Tobacco Beetles

Now is as good a time as any to discuss the dreaded tobacco beetle. These little monsters are unfortunately a fact of life for manufacturers, retailers and consumers alike, but they can be controlled.

To defeat this enemy, you must first understand him. No bigger than the size of a pinhead, just the mention of this little l'Enfant Terrible is enough to send cigar lovers into a tizzy. In the worst case, it can invade your humidor at home and render it into a pile of dust. These suckers eat like pigs, spread like wildfire, and lives for two things: tobacco and heat. Adult beetles measure about two to three millimeters long and live only 2 to 4 weeks, and thrive in humid climates and hot temperatures above 74 degrees.

Tobacco beetles have a life cycle - egg, larva, pupa and adult - that lasts about 10 to 12 weeks total. The female adult can chew its way through paper or tobacco leaf, and finds in cigars a suitably warm environment to lay its eggs, small white ovals that are too small for the human eye to detect. The eggs, up to 100 per birth cycle, hatch within six to 10 days, giving birth to the larvae. The larvae are what actually eat the tobacco to live and grow.

Once cigars have been brought home, consumers should inspect their humidors every few days, especially if they live in a hot or humid climate, or purchase cigars more than once a week. A telltale sign is a pinhole-sized circle in your cigar. If you see a beetle, don't panic; most of your cigars are probably salvageable.

This day and age, most manufacturers take precautions against tobacco beetles prior to shipping product from their factory. However, there's still always a chance one of those dreaded little buggers will rear its ugly head. The following steps can be taken as a precautionary process upon receiving cigars, or immediately after an "outbreak" is noticed:

  1. Empty the entire contents of your humidor and place each cigar in zipped plastic bags.
  2. Seal each bag tightly and place them in your freezer.
  3. After three days, move the bags filled with your cigars into the fridge.
  4. After 24 hours of fridge time, move the cigars back to your humidor.

It is vital that these steps are followed accordingly. Every cigar within the humidor must be addressed - it's better to be safe than sorry. The freezing process is used to kill any beetles or eggs within your cigars. During this time, clean the humidor to remove any remaining beetles or eggs, and return the humidification element. 24 hours in the fridge will allow the cigars to gradually rise in temperature - an instant increase in temperature could result in cracked or damaged wrappers.

The beetle problem was the result of a rise in temperature within your humidor. It is important that your humidor is stored at a constant temperature at all times - no more than 70 degrees. Your humidor should not be placed near or on top of heating elements, cooling elements, under artificial lights that heat up, or in direct sunlight. I know your humidor is pretty, and putting it on your windowsill to make your neighbors jealous is tempting, but it's a bad idea. Keep it in a closet or your basement if you have to. The bottom line is, keep it constant at 70 degrees or slightly less and you'll be in the clear.