Cigarette Beetles

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Lasioderma serricorne (Fabricius)

Appearance

What do they look like?
cigarette beetle on chocolate

The cigarette beetle, Lasioderma serricorne (Fabricius), gets its name from attacking stored tobacco. It is a stored product pest throughout the world.

  • Size: The adult beetle is a small insect (2 to 3 mm).
  • Color: It is usually light brown.
  • Head: The head is bent down and barely visible from above. This gives the beetle a rounded or “humped” appearance.

How Did I Get Cigarette Beetles?

Food sources like stocked pantries and cupboards attract cigarette beetles. The pests lay eggs directly on or in food to ensure larvae will have a meal once they hatch from the eggs laid by the female beetle. A cigarette beetle can enter a home through gaps under doorways, open windows, cracks in the foundation and may be brought inside with infested products. Places with dark crevices allow them to remain unseen and they often live and develop in foods that are well hidden and rarely opened to inspect for damage.

How Serious Are Cigarette Beetles?

Cigarette beetles eat a wide variety of foods, including cereal, coffee beans, spices, rice, dried fruits, animal based products and pet food. They may even chew through cardboard boxes and food packaging, so only items stored in airtight containers are completely safe from these pests. In addition, females can lay 10 to 100 eggs at a time, so a cigarette beetle problem can quickly become severe. Cigarette beetles adulterate foods they infest by their feeding, accumulations of their body parts and contamination from their feces.

How Can You Get Rid of Them?

Inspection
Controlling cigarette beetles in homes begins with a thorough inspection. Since these beetles can feed on such a variety of products, it is important to find all infested items. Discard any food that is infested. Since these beetles can infest so many types of products, inspect thoroughly. There may be several infested products.

Clean
Use a vacuum to clean the shelves of all pantries and cabinets where food is stored. Vacuuming will remove food residue. Store new food products in sealed glass or plastic containers.

Insecticides
Insecticide application is the final step. It should be applied into the cracks and crevices—behind the pantry shelves and behind baseboards. The object is to eliminate adult beetles that have dispersed from the infested materials.

Contact Orkin
If the treatment misses any beetles, they can re-infest quickly. For that reason, it is usually advisable to schedule an inspection with your local Orkin branch.

Signs of Cigarette Beetle Infestation

The most visible signs of cigarette beetles are the adults, holes in packaging and debris coming out of packages. Adults are active fliers and are observed as small brown beetles. As they exit from infested materials, they often chew their way free, which leaves holes in the packaging. As the larvae continue to feed, fine particles of debris come from the packaging.

Tobacco Leaf Damaged by Cigarette Beetle
Tobacco Leaf Damaged by a Cigarette Beetle

Behavior, Diet & Habits

The adult beetles are strong fliers. They are very active in subdued light. They fly readily in late afternoon and on cloudy days. Cigarette beetles “play dead” for a few seconds when they are disturbed.

Reproduction & Life Cycle

The female beetle lays her eggs in or on the food material. These beetles infest a wide variety of products, including pet food, flour, cereal, spices and pasta. They have also infested books, dried flowers, spices, leather, silk, old rodent bait and even museum specimens. In homes, spices and dry pet food are very common foods for cigarette beetles.

The larvae eat and grow. They spin a cocoon when it is time to change into adults. The entire life cycle, from egg to reproducing adult takes 30 to 90 days. Development slows in cooler temperature and stops below 65°F.

image of cigarette beetle larvae
Cigarette Beetle Larvae