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Stogie Tips: Dealing with Dreaded Tobacco Beetles

14 Dec 2010

Recently, a single batch of cigars caused three different Stogie Guys’ humidors to show signs of the dreaded cigar beetle. The culprits were caught quickly, but the incident provides a good learning opportunity to talk about what to do when you notice beetle holes (pictured below) in your cigars.

Isolate

Immediately upon the discovery of signs of tobacco beetles, it is critical to stop them from spreading. This means not only removing cigars with beetle holes, but all others that may have beetle eggs in them. First you should inspect all your other cigars for similar holes.

If you see a beetle hole in one cigar, then that means the beetle has hatched and already moved on, likely to another cigar. In a small humidor, particularly where the cigars are not kept in cellophane, this means isolating the entire contents of the humidor. In a larger cabinet, if the infested cigar is in a closed box, I’d recommend isolating the cigars in that box, while keeping an eye on the other cigars in the humidor.

Decontaminate

Cigars with obvious holes should probably be tossed, because even though they may be dead after the decontamination process, smoking a cigar that has beetle eggs in it isn’t a pleasant experience. For all those cigars you are suspicious of, freeze them to make sure any eggs don’t hatch.

To do this, first put all the cigars in a ziplock freezer bag, then in a second ziplock, and carefully remove as much air from the bags as possible before sealing. Then place the bags into a refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. Next, move them to the freezer for at least 48 hours, after which you again place the cigars into the refrigerator for two days. The stints in the fridge will make sure that the cigars don’t crack from too sudden of a temperature change or generate condensation, and the freezer will kill any beetle eggs.

Prevent

Once you’ve dealt with the contamination and made sure all your cigars are egg-free, it’s worth examining how they got there to begin with. High temperatures, particularly those above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, are conducive to eggs hatching, so keeping your humidors below 70 degrees is key. Personally, I find that 65 degrees and 65% humidity is ideal. But the real way to prevent beetles from wreaking havoc on your treasured cigars is make sure that cigar beetles aren’t present in your cigars before they go into your humidor.

Some manufacturers freeze their cigars, but others don’t. Getting information on who does and doesn’t can be hard to come by. (Plus, depending on how retailers keep their cigars, it is always possible for those that are frozen to become infested.) That means you have to be vigilant about what goes into your humidor. The best way to do this is to freeze every cigar before it goes into your humidor.

For those who feel this approach is overkill (including me), carefully monitor your existing collection and freeze new cigars that you may be suspicious of. Often, I keep new cigars separated for a month before they get mixed with my other cigars. And since high temperatures cause beetle outbreaks, I am far more likely to freeze cigars that have been shipped to me during the summer, when the temperature in a UPS truck is likely to be way above 75 degrees.

No matter what procedures you decide to put in place, knowing what causes cigar beetles and how you can minimize the risk of an outbreak is vital. Being vigilant will protect your cigars, and if a cigar beetle does sneak by, taking the steps above will minimize the damage they cause and protect your valuable cigars.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

5 Responses to “Stogie Tips: Dealing with Dreaded Tobacco Beetles”

  1. TriMarkC Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    It is definitely a scary sight when you see (or even think you see) a beetle hole in one of your cigars!

    Thanks for sharing your situation and your solutions.

  2. Ethan K Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    A few times, I have noticed a hole or a straight dig in the wrapper (shorter than 1/8th of an inch) in cigars that proved to be fine. I infer that long-dead beetle-eggs don't mar the taste; or something else made the mark.

    Are there secondary signs of beetles which would help us determine whether someone poked a cigar or did whatever, rather than a beetle boring in or out of it?

  3. Ed B Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    I customer of mine brought in a bag with about 20 cigars in it. They were Opus Xs, Cuban Cohibas, Fuente Anejos that had been feasted on by those beetles. We think they came from the Cubans.

    If you get Cubans shipped in or freshly rolled cigars, besure to freeze them.

  4. John Dark Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 4:36 am #

    I do not believe these cigars are really from Cuba.

    I must try it, who knows I might like it 🙂

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