Cigarette and Drugstore Beetles

Description of cigarette and drugstore beetles

Cigarette and drugstore beetles are two closely related species of small, reddish brown beetles that are moderately common pests in Iowa homes. The cigarette beetle was at one time a very important pest of the tobacco industry and got it's named from the damage it did to stored tobacco. The drugstore beetle gained its name because it was frequently found feeding on drugs in pharmacies many years ago.

Now, both insects are customarily found infesting all types of dry stored food products, spices, seeds, grains and dried plant material. We have recently received samples of cigarette beetles found in rice, dried potatoes, paprika, raisins, grain-based mouse bait, dried straw flowers and a table center piece made of varnished bread. Drugstore beetles are known to feed on leather, wool, hair, books and drugs.

For both insects an infested item will contain the 1/8th inch long, reddish brown, oval beetles and small, white larvae. Adult beetles often wander away from infested materials and may be found throughout the kitchen or house.

 Three adult drugstore beetles. Actual size 2.5 mm.
Three adult drugstore beetles. Actual size 2.5 mm.

Management of cigarette and drugstore beetles

Control of cigarette and drugstore beetles requires locating and eliminating the infested item(s). All potentially infested materials should be carefully examined, including unopened boxes and packages. Cupboard shelves holding infested items and shelves in the vicinity of where the beetles have been noticed should be emptied and thoroughly vacuum cleaned. Household cleaners containing bleach or ammonia will have no effect on the insects.

Do you live in Iowa and have an insect you would like identified?

The Iowa State University Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic will identify your insect, provide information on what it eats, life cycle, and if it is a pest the best ways to manage them.  Please see our website for current forms, fees, and instructions on preserving and mailing insects.   

Contact information for each states diagnostic laboratory for U.S. residents.  If you live outside of Iowa please do not submit a sample without contacting the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic.  

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