Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


June 18, 2012

PLATEAU GARDENING: Dealing with cigarette, drugstore beetles, part 2

CROSSVILLE — My introduction to cigarette beetles (Lasioderma serricorne) came while answering homeowner questions at the Master Gardener desk in our county University of Tennessee Extension office. A resident brought in a plastic baggie with three or four tiny (about 1/10-inch long) oval shaped reddish-brown beetles for identification. He captured them on a kitchen window sill and wanted to know what they were, what type of harm they could do and how to get rid of them.

Both cigarette beetle and drugstore beetle (Stegobium paniceum) adult life forms are similar in appearance when viewed without magnification but there are differences in the adult beetles’ antennae and how they carry their heads (the cigarette beetle looks hump-backed from the side, the drugstore beetle does not). A slightly more elongated body for the adult drugstore beetle and fewer hairs on the grub-like larvae of that species are other distinguishing features which can be seen when a hand lens or microscope is used. According to an Ohio State University Fact Sheet, these pests “... do not bite or sting humans or pets, spread disease, or feed on or damage the house” but don’t be fooled into thinking these bugs are not worrisome.

Both beetles can fly quite a distance from their original infestation point and have a wide range of preferred foods including all sorts of items made from plant and animal products as well as many of the same stored foodstuffs pantry moths go after. View the "Cigarette and Drugstore Beetles Hyg-2083-97" online information sheet by typing into the address line of your web browser for more details.

Other sources for this article were the University of Florida Department of Entomology and Nematology online "Featured Creatures" articles on drugstore and cigarette beetles. The life cycle of these household pests is similar. A female beetle lays eggs on a food source. Eggs are too tiny to be seen with the naked eye. The larval form looks like a miniature grub. Feeding larvae cause the most damage. The grub forms a little ball or cell which serves as a cocoon where it pupates (transforms into an adult beetle).

One or the other or both of these creatures are a threat to clothing and accessories made from wool and leather, to cigars, cigarettes and chewing tobacco, to dried flowers, books and other paper products, even to priceless museum specimens, to prescription drugs, as well as to items like the spice paprika, peanuts, cornmeal, flour, wheat, wheat bran, fish meal, beans, cereal, dog and cat food. Left unchecked these beetle grubs can cost you, big time! Cigarette beetle (also known as the tobacco beetle) larvae can turn a humidor full of expensive cigars into a dusty memory. In your clothes closet they may chew holes in apparel made with woolen cloth or damage leather goods like belts and shoes. Drugstore beetle larvae eat pharmaceutical drugs and herbal products.

I recommend keeping a sticky trap with pheromones for multiple pests to monitor for the presence of meal and flour moths as well as the cigarette and drugstore beetles after I unknowingly brought home a bag of cat food infested with these beetles a few years ago. As with other pantry pests, the first control measure is to find the infestation source. Look for beetles, larvae, dust and debris in food containers. Bag and throw away (outside the house) heavily infested items. Clean the storage area. Heat or freezing treatments can be used to kill pests in exposed products that you wish to save. Avoid major problems with re-infestation. Shop carefully. Practice good sanitation in storage locations and keep susceptible items in sealed containers.

• • •

Plateau Gardening is written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region.  UT Extension Cumberland County at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (931-484-6743) has answers horticulture questions, free publications and details on how to become a Master Gardener. Send email comments or yard & garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae, 



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