The cigarette beetle is a small insect – less than 1/8″ long. However, it is a serious pest of tobacco that is in storage. The cigarette beetle is also a pest of stored food products in homes, warehouses, and food processing facilities.
The cigarette beetle is oval-shaped. It is light brown and has tiny holes on the back. When it is viewed from above, the beetle's head is hidden and it has a “humped” appearance.
Many people confuse the cigarette beetle and the drugstore beetle. The drugstore beetle has tiny holes on its back and they are in straight rows. The holes on the cigarette beetles back are not in rows. The antennae of the two beetles are different. The cigarette beetle's antenna has tiny ridges like teeth on a saw blade. The drugstore beetle's antenna is straight and it ends in a club shape.
The cigarette beetle larva is white and grub-like. It is usually less than 1/8″ long and it usually curls into a C-shape. The larva has well-developed legs and many hairs on its body.
Cigarette beetles attack almost every type of food. They have been found in dried fruits, dried vegetables, dried flowers, nuts, spices and seeds. They have been found eating book binding paste, dry dog food, and fabrics like silk and leather.
The adult beetle deposits eggs on the food material. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat and grow. As they grow, the larvae shed their skins 5 or 6 times. When they are ready to change to adults, the larvae spin silken cocoons.
Controlling cigarette beetles begins with a thorough inspection. It is important to find everything that the larvae are eating. Go through the pantry and the cabinets and check all of the food packages. Discard everything that is infested. Vacuum the shelves thoroughly before replacing the food on the shelves.
Inspect packages at the store. Do not buy food products in broken or torn packages. Store food in containers with lids that fit tightly.