Tobacco Beetles are small – about 1/8th of an inch long – and appear to be oval or almost square in shape. They are most likely to be a shiny reddish brown color and closely resemble a drugstore beetle. To a trained eye, the use of a small magnifying glass or microscope will reveal the easiest way to tell just what you have by the antennae. Drugstore beetles have antennae which have a distinctive three segmented like club top where the tobacco beetle has a serrated antennae which is uniform from top to bottom where it mounts on the insects head. The following video shows a cloth doll infested with tobacco beetles.
TOBACCO BEETLE BIOLOGY
Though they love tobacco, tobacco beetles can thrive on just about any food stuff. They will readily eat books, furniture, stored dried plants, canvas paintings, anything made of straw, just about any spice, cookies, flour, pasta, cotton, medicine, dog food and rat poison! Cigar collectors dread the tobacco beetle; hobbyist who like to make wreathes and other natural creations will undoubtedly have to contend with this menace. Though they will crawl while feeding, adults like to fly which makes them particularly hard to handle. It is not uncommon to have them fly into your home during the spring or summer and once inside, make themselves unwanted permanent guests. It serves no purpose to try and determine how or why you got them – the list of reasons will quickly become too large to handle.
TOBACCO BEETLE INFESTATIONS
Once they get inside, females will lay eggs where they expect their young to acquire good food. They will lay 50-100 eggs over a period of 1-2 months then die. The eggs will hatch in 7-14 days and the newly born larva will immediately begin to feed on anything they can find which will provide nutrition. They will usually feed for 5-10 weeks depending on how much food they have access to, humidity and temperature. Once they get their fill they will undergo metamorphosis for another 2-3 months and then emerge as full blown adults ready to mate and lay eggs. In most regions of the country, they will be able to complete two or three cycles per year. This means if one pregnant female enters your home in the spring, you could conceivably have 5,000-10,000 adults flying around by the end of the year!!!
In most situations, homeowners are not quite sure what they have when it comes to a tobacco beetle. When the first few are discovered, they will usually clean the suspected room where they emerged hoping to rid their home of all that may be present. This won’t work. Though a good vacuuming won’t hurt and certainly will help to remove some eggs, larva and pupae, there are simply too many parts of the cycle that can be remaining following these efforts. The remaining eggs and pupae will quickly replace that which you previously removed. Another common trick homeowners will try is to freeze any food or other items they think is the key to their problems. This is another futile effort which is just a waste of time. Though freezing will kill active adults and larva, the eggs and pupa will readily survive these conditions for many months. This means you will have to keep items frozen for long periods of time if you expect to break the cycle and you will have to have access to a large freezer since it is very likely they are into many things throughout the home. There are some basic facts and characteristics about this beetle which need to be taken into consideration if you have any type of infestation. Once you understand these facts you can proceed with a tobacco beetle elimination program.
TOBACCO BEETLE TRAITS
First, tobacco beetles are great flyers. They readily live outside and fly around during warm summer months. They will readily enter homes through open doors and windows. Once inside, they can find too many food items to list. This is probably the most common way household problems start and seem to be very common routes of entry to homes which are around agricultural areas, farms or processing plants which store food which these beetles like to eat.
Second, tobacco beetles are hardy. They can survive hot and cold quite well. Once in the home, they will probably remain there throughout the whole year. Don’t sit back expecting them to “die out” when it gets cold – this won’t work. You will need to take a pro active stance to get control of the problem as soon as possible.
Third, tobacco beetles will migrate to new food supplies quickly. If you have some pantry items like spices or old beans and you don’t know if it is harboring some beetles, you can place it in a clear plastic bag and store it this way. Next time you take it out to use it see if there are any beetles accumulating in the bag outside the food. If you find any, discard the item. Don’t be discouraged if you find them active in most of your pantry – this is actually quite the norm. If you have a room where you store dried flowers, wreathes, Christmas ornaments or other decorations and suspect they may be active in there, you are probably right. There are many natural foods used in the construction of these decorations these days and tobacco beetles are quick to take advantage of the supply.
Fourth, the best way to keep infestations under control is to stop them from entering your home in the first place. This may mean keeping screens on doors and windows but remember that since most smells are sure to attract flying adults, your home will be effectively attracting them when windows and doorways allow air to exit which contains good strong food smells.
TOBACCO BEETLE TRAPS
Once you have determined you have tobacco beetles active in your home, there are several things which need to be done to stop the infestation. The first thing you should do is set up some TOBACCO BEETLE TRAPS. These are pheromone based traps which lure adult beetles using natural sex scents. Once they fly to into the trap they will get stuck on the sticky glue pad inside. These traps should be set up in any room where you believe activity is present. One trap will cover 200 sq/ft and should be located high up since a higher placement will generally allow it’s odor to permeate better. Pheromone traps work great at catching tobacco beetles and most any processing plant with beetles should have these traps set up throughout the plant. They have proven to be so effective at reducing both activity and reproduction that a good trap installation will dramatically cut down on just how much spraying is needed. However, it is not likely you will be able to avoid chemical treatments once you have them; the traps work best at preventing infestations and when used as monitors to locate main nesting rooms or points of entry.
TOBACCO BEETLE CONTROL
Once you have determined just which rooms have activity you will need to spray. This must be done if you hope to break the cycle once and for all. Though the traps will catch adults looking to mate and lay eggs, they won’t catch the feeding young. Larva move about by crawling so a good crack and crevice treatment in pantries, closets, baseboard molding, door frames, window frames and other places where they are living will kill off the mobile young. Use DFORCE AEROSOL for this application since it’s easy to apply and comes with a crack and crevice tip for precise injection. When treating food or dish storage cabinets be sure to remove everything first. Wait at least 15 minutes following treatment before you replace the contents and be sure all surfaces are dry. Dforce is both a flushing agent and a contact killer so it will chase out any beetles hiding and kill them before they can relocate.
TOBACCO BEETLE CONTROL SPRAY
The use of the aerosol may not be too practical if you have large areas to treat. For better coverage and economy, use PERMETHRIN CONCENTRATE. This is a low odor concentrate which is mixed with water and applied with several of the SPRAYERS we feature in our product line. Permethrin will provide a residual up to a month so that as eggs hatch the emerging larva will die off. Again, this is critical for breaking the cycle. Use this spray when you have a lot of baseboard to treat, furniture, components like straw, fabric and other natural fibers. The Permethrin is labeled for use on just about any surface and won’t stain or smell so it’s a great product to use for a lot of applications. It is particularly helpful when you want to store ornaments, wreathes or other items made from something natural which tobacco beetles like to eat. Lightly mist them, allow them to dry and then you can safely wrap them up for storage. Such applications will last a long time – especially when stored in boxes or bags protected from direct sunlight.
TOBACCO BEETLE CONTROL PROCESS
Understanding the treatment process is key to getting control of local infestations. Here is a quick summary of the products listed above and when each one should be used.
1) Pheromone Traps. These should be used in virtually any situation. First, they help monitor activity alerting you to where beetles are entering, which rooms they are most active and times of the year when adults are hatching. However, they can really help at breaking the cycle since every adult they trap is one less which can mate and propagate.
2) Dforce Aerosol. Use this form of treatment when you are sure you only have a room or two which needs treatment. The Straw applicator and pre-mixed form enable precise treatments in pantries, cabinets, closets, moldings, etc without the mess of regular liquid sprays. This form is great for most treatments and does a great job at breaking the cycle.
3) Permethrin Concentrate. Use this form of treatment when you have a lot of treating to do. This will be needed when activity is found throughout the entire home or if you have a large facility needing to be sprayed. Permethrin is also best to use if you have carpeting, furniture, fabric, wreathes, baskets or other items to spray where a delicate water based spray is less likely to stain as opposed to the aerosol Dforce.
Tobacco beetles can be persistent and tough to control. If you are seeing one or two don’t wait till eggs get a chance to develop to adults. Set some traps out in any part of the house where you suspect they might be living. If you catch one or two a week you will need to start treatments ASAP. Use the Dforce Aerosol if you only have a room or two to spray; use the Permethrin Concentrate if you have them throughout the whole house and need to cover a lot of area economically. A combination of traps and spray will kill off developing larva and reproducing adults so that you can stop the cycle once and for all!