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Tiny Cigarette Beetles Infest Many Food Products

By Chris Williams on May 18, 2016.

Why in the world would I have cigarette beetles in my dried herb jar?  I’ve been seeing these little brown beetles in my kitchen and my friend who’s a biology teacher looked at them and said they were cigarette beetles!  D. R., Boscawen, NH

Despite the name, cigarette beetles are a common pest of packaged or bulk foods. Hardly anyone grows tobacco anymore, but the old-timers remember what a pest these beetles were, feeding on the drying tobacco leaves. They will also attack cigars or cigarettes in storage. Hence the name, cigarette beetle.

Cigarette beetle larvae look like miniature white grubs. They can chew through packaging to get to foods inside. Once the brown adult beetles (about 1/10 inch long) emerge inside the food product, they will also chew holes in the package to get out. Adult beetles are active at night and can be found around windows or lights, or flying in circles over a food source. They often “play dead” if you touch them.

I should point out that your beetles could be drugstore beetles instead since the two beetles are almost identical. It doesn’t really matter though since they have the same habits, feed on the same types of food, and control measures are the same.

Cigarette Beetles Have a Broad Appetite

Once you have an infestation of these guys in your home, you can spend a lot of time tracking down the infested foods since they feed on so many different things. Don’t limit your search to the kitchen or pantry since cigarette beetles can also infest many nonfood items made of dried plant or animal material, such as:

  • Spices, especially paprika, and herbs
  • Dry pet food, including fish food
  • Cereals and grains
  • Flour and meal
  • Nuts and seeds, including bird seed
  • Dried fruit, including raisins, dates, figs
  • Dried fish and fish meal
  • Dried tobacco, cigars, cigarettes
  • Yeast
  • Dried plants, including dried flower arrangements
  • Rodent bait
  • Drugs

Finding and discarding all of the infested products is the first step. For help with this, call Colonial and check out this blog: How to Check Food Products for Insects – Advice From the Pros. If the infestation is extensive, Colonial Pest can treat kitchen shelves or other areas where beetles have been found and where eggs may have been laid.

To avoid cigarette beetles and other stored food insects, see Preventing Pantry Pests – Advice From the Pros.

Photo Credit : by CSIRO. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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