So, you want to get rid of cigarette beetles. And you want to get rid of them. Fast.
This guide will cover basic to advanced techniques that you can try at home to get rid of them.
Everything from DIY, natural home remedies to get rid of cigarette beetles to more advanced applications like using pesticides are all covered.
With practice, patience, and time, you should get able to drive them away and kill off the remaining population and prevent any new beetles from entering your house for good.
Are you ready? Let’s take the first step to rid your property from cigarette beetles.
And that’s learning about them.
We need to know the history behind them to get a better picture of why they’re invading your home.
The solution may be as simple as doing a deep clean and practicing better hygiene, and therefore could you save you time from having to buy expensive pesticides.
Ready to get rid of them? Let’s roll.
Last updated: 12/30/19.
What are cigarette beetles? How do they look like?
Cigarette beetles are nasty-looking, dark-colored, beetles with an arched back. Adults are about 2-3mm and they’re usually brown in color. There are two obvious segmentations in the body with the antennae bent down from the body.
They’re small, ovular, and segmented. The wings are shiny, smooth and not striated. They have a pair of segmented antennae with an even thickness.
Larvae are hairy, white, and oval-shaped. We’ll cover more about them later.
They’re known as Lasioderma serricorne (L. serricorne) in the scientific community and they belong to a family known as Anobiidae. They’re also called cigar beetles and their appearance often gets confused with drugstore beetles.
But the cigarette beetles are a lot more common in households compared to the drugstore beetle, which obviously is more common in drugstores.
What do cigarette beetles eat?
They’re called cigarette beetles because tobacco and disposed cigarettes are just one thing they eat.
They’re hungry for more than just cigs though. They’ll even eat spices, chili, and chili powder, which most pests in the world will be easily repelled by- but not cigarette beetles. They’ll eat the stuff up like no tomorrow. They’re attracted to many food types that are dry.
Cigarette beetles have been known to eat a wide variety of foods, including the following:
- Coffee beans
- Dried fruits
- Dog food
- Cat food
- Small animal food
- Animal-based products
- Chili dried fish
- Cottonseed meal
And they’ll even eat some things you probably never would’ve guessed:
- Tobacco products and leaves
- Rat poison
- Pyrethrum powder
- Medicinal drugs
- Paper products
- Paper mache
- Pyrethrin-based materials
- Rodent baits
- Dry flowers
- Canvas painting
- Straw, cotton, and more
It’s important to inspect your food when you have a beetle infestation. You may mistakenly eat some and this could cause health effects due to bacteria.
Where do cigarette beetles live?
They get their name from eating stored tobacco and have been known to be a prolific best all around the world.
In your home, you’ll find them all over the home, but mainly in dimly lit or dark areas. As long as there’s a food supply, they’ll gladly inhabit the area.
They’re mainly found dominated by darkness in dark crevices to remain unseen and simply eat the foods while breeding in the same food source.
Where do they come from?
They probably came from outdoors or were somehow transported into your house.
Crates, shipments, boxes, cardboard, books, magazines, and other scrappy materials are prime targets to move them around. They can enter a home through windows, gaps under doorways, foundation cracks, and other nooks and crannies.
If your foundation or home is poorly sealed, it’s very easy to attract pests.
After they’ve entered your house, they’ll find a food source such as a stocked pantry or cupboard to eat and lay eggs. They lay eggs directly on the food source to make sure the larvae will have a meal right after they’re born and hatched.
Can they eat through food packaging?
Cigarette beetles will gladly eat through paper, cardboard, and plastic food packaging to get to the food source. If you want to prevent them from eating through your stuff, you’ll need to get some airtight containers with thick plastic construction.
They’ll only eat through it if they know there’s food inside or else they won’t waste their energy chewing through packaging. Getting an airtight seal on your pantry foods will stop any food aroma from escaping so the beetles won’t be bothered to gnaw through your foodstuffs.
Signs you have cigarette beetles
Cigarette beetles are reckless in their feeding habits and will leave obvious signs of pests eating your food. You’ll find the following signs of infestation:
- Debris coming out of food packages
- Holes in plastic container or packaging
- Chewed food, plastic, containers, or any other means of food storage
- Food products with signs of feces, bite marks, debris, holes, or “dust” that leaks from product
- Beetles, larvae, or other flying beetles near food products
You’ll need a flashlight and magnifying glass for close inspection. They’re tiny and hard to see with the naked eye.
You’ll often find them flying about in dark areas during the afternoon, rainy, or cloudy days when the lights are off. When you first expose cigarette beetles to a light source, they’ll stop moving and pretend to be dead.
After a few seconds, they’ll begin crawling or flying again.
Cigarette beetle life cycle and breeding
Just like many other pests, cigarette beetles are prolific breeders.
The females lay their eggs on the food material and will hatch within a few days. They lay up to 100 eggs in a span of 3 weeks.
After 14 days, they’ll hatch out of the eggs. After the larvae hatch, they’ll begin eating the food they’re “born” into as they wriggle around. The larvae look like small white, segmented worms with a darker shade at the front. Under a microscope, you can see the fine hairs and clear appendages of cigarette beetle larvae.
They’ll continue to feed as they eat and grow for 30-50 days. Then they’ll spin a cocoon and morph into a full adult. This lasts up to 14 days.
They’ll become a full adult afterward. This process takes up to 90 days depending on temperature and food availability. Colder temperatures will slow down development. Temps under 65F will stop development altogether.
Here’s a video showing the life cycle of a cigarette beetle:
They breed quickly if the conditions are favorable
Adults also carry a symbiotic yeast called Symbiotraphrina kocchi which allows the females to attack yeast to the egg. After it hatches, it easts the yeast to make their mycetome immune and survive on small food sources and toxin resistance.
Other than food products like pasta, spices, cereal, flour, and pet food, they’ll also breed in books, dried flowers and plants, silk, plant spices, rodent bait, pet food, and even leather! Watch out for these beetles everywhere. Given that they can fly, they’ll easily migrate and infest different areas of your home when one area becomes occupied with a colony of larvae.
Cold temperatures may kill them, hotter ones won’t
Don’t be fooled by exterminators claiming to kill beetles using hot temperatures.
Unless the process exceeds scorching temperatures, cigarette beetles will safely hide from heat generators within the cracks and nooks in your house. They can survive year-round from high temperatures, low temperatures, and all seasons so they won’t go away just because the seasons change.
Don’t wait to get rid of them. They’ll only finest more of your house.
They’ll take over your property quickly.
Although cigarette beetles aren’t harmful by nature, they’ll eat up your food quickly and may leave traces of bacteria behind that you may somehow ingest and get sick indirectly from. So the beetle itself won’t bite, sting, or poison humans, but the bacteria and mold they leave behind could get you or someone else sick.
But you need to kill them before they take over your food storage. A female cigarette beetle will easily breed a whole colony of beetles in one hatching, so if you ignore them, you’ll have a pretty big problem on your hands- no pun intended.
Don’t ignore them. Get rid of them. Quickly.
How to get rid of cigarette beetles naturally
When you discover that you have an infestation, you’ll need to take action quickly as they move through the pantry and household with no remorse.
The first step would be to take natural, DIY home solutions that are safe for pets and children.
DIY home remedies
Throw away all food that has been infested by beetles
This may seem obvious, but you should discard everything that has been infested or possibly infected right away before the eggs hatch. Dispose all of it and seal the trash bag so nothing escapes until trash pickup.
For the food that’s untouched, seal it in airtight containers as I mentioned earlier. This will prevent any food aroma from escaping and beetles finding their way to another food source. If the food is too much to seal, consider throwing them out or using them. Not everyone has enough containers for everything.
For food items that have been infested, you can also freeze those items as cold temperatures will kill cigarette beetles within a week. Then you can throw those items out without any risk of beetles escaping into your yard, garage, or other environments.
Do the same to books, magazines, cardboard, or furniture. If anything else is infested, take precaution and dispose of the item ASAP.
Clean up your pantry and cupboards
Use this time to go over your entire kitchen and clean everything out
Get rid of old food and appliances. Dispose of anything expired. Box up stuff you never use. Seal herbs, spices, and other food. Reduce clutter and package everything.
You’d be surprised how many kitchen bugs you can prevent just by sealing everything up. This is the first step and should be done thoroughly.
Seal up your spices
Use canning jars (mason jars) that have airtight lids that completely seal. You should also seal everything else that can be canned, such as:
- Grain-based foods
If you have a lot of anything, you can use plastic bins or containers that can be sealed airtight, like food storage containers. You can also use desiccants (oxygen absorbers) that will keep your foods fresh for extended periods of time.
Be sure to cap, cover, and store everything. You don’t want the beetles migrating from one food to another because you missed something and start a new colony all over again. Be meticulous, paranoid, and OCD!
Pets are one common source of cigarette beetle infestations. They’re often let outside, which can easily bring in pests that hitchhike on their fur or skin. Doorways and doggie doors that constantly open and shut are also a source of beetles coming into the household.
Be sure to clean your pets and keep them clean. If you can’t do much about it, then take precautions and watch for any pests they bring into the home.
Pet food is a common thing cigarette beetles will feed on. Get rid of uneaten food right away and don’t take it outside and indoors constantly.
Find a new feeding location or schedule to reduce contact with the elements. Cigarette beetles will breed and eat dog/cat food. Use storage bins to store bulk purchases. And clean up spilled food right away. Vacuum food areas weekly.
Replace screens and nettings
If your household has cracked or broken screen windows or doors, replace them.
Even if you go through all the trouble of cleaning your house and you get rid of the previous generation of beetles, the new generation will easily sneak into your house from the cracks in your window or door screens.
By fixing them, this will prevent further infestation of beetles and other pests, so repair them ASAP. you can purchase screen in bulk rolls and they’re relatively easy to install.
Here’s a video showing off the process of sealing up your hose:
Cigarette beetles can’t help but be attracted to cigarette ashes and tobacco, as their name originates from. If you or someone else uses tobacco products, be sure to throw the cigarette butts or cigar butts out and never leave them in the home.
This will give the beetles a place to eat and breed a colony there, so dispose and be clean.
Vacuum up any cigarette or tobacco ash on the floor, surfaces, and counters. Cigars and cigarettes should be stored in a humidor or airtight container.
Dispose of ashtrays right away and wash them after each use. This is imperative to get rid of cigarette beetles, or else you’re just feeding them what they’re known for and you’ll have a colony to deal with. Avoid at all costs.
Clean up your household
Vacuum and clean up your house also.
Clean shelves, cupboards, cabinets, and your entire kitchen. Since you’re disturbing their environment, they’ll likely scamper and find new shelter.
You’ll have to vacuum everything up since they’re tiny. Use a shop vac or handheld vacuum to suck up any remaining bugs. Cleanse all your kitchen gadgets. Get every last one of them. Don’t let any survive or else they’ll just start a new colony.
Remember, you’re already doing all this work, so you might as well do it right instead of finding more cigarette beetles show up in your cereal a few months from now. Do it right. Seriously.
Get rid of the paper and books
Cigarette beetles will nestle and eat books, book bindings, magazines, newspapers, and pretty much anything made out of paper.
Whether you care about the books you have lying around your home, you should either store them properly- away from areas of beetle activity (remember, they can fly), or get rid of them.
When you do your cleaning routine, the beetles will leave and find a new home. Should they choose your books, they’ll eat them up and breed there, so be extra careful not to have junk lying around that’s made of paper.
You should also check your books for damage when cleaning. They may have already set up camp there, so look for bite marks, holes, torn or ripped edges, etc.
Dolls, stuffed animals, and poly fiber
Cigarette beetles will gladly live within the cozy stuffing of soft, stuffed plushies and other objects. Throw them out if you think there’s a colony of beetles growing in there.
Watch your art
Cigarette beetles also will destroy canvas painting, as they feed on this material like no other. If you find them in your home, you need to check your painting for damage.
Pack and store any painting you may have around your home during the time you’re removing the beetles as they’ll flee and could possibly take new residence in your canvas art.
If they’re cheap and infected, throw them out. You won’t be able to save them and the painting at the same time if damage has been done, and it could be a harbor to bring them back into your home.
If they’re expensive, it’s your call. You could try using a spray, but you’ll need to find one that doesn’t mess up the painting itself. I’m not too familiar with which ones do and don’t- so that’s on you. Do your research.
Other than that, just be wary of paintings in your house. Cigarette beetles will gobble them up.
Check and protect your furniture
Cigarette beetles love your furniture and upholstery.
The beetles will want to eat and nest in the stuffing inside of your couch, chairs, beds, and pillows. You can’t’ really do anything once they infest your furniture other than throwing them out or spray it down with insecticide.
If you need to keep the furniture, it’s best to place it outdoors on a hot day. You’ll need plenty of ventilation and a breeze to dry the spray.
There are a ton of insect killer sprays out there, get one that meets the following requirements:
- Natural or organic-based insecticide
- Safe for pets, children, and animals
- Safe for indoor use
- Effective and biodegradable
If you’re using this on furniture, you’ll want to get one that breaks down over time and doesn’t harm humans or pets since you’ll be sitting on that very same piece of upholstery.
Once the cigarette beetles are killed, you’ll want the spray to eventually dissipate also. So be careful in choosing out a spray to kill beetles from your furniture and remove them for good.
It’s best to just dispose of the infested furniture and replace it after your house is free of cigarette beetles, but if you must keep, use a spray that meets the above requirements.
You should also be very wary of buying used furniture in the event that you’re looking to replace your upholstery. Clean them well and spray them. Beetles won’t’ be visible when you first get it because they’ll be hiding in the stuffing and completely out of the light.
Vinegar is another all-natural, DIY home solution to get rid of cigarette beetles. They hate the smell and it repels them naturally.
You’ll want to mix it with water in a 1:1 solution and apply it to infected areas. You can also just fill a cup with vinegar as a trap and place it where you see cigarette beetle activity.
Lysol will kill cigarette beetles upon contact and is very potent against them.
You can use this on furniture, kitchenware, and household objects without damaging them (well, most of them- do your research). You can wipe down appliances with Lysol wipes and it’ll repel or kill cigarette beetles upon contact.
Vacuuming will do more than clean your house.
Using a powerful vacuum with a long hose can suck up bugs and even eliminate your cigarette beetle problem altogether- provided that you constantly follow a set schedule of vacuuming the beetles.
You can start by getting a powerful vacuum. A shop vac is highly recommended for its portability, suction power, and convenience. If you don’t want to spend the money to buy one, then use a traditional vacuum but make sure it has a long hose with attachments.
Then go through every room of your house and vacuum everything. Get the crevices, cracks, and dust all cleaned up. Do the same for your kitchen.
You may be wondering why vacuum other areas when the beetles are in your kitchen or somewhere else. This is because they migrate to other areas (especially darker places to breed).
So when you clean your kitchen and they start migrating, they’ll have nowhere to go and no food to eat.
Vacuum your furniture, books, upholstery, and everything else. Start from the outside-in, meaning clean the other rooms first then clean your kitchen. You can effectively reduce or eliminate cigarette beetles using this technique over the course of a month or so.
Be as thorough as you can and clean everything. You could completely eradicate the cigarette beetles just by vacuuming and cleaning everything following a proper food storage plan (which you should’ve done already).
Clean the carpet
Carpeting will be a nuisance as it makes a perfect area for cigarette beetle larvae and eggs to nestle cozily throughout. Be sure to vacuum up, clean, and vacuum again. Over and over.
You’ll suck up all the nasty dirty, dust, and beetle eggs (not to mention other pests) all at once. You should shampoo or steam clean your carpet and continue to do so during the time you’re removing these pests from your home.
Be sure to do it on a schedule or else they’ll infest your carpet and stay hidden until the coast is clear only to take over your kitchen pantry, books, painting, or plants all over again.
So do your duty and clean the carpets. Don’t slack on it or the beetles will breed.
Prune your plants
Dried or artificial flowers that you use at decor around the house are a nesting site for cigarette beetles.
You’ll want to get rid of them or prune them significantly for the purpose of cleaning your home and removing the pests. Dispose of any that seem infected with them and spray a household safe insecticide on the others.
For the unaffected ones, seal them in plastic containers for the time being as you clean your property.
Pheromone traps are useful because they use sex hormones that are released into the air to attract cigarette beetles. They’ll attract wandering beetles and catch them without letting them out.
You won’t kill or stop a beetle infestation with these traps, but you’ll be able to monitor your progress as you try to get rid of them. At first, you’ll catch a lot of them.
But after you’ve used one of the methods in this tutorial to get rid of cigarette beetles, you’ll start to see fewer and fewer beetles get trapped. This means that you’re making some good progress.
Don’t stop until no more new beetles show up in the pheromone traps. Get a pack of 6 or so and place them around the area of most beetle activity.
Use aerosol sprays
There are a few insecticide aerosols on the market you can buy which can be applied after you clean up the household. They’ll help prevent future colonies from spawning in cracks around your house that you can’t quite reach. Some popular brands are Alpine PT and Phantom Aerosols.
Though many people are afraid of using sprays, you should consider them if you want to get rid of the infestation for good. Use them to spray into cracks you may have missed or can’t clean.
Be sure to use as directed- especially around food prep areas such as kitchens and dining tables.
When treating food or dish storage cabinets, remove everything and apply as directed. Let all surfaces dry and wait 24 hours after applying (or whatever the label directs). Some aerosols, such as D’Force, will flush and kill on contact, so any beetles that are hiding will be driven out and kill them before they can relocate.
Each application lasts 2-4 weeks, so additional sprays may be needed until all beetles are killed.
Use sprays for hard to reach areas, like pantries, closets, baseboard molding, cracks, crevices, under counters, between counters, around appliances, under furniture, etc.
Did you get rid of your cigarette beetle problem?
Well, that’s about it.
I hope this guide helps you deal with, get rid of, and kill all the cigarette beetles in your home.
By pricing proper food storage, basic cleaning, and proper maintenance around the household, you can prevent further cigarette beetle infestations in the future.
If you have any questions, leave a comment below. Or f you’ve dealt with cigarette beetles before and you have some tips on removing them, let me know as well!
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.