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Cigarette Beetle Identification & Control Guide

a cigarette beetle on a piece of wood

It can feel shocking to discover tiny beetles infesting your pantry or your pet’s dried food. Even if you’re familiar with these small pests, when you find one, you might wonder: Is it a cigarette beetle, a drugstore beetle or something else? Cigarette beetles are extremely common pests in people’s homes across the United States. They are especially common in warmer areas. Knowing how to identify them is an important first step in learning how to control them.

Both cigarette beetles and drugstore beetles got their names from the dry goods stores of yesteryear. These pests infest all sorts of dried items. You may find these bugs in flour, beans, rice cereal, herbs and spices. They are also known to infest dry dog and cat food, and many other things people regularly bring home from the store.

Since all of these are such common items in so many homes, it’s easy to see how these tiny beetles can become such a problem in our pantries and cupboards.

Identifying Cigarette Beetles Versus Drugstore Beetles and Weevils

Cigarette beetles look very similar to drugstore beetles. Both are light brown in color, with wings and serrate antennae. The adults of both species are very small, growing to only about a tenth of an inch long. Both have oval-shaped bodies, with tiny grooves running the length of their wings.

Both of these beetles look somewhat similar to weevils, another type of tiny brown beetle that infests dried foods. But if you held up a magnifying glass to all three, you’d see that weevils have much narrower bodies as well as long, pointy mouthpieces.

While both cigarette and drugstore beetles are oval-shaped, cigarette beetles’ bodies are a little wider than drugstore beetles. They also look a little more rounded or humped when viewed from the side. Otherwise, these two beetles look very similar, and it’s hard for most people to tell them apart.

Cigarette Beetle Life Cycle and Potential for Damage

The good news about cigarette beetles is that they aren’t known to bite humans or carry diseases. They are more of what’s called a nuisance pest. Still, while they may not make people itchy or sick, they can make stored foods unappetizing and even inedible. They are also just unsettling to have around. If you find them in your home, you probably want to get rid of these pests, fast!

Unfortunately, getting rid of these pests takes time and patience. Female cigarette beetles can lay up to 100 eggs each. They lay them right in the food they’re infesting, so when the eggs hatch, the larvae will have food to eat immediately. These larvae cause a lot of damage to dried goods as they tunnel through and consume them on their way to becoming pupae just a week or two later.

The total lifespan of a cigarette beetle is less than two months, from egg through adulthood. While that is relatively short, these pests reproduce so quickly that their numbers can grow out of control in just a short time. This is why getting rid of them can take a lot of time and patience.

Signs of a Cigarette Beetle Infestation

If you see tiny, brown beetles crawling through the food in your pantry, there’s a good chance that you have a cigarette beetle infestation. But this isn’t the only sign. You might also see the winged adult beetles flying around outside the food items. You might spot their whitish larvae in the food itself.

Another sign of cigarette beetles is food packages that have chew marks and spill out dust when moved. This “dust” is actually the food item itself, after it’s worked over by cigarette beetles and their feeding larvae. Both cigarette beetles and grain mites break down cereals, grains, flour and other dried foods into tiny, dust-like particles. This can cause a real mess in your cabinets or pantry.

How to Get Rid of Cigarette Beetles

What is the best way to get rid of cigarette beetles? Since these beetles infest our food and the areas where we store our foods, many people are worried about using pesticides that might be toxic to humans. Furthermore, cigarette beetles aren’t affected by pesticides that are commonly used for other pests. They can even feed on rat poison and live!

These are just a few reasons why it’s a good idea to reach out to a pest control professional for help with a cigarette beetle infestation. Unfortunately, you’ll have to get rid of any foods that adult beetles or their eggs and larvae have infested. A pest specialist can inspect your home and determine which areas and items the beetles are infesting. That way, you’ll know what to get rid of.

If you need pesticides to get rid of these pests, these products are best applied by a pest control professional. This is because using pesticides around food items should be done cautiously.

Keep in mind that cigarette beetles can also feed on non-food items like paper and dried flowers. This means other parts of the home might have cigarette beetles along with the kitchen. For example, you could find cigarette beetles in your bedroom if you store books there. A specialist can make a thorough pest inspection. Your specialist will recommend throwing away anything these pests have infested. Alternatively, putting infested items in the freezer for up to a week will also kill off these pests in all stages of their life cycle.

Preventing Cigarette Beetles

Once you have your cigarette beetle infestation under control, it’s important to take steps to keep it that way. The very first thing to do, before even bringing dried goods home from the store, is to take a close look at their packaging. Make sure it doesn’t appear chewed on or damaged.

At home, store dried foods in containers with airtight lids that will keep insects and other pests out. Keeping your cabinets and pantry clean, dry and organized is also very important. That way, you’ll be able to see any signs of a resurging infestation as they develop, so you can stop the problem before it gets out of control again.

ABC Can Treat for Cigarette Beetles

Although cigarette beetles are most commonly found in pantries, these pests can move to other areas of the home. This can make cigarette beetle control even more difficult. Instead of battling these pests on your own, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our professionals can come up with an effective pest treatment plan, so you can feel comfortable when you go to grab food out of your pantry.

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