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Written by Kevin Godbee

Friday, 15 May 2009

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tips and trickstobacco beetles
tobacco faqs


image001If you’ve read the tobacco series that takes you from seed right to finished cigar, you will have seen that some passing reference was made to various pests and diseases that can attack the tobacco plants when they’re growing. Fortunately the tobacco farmers tend to take great care of their plants so that the leaf is generally pest-free when it’s picked.

However, controlling these pests can be a bit like defeating terrorism; the good guys have to be right all the time while the pests only have to score once. That means that when it comes to controlling pests like the tobacco beetle the farmer has to get rid of every single one of these on his crop or just one beetle can lay enough eggs to destroy the crop and many other crops long after they have been harvested.

The tobacco beetle, Lasioderma Serricorne, can still cause total devastation to cigars if they are not stored properly. By the time that they are discovered, the damage is done. If not contained, your whole stock can be ruined.

Their 12 week long, 4 stage life-cycle starts off as microscopic eggs that hatch into larva, that later pupate, and finally emerge as an adult beetle. The larva does the damage inside the cigar by tunneling within the cigar. The adult beetle does its damage by burrowing out of the cigar, leaving pinhole size holes in the wrapper. Female beetles do further damage by burrowing their way back into the cigar to lay eggs, starting the cycle again.

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An Expensive Mistake – What’s Left of a Cigar After Infestation

The eggs are white ovals, microscopic in size, that are undetectable to the human eye. They are laid in batches of between 10 and 100 at a time. The eggs hatch in 7 to 10 days into the larvae stage.

The larva is a white soft prickly grub that grows up to 4mm long. They live for about two months inside the cigar, feeding on the tobacco, before the grub pupates.

The pupa is a protective cocoon that grows around the larva. This pupation lasts 1 to 2 weeks while the larva changes into the adult beetle, before emerging from the cocoon.

The adult is a 2-3mm long brownish-red beetle, can fly and lives around three weeks.

If one beetle is still alive the day before a crop is harvested it can lay 100 eggs and once these offspring are breeding and laying their eggs, the tobacco that they started on has been turned into cigars and the beetles are then completely hidden from view.

But the tobacco beetle doesn’t even have to be on the tobacco leaf before it’s harvested for these pests to feed on many other food sources besides tobacco leaf so they can come in from outside and attack the leaf while it’s drying in the airing sheds, while it’s resting and even in the factories as it’s being turned into cigars. Some of the other food sources for tobacco beetles are things like coriander, rice, pet food, paper, coffee beans and even leather, so you can see just how hard it is to keep them under control. By the time you or I might realize that they’re around, our prized cigars have been turned into confetti.

And that’s the other problem when it comes to controlling tobacco beetles. Most of us don’t see them at all because they’re not like the beetles that you and I are used to seeing. These beetles are about the size of a pin head and are very hard to see and the eggs they lay are so small that you just won’t see them.






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