3. Tobacco Beetles

Lasioderma serricorne, the tobacco beetle, first became a pest of cured tobacco over a century ago. It initially was a problem in tobacco warehoused in the Philippines as well as other areas of the Far East. But subsequent world trade, coupled with poor pest control measures, led to its spread throughout the world. It is now a ubiquitous pest.

The tobacco beetle is a brown, pinhead-sized (2-3mm) beetle that can fly. It is its larval forms that like to tunnel through cured, finished tobacco leaf—both lamina and stems—leaving easily identifiable holes as well as “dust”. Tobacco warehouses everywhere today regularly inspect for it and fumigate their tobacco to eliminate it. But it nonetheless persists. The adult beetles can be successfully wiped out, but then return when their eggs hatch and mature.

Damage from tobacco beetles
This is the unmistakable appearance of damage from tobacco beetles. The entire, closed bag should be frozen for 7 to 10 days.

Lasioderma serricorne can hitch a ride into a house in any tobacco or tobacco product (including commercial cigarettes), as well as in purchasing, dried grains and cereals (including breakfast cereals), flour, commercial bread crumbs, and a host of other items. If they get into a cigar humidor, they may tunnel through wrappers on expensive cigars, and otherwise create damage to tobacco, and to foods in the pantry.

Once tobacco beetles have been detected within a home (in a humidor or pack of cigarettes, or in stored tobacco or pantry foods), they are quite difficult to eliminate. The beetle and its eggs can be killed in stored tobacco by placing the closed bag in the freezer and leaving it there for a week to 10 days. (The adults die within 6 days at 4 °C [39.2° F], and eggs survive 5 days at 0–5 °C [32°F].) Individual bags, cartons, or boxes of pantry foods can be kept within closed Ziploc bags and tossed if seen to be infested.