Lasioderma serricorne is a small (2-3 mm) brown beetle of the family Anobiidae, commonly known as the cigarette beetle, cigar beetle, or tobacco beetle. Its common name refers to the fact that this beetle is the most significant pest of all forms of stored tobacco, from cigarette packets to hogsheads and bales. It is also a pest of stored dried foodstuffs and non-food household items (dried plants, furniture stuffing, paper items and much more). Some were even found in dried resin from the tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamun, and are known pests in museum herbariums. Locations with warm climates can see up to four generations a year; cooler climates just one. The small, grub-like larvae are C-shaped, white, and hairy, and constitute the main pest phase of this insect; they infest foodstuffs and feed for 5-10 weeks before pupating. Adults live up to six weeks, are strong fliers and become a nuisance by swarming at windows, but do not feed. Females lay 10-100 eggs upon a food source. Adult beetles carry a symbiotic yeast, Symbiotaphrina kochii, in their mycetome, a specialized organ linked to their gut. As the adult passes eggs through the oviduct, the yeast attaches to the beetles’ eggs and upon hatching, the larvae consume it to inoculate their own mycetome. The yeast supplies vitamin B and resistance to some toxins to the insect, and allows the larvae to survive on less nutritional food sources.
Populations of cigarette beetles can be monitored using pheromone traps. Sanitary practices and tight storage help control this pest, and deep freezing or heating products can rid contaminated items of this species. For heavy infestations, insecticides are sometimes applied, but in limited use around food products.
Cigarette beetles are easily confused with the similar looking drugstore beetle (Stegobium paniceum) and the common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum), all of which are pests of dried goods and belong to the family Anobiidae. All three harbor symbiotic yeasts for nutritional needs, but interestingly, these yeasts are of different species.
(Cabrera 2007; Koehler 2008; Lyon; Wikipedia 2011)
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