Cigarette Beetles

  • Written by: Killingsworth Environmental
  • January 24, 2011

What Are Cigarette Beetles?

Cigarette beetles are quite small, measuring about 2 to 3 mm (about 1/8 of an inch), and are reddish brown. They have a rounded, oval shape and the head is often concealed by the pronotum when the beetle is viewed from above.

The elytra (wing covers) are covered with fine hairs. When disturbed they often pull in their legs, tuck their head and lay motionless. They prefer to reside in dark or dimly lit cracks, nooks and crevices but become active and fly readily in bright, open areas, probably in an attempt to find refuge.

They are most active at dusk and will continue activity through the night. Adults do not feed but will drink liquids.

Cigarette beetles look almost identical to drugstore beetles but can be distinguished by two easily identifiable characters: the antennae of the cigarette beetle are serrated (like the teeth on a saw) while the antennae of the drugstore beetle are not and end in a 3-segmented club.

The other difference is that drugstore beetle elytra have rows of pits giving them a striated (lined) appearance while those of the cigarette beetle are smooth.

Besides the dubious honor of being the most damaging pest of stored tobacco, the cigarette beetle also is a major pest of many stored food products including flours, dry mixes, dried fruits such as dates and raisins, cereals, cocoa, coffee beans, herbs, spices, nuts, rice, dry dog food and other products kept in kitchen cabinets, pantries, hurricane food supply storage containers, and other areas in the home. Non-food products that it infests include dried plants and herbarium specimens, dried floral arrangements, potpourri, decorative grapevine wreaths, prescription drugs and pills, medicinal herbs, pinned insects, furniture stuffing, papier-mache, and bookbinding paste.

Larval feeding causes direct damage to foodstuffs and non-food items. These products are contaminated by the presence of beetles, larvae, pupae, cocoons, frass (fecal material), and insect parts. Beetles chewing through cardboard boxes and containers, and packaging cause indirect damage. Cocoons are often attached to a solid substrate and in severe infestations form large clusters. Larvae will sometimes bore their way through cardboard boxes and other packaging in search of a place to pupate.

Controlling cigarette beetle infestations in the home is relatively simple; insecticides should be used only as a last resort.

Locating the source of infestation is the first and most important step. Heavily infested items should be wrapped in heavy plastic, taken outside and thrown away. All food containers and items should be checked for infestation. Items can be placed in the refrigerator or freezer for four to seven days to kill all stages. Place items in a plastic bag to reduce condensation problems during thawing. Heating small quantities of infested material in an oven also is effective. Uninfested items can be cold- or heat-treated to ensure that any undetected infestations are killed. To prevent reinfestation, clean up spilled flour, mixes, crumbs, etc. and thoroughly vacuum and clean areas where the contaminated items were stored. Store foods in airtight glass, metal or plastic containers. Clear containers make it easier to check for infestations. Chemical treatment using commercially available insecticides is usually not necessary. There are several insecticides and insect growth regulators labeled for use on cigarette beetles.

If you need professional help getting rid of these pests, schedule a pest control service with us!

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