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When Diplomacy Fails With Tobacco Beetles

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Tobacco beetles (Lasioderma serricorne) are nasty little buggers; left to their own devices, they will eat tobacco, lay eggs in cigars, and make cocoons, completely destroying your cigars in the process. Because their eggs hatch quickly, in 5 to 10 days, and tobacco beetles can lay up to 100 eggs at a time, it is important to act at the first sign of an outbreak: a pin-sized hole on the wrapper of one your cigars.

Once you have discovered an infestation, you have two options: you can either dispose of the infested cigar or freeze it.

1. Disposal:

Carefully place the infested cigar in a couple of well- sealed plastic bags so the tobacco beetles won’t spread, and place the bag in the garbage can. This method may be quick and easy, but it is not particularly cost effective; chances are, if eggs have hatched in one cigar, they have hatched in other cigars as well. So unless you’re absolutely sure the tobacco beetles haven’t spread to other cigars, or you’re willing to throw out all of your cigars, freezing them is probably a better route to take.

2. Freezing:

Tobacco beetles die at temperatures below 40oF (4oC), so freezing your infested cigars is the most effective way to kill any tobacco beetles. However, freezing does have its risks: the cold air can dry out the cigars, and if the cigars are warmed too quickly, they can split as the filler tobacco expands. Additionally, freezer smells can negatively impact the flavor of the cigars. But, if you follow the directions listed below, you shouldn’t have any problems, and you will be smoking your beetle-free cigars in no time.

  • Put all the cigars in a plastic bag and freeze for 3 to 4 days.
  • To pass the time, clean your humidor with a damp cloth. While you might be tempted to use soap or bleach, it’s not really necessary. Besides, it will ruin the wood and give your cigars a subtle hint of bleach.
  • Take the cigars out of the freezer and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days.
  • Put the cigars back into your humidor.
  • Enjoy!

Preventive Measures:

Of course, it is always easier to prevent an outbreak from happening in the first place. Follow the 4 tips below, and you should remain free from outbreaks.

  • Since tobacco beetles thrive in hot, humid environments, and eggs hatch at temperatures above 72oF (22oC), the easiest way to prevent an outbreak is to make sure your humidor is at 70oF (21oC) and at a level of 70% humidity.
  • Keep your humidor out of direct sunlight.
  • Pick up some strips of cedar the next time you’re at the tobacconist, and store them with your cigars. They’re great at absorbing excess moisture, which keeps levels of humidity down.
  • If you don’t already own one, consider purchasing a humidor. They only cost around $30 and can make a big difference in the quality of your cigars.

Keeping your cigars in a cool, dry place is an excellent preventive measure against tobacco beetle outbreaks. And, if you do happen to have find an infestation of tobacco beetles, simply freeze your cigars for 3 days, and then slowly return them to room temperature.

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About Matthew Rosen