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Drugstore and Cigarette Beetles

- Small brown beetles that infest stored products -

Summary: These small brown beetles infest a wide variety of stored foods and other natural products. When an infestation is found the best approach is sanitation followed by proper storage and stock rotation. Use of insecticides should be reserved for only the worst infestations.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Drugstore and cigarette beetles

There are a couple of closely related beetles, called the drugstore beetle and the cigarette beetle, that infest food products, spices, tobacco, natural fibers, dry pet food and so forth and can cause considerable damage. Both beetles belong in the family Anobiidae that also includes beetles that damage wood such as powderpost beetles.

The beetles do not bite or cause other damage in homes but can cause extensive loss in food storage areas if not managed. It is the larval stage that does most of the damage but the adult beetle is that stage that is most often found crawling out in the open.

Both beetles are similar in size at about 1/8" long, and are light brown to reddish brown in color (see top photo, right). Beetles are commonly found crawling slowly on walls and floor near infestations. Larvae of both beetles are also similar (see lower photo, right) with a dark amber head capsule and creme colored body that is often bent into a "C" shape when feeding.

drugstore beetle

Drugstore beetle. Note size compared to fingernail. Photograph by Kamran Iftikhar (wikipedia.com).

cigarette beetle larva

Fully grown cigarette beetle larva (~1/4"). Note dark, amber-colored head capsule.


Control

Like other insects that attack stored food products and natural fibers the best way to mange these beetles is (1) to locate the infestation and dispose of it, and (2) properly store food to prevent infestation in the first place.

Empty cabinets and storage areas. Use a vacuum cleaner to clean hard-to-reach areas and wipe down surfaces with a mild detergent. Discard infested packages and freeze the rest for a few days which kills all stages of these pests.

Once cabinets and shelves are clean you can treat cracks and crevices with a botanical insecticide such as EcoPCO DX or Pyganic Dust (see Using Botanical Pesticides) to control small larvae that might have been missed in the cleaning. Return only pest-free items into the clean storage areas.


Related Articles

Other Pantry Pests

How to Control Meal Moths

How to Control Dermestid Carpet Beetles

Safer Plant-Based "Botanical" Insecticides

Store foods properly

Store susceptible foods only in heavy plastic or glass containers, not the thin plastic bags you get at the supermarket. For foods that you might be stored longer than 2 months, for example a bag of flour or bird seed, you can freeze them in their packages for a day or two to kill any small larvae or eggs.

Even unopened packaged foods such as cereals and dried fruit can be infested with stored product pests directly from the store. Most importantly be sure to rotate stocks of stored food so that individual items are not kept longer than necessary. It is a good idea to mark packages with a "purchase date". Finally, don't forget to check stocks of dry pet food or areas where kibbles might have spilled.


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Jack DeAngelis, PhD,  , email:  [email protected]

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