If you’ve been smoking cigars for any length of time, you’ve no doubt heard about cigar beetles. As you’ve probably already figured out on your own, this isn’t the name of a new cool cigar-culture Beatles tribute band, but something entirely different and unpleasant. Still, it’s a conversation we feel is necessary to have to ensure you understand the risk cigar beetles pose to your previous cigar stash—and, importantly, how to avoid this costly problem.
Lasioderma serricorne, more commonly known as the tobacco beetle or cigar beetle, is an insect very similar in appearance to the drugstore beetle (Stegobium paniceum) and the common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum). All three species belong to the family Ptinidae. But that’s enough boring science talk for now. Let’s talk practical details, and what you can do about them.
Female cigar beetles can lay around 100 eggs. The larvae are active and will move around on and bore into raw tobacco, feeding as they go. While the adult beetles are big enough to often be spotted with the naked eye, the larvae is too small to see.
Cigar beetles can wreak total havoc on your humidor, and fast. Unfortunately, there is no known way of avoiding cigar beetles completely, but there are some best practices that will help fortify your humidor from these nasty invaders.
The best way to avoid cigar beetles starts with buying from reputable manufacturers. While it’s true that even the best manufacturers can have issues from time to time, they typically do their due diligence to avoid the heartache for you in the future. They do this by fumigating the tobacco leaves before the cigars are made and freezing the final product before it heads to retailers. The larvae can’t survive extremely low temperatures, so the beetles won’t be able to hatch.
While cigar beetles are found in all cigar making regions, some countries employ better practices to avoid them from becoming an issue. In my experience, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic do far better at this than Cuban cigar manufacturers.Ultimately, no matter where you get your cigars from, it’s up to you to do what you can to protect against an attack.
Here are some strong recommendations.
1. Inspect your cigars regularly. If you ever find small holes in a cigar, dispose of it immediately. Because the beetles can fly, make sure that when you throw that cigar away, it’s far enough from your other cigars to prevent the problem from spreading. Separate the other cigars that were near the bad cigar, and keep a close eye on them.
2. Clean and inspect your humidor before bringing in new cigars to avoid putting at risk any new product.
3. Only buy your cigars from vendors and manufacturers you trust. Normally, the problem originates with Cuban cigars or fresh-rolled cigars you buy from a small roller or manufacturer that doesn’t have the infrastructure to properly prevent the issue.
4. Temperature and humidity also play a role. It’s far more likely for the beetles to hatch in warm, wet environments. Make sure you keep your cigars at a cool temperature and below 73 percent humidity at all times. If you turn off your air conditioner for any length of time (whether you’re turning it off because you’re traveling or just trying to cut back on home cooling costs), make sure your humidor is in a cool place. As always, avoid keeping your humidor in an area that gets direct sunlight.
While there is no known way of completely safeguarding your cigar stash against cigar beetles other than not smoking cigars (and who wants to do that?), putting in place these practices will help prevent unwanted issues down the road.