezer for 24-36 hours to make sure all the beetles are dead. But you’re not done yet—while cold kills tobacco beetles, rapid fluctuations in temperature and humidity can do the same to premium handmade cigars—from the freezer place the bag(s) back into the refrigerator for a few hours. Finally, bring your cigars to room temperature.

Before reintroducing your remedied cigars back in your humidor, you’ll want to make sure the environment is clean and clear of tobacco beetles.

 

After the Beetles

cigar advisor guide to tobacco (cigar) beetles - header 3: after the beetles

Clean out the humidor by vacuuming (or shaking) out any debris and dust. Next, dampen a clean cloth with distilled water and wipe down the interior. Now, you can finally return your cigars back home.

Remember, prevention is the key. By keeping things cool in your humidor (with a humidity level ideally maintained around 65-67%) and watching for signs of early trouble you can prevent a full-blown tobacco beetle revolution and cigar collection carnage.

7 Comments
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Sunil Kothary
2 months ago

Is it both humidity and temperature to let the eggs hatch? Or only humidity as the main factor? I’ve heard the temperature also has to be over 70F

Paul Lukens
2 months ago
Reply to  Sunil Kothary

Thank you for your question–it’s a good one and perhaps I should have been more clear. I was referencing relative humidity–which concerns the amount of humidity (water vapor) in the air compared to the temperature. This is often indicated by %RH.

Last edited 2 months ago by Paul Lukens
Timothy Buffham
2 months ago

Clean your humidors with household Ammonia solution.

Paul Lukens
2 months ago

Thanks for your comment Timothy. Please do not–under any circumstances–clean your humidors with household ammonia solution. Or any chemicals. Use only distilled water.

CHSuser
1 month ago



Bill Van
2 months ago

I have been smoking and aging cigars for 30 years , before I put anything into one of my big humidors I have a big plastic tupperdor where they go into quarantine for a few months, if I see any pin holes I bag them and return to manufacturer. If I catch it early and there’s only a single pinhole I bag them separately with a few Boveda packs and smoke them up quick. This method has never failed me. I’ve heard the manufacturer freezes them I don’t want to do it twice as freezing causes the tobacco leaves to swell changing the cell structure and the way the cigar smokes.
your process certainly can and will work but consider the quarantine method as well please.

Phil
2 months ago

Since my first and only infestation back in the 90s, I freeze all incoming cigars and have not given it a second thought. Although Bill’s comment on the cell structure makes me wonder about a possible change in taste. I do believe a test is in order.

Paul Lukens

Paul Lukens

Copywriter

Paul first fell in love with the leaf back in college, where he majored in Philosophy (yes, seriously). Upon graduating, Paul stared into the abyss and unemployment stared back. He responded by founding the ‘Pounding Fathers,’ a traveling Beer Pong team with the other Philosophy grad at UMass. Aspiring to subsist on more than Ramen Noodles and Natural Ice, Paul put down his ping pong balls and picked up a pen - and a cigar - and began working in the premium cigar industry in 2013.

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