Better known to entomologists as Lasiodorma Serricorne, the tobacco beetle strikes fear in the hearts of cigar smokers.
Beetle infestation happens when cigars are rolled. While cigar manufacturers have made tremendous strides in fighting the tobacco beetle with pesticides and other organic methods, there's a chance that your cigar, especially if it's Cuban, will have beetle larvae rolled into it. The larvae remain dormant and are undetectable until they become active and decide to eat their way out of your cigar. Exposing your cigars to temperatures of 80 degrees F for extended periods of time (more than a week or two) at 70% RH can create the conditions for the larvae to hatch.
The beetle usually makes its appearance known by the destruction it leaves behind, but it's rare to actually see these little critters. When the 1/16" larvae hatch, they'll eat continuously and grow to three times their original size. The carnage may be tiny pinholes in the wrapper or visible channels along the exterior of the cigar or small pieces of tobacco littering the area.
If you recognize beetle infestation, you must act quickly and decisively. You'll need to freeze your cigars immediately or risk losing your entire collection. Determine how extensively the beetles have infested your humidor. If the infestation appears to be isolated to a single box of cigars, then you can take a risk to freeze only those smokes. We recommend that you treat all the cigars in the humidor. There is a chance, however, that some of your cigar wrappers may burst when the moisture expands in your cigars as they freeze. Here's how to do it:
Take all your cigars and place them in airtight containers to keep in the moisture of the cigars. Ziploc bags and Tupperware work well.
Leave them in the freezer for 48 hours. The cold will kill the beetles and make the larvae dormant again.
Next, wipe your humidor down thoroughly with rubbing alcohol (which is safe on wood), to kill any remaining beetle larvae.
After 48 hours, take out the unopened containers of frozen cigars and let the containers and the contents return to room temperature.
Once they are warm again, return the cigars to your humidor.
Some people even repair the damaged cigars by grafting wrapper leaf from other cigars. If you decide to go this route, you'll need an Exact-o-knife, a vegetable-based adhesive and lots of patience.
If you collect Cuban cigars (the country from where these beetles generally originate), the key to preventing beetle infestation is:
Buy from a reputable source
Eliminate temperature extremes by protecting your cigars in a temperature-controlled humidor
Check you cigars regularly for signs of beetles to prevent their growth