As a cigar enthusiast or collector, you’ve probably run into your fair share of beetles.
These tiny, yet, frustrating organisms will lay eggs within your cigars, ruining them in the process.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent tobacco beetles from manifesting in your cigars. One way that owners have been doing this is with the help of cigar humidors.
But even humidors aren’t perfect, and occasionally you’ll find that a swarm of these small creatures are making a home within the unit.
When this happens, what are you supposed to do? How do you deal with tobacco beetles? And how are you supposed to prevent tobacco beetles from getting into your cigar humidor in the first place? That’s what we are going to be discussing in the subsequent sections of this article.
In What Temperatures Do Tobacco Beetles Thrive?
You’re probably familiar with the guidelines: keep your humidor at 70°F and 70% humidity.
But do you know why this is important?
Most tobacco beetles can thrive quite abundantly in temperatures or humidity levels that exceed 72% moisture or 72-degree Fahrenheit.
It might sound like only a small jump upwards from the recommended guidelines, but it’s enough to allow them to multiply and wreak havoc on your cigar collection.
What you can do:
- Make sure that you’re using both a digital hygrometer and a digital thermometer with your humidor.
- These are much more accurate than analogue models, but more expensive.
- Without these devices, you’re basically sitting in the dark, and won’t be able to know for sure if the humidity and temperature levels within your unit are where they need to be.
- Check them regularly, and if you notice any dramatic fluctuations (like temperatures that periodically jump from 68°F to 74°F, then you need to start troubleshooting to see what the problem is.
First Line of Defense – Keep the Lid Closed!
You’d be surprised by just how many cigar coolers don’t properly close the lids or doors on their devices. Whenever you do this, you’re basically asking for tobacco beetles to make themselves at home within your cigar humidor.
If the humidity and temperature levels for your humidor are frequently fluctuating, it’s probably because you’re not properly closing your lid.
Do this enough times and you’ll eventually have a swarm of tobacco beetles to deal with. To summarize, your first line of defense is to keep the lid closed on your humidor!
Second Line of Defense – Regularly Clean Your Cigar Humidor
Preventative maintenance is always better than having to fix the aftermath of a problem.
- For this reason, make sure that you are cleaning your cigar humidor regularly.
- As a general rule of thumb, never go more than a few months between cleanings and maintenance work.
- The longer you wait, the higher the chances that you’ll accumulate tobacco beetles (much less anything else that wants to grow in your humidor).
When cleaning your cigar humidor:
- Start by taking out your cigars, placing them in plastic Ziploc baggies, and storing them in the freezer.
- Always use distilled water when cleaning the inside of your humidor, and make sure that you check every crack, crevice, and corner of your unit for signs of these creatures.
- Cleaning your humidor regularly, combined with properly closing your humidor lid every time, will dramatically decrease the chances of having tobacco beetles infect your cigar collection.
What Should You Do If You See Signs of Damage?
First off, don’t panic.
If you catch the signs early enough, there’s a good chance that only a few of your cigars will have gotten infested with tobacco beetles, but you’ll need to take immediate action:
- Examine every cigar, and place each one that doesn’t have signs of damage in a plastic Ziploc baggie separate from all the others which have been infected.
- For the ones that have been damaged, simply throw them away.
Now you’ll need to clean the entire cigar humidor from scratch.
Remember: Before you place any of the good cigars back into the humidor, double-check that you’ve thoroughly cleaned out the inside of your unit. Tobacco beetles are difficult to handle, but as long as you take action right away, there shouldn’t be any issue removing them from within your cigar cooler.
Where Do Tobacco Beetles Even Come From?
You might be wondering where these little creatures even come from. The truth is that most are actually in the cigars that you purchase.
How you ask? Factories always do their best to ensure that tobacco beetles stay out of their cigars. They’ll often fumigate, freeze, or deprive of oxygen entire rooms just in hopes of eliminating them.
But it is inevitable that some are going to survive, and they generally only show themselves whenever the humidity and temperature levels within your humidor get too high.
They Can Cost You Big Time
There have been stories about individuals who have lost collections of more than 1,000 cigars to tobacco beetles. The damage can get so bad that in the end, all that you’ll be left with is some brown tobacco dust in various areas of your humidor.
Although a dramatic outbreak like this rare, most smokers can agree that they don’t like to see any damage on their cigars – much less know that there are tobacco beetles living within their humidors. For this reason, it’s incredibly important that you be vigilant about preventing them.
Cleaning Your Humidor after an Outbreak – Additional Tips to Remember
This is why it’s so important that you ensure that the temperature and humidity levels within your humidor are at optimal levels.
- When placing your cigars in the freezer (while you’re cleaning the humidor), don’t take them out and immediately place them in your unit. Instead, place them in the refrigerator and then the humidor. This way, they won’t be shocked by such extreme changes in temperature.
- When cleaning your humidor, never use any kind of disinfectant or cleaner on the inside. Not only will this leave a bad odor behind, but it will likely ruin your wood and taint your cigars permanently.
- Once you’ve successfully cleaned your humidor, it’s time to work backwards and figure out why this all happened in the first place.
Troubleshooting a Tobacco Beetle Infestation
Now it is time to think about why the tobacco beetle outbreak occurred. It’s probably because your humidor was too hot or too humid (or both).
- Take a digital hygrometer and digital thermometer (since those give more accurate readings), and take a look.
- Are the temperatures and humidity levels hovering around 70°F and 70% humidity? If it’s higher, then there’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
- Start by making sure that your humidor isn’t sitting under direct sunlight. This can affect the reading.
- Next, check the humidification system itself. If you’re currently using a humidor that was homemade or cheap, consider investing in one that’s a little more expensive.
- While humidors made from Spanish cedar are generally a few hundred to a few thousand dollars more than other models, they are definitely worth it in the long run, since they’ll ultimately increase the lifespan of your cigars and prevent beetle growth.
The Infamous “Buckshot” Holes in Cigars – a Telltale Sign
One of the first pieces of evidence to watch out for regarding tobacco beetles will be a set of buckshot-looking holes in your cigar.
You can also try tapping the end of your cigar against a table. If brown powder starts falling freely from the cigar then this is further evidence that there are tobacco beetles inside. However, a lot of the times you’ll simply notice a trail of dust at the bottom of your humidor.
Anatomy of a Tobacco Beetle – Physical Characteristics and Properties
Most tobacco beetles are no more than two or three millimeters across. Adults are reddish-brown in color, have hair, and only survive for about a month. All tobacco beetles start off in small white eggs that are about 0.5 millimeters in size. After about a week to ten days, these eggs will hatch, giving rise to something called a “pupa.” These are brown in color, and it generally takes about three weeks for pupas to become adults.
Tobacco beetles can survive in any one of these three phases within a cigar as long as the outside temperatures are ideal. One of the reasons why tobacco beetles can cause so much damage to a cigar collection is because they’re able to reproduce and mature so quickly. Although you usually won’t see them physically unless you open up a cigar, it’s always good to know what you’re dealing with.
Above all, it’s always better to prevent tobacco beetles in the first place rather than clean up their mess afterwards. The last thing you want is to ruin an entire cigar collection because you forgot to clean your unit or because you left the lid open.
As long as you’re following the temperature and humidity guidelines for your cigar humidohumidor(which means 70°F and 70% humidity) there’s virtually no chance that tobacco beetles will be able to survive and thrive within your device.