Cigar Pests & Problems
There are various problems that can affect cigars:
The tobacco beetle, Lasioderma serricorne, can cause devastation to cigars.
By the time that they are discovered, the damage is done.
If not contained, your whole stock can be ruined.
Tobacco beetles thrive in temperatures in excess of 18ºC / 65ºF.
Their twelve week long, four stage lifecycle starts off as microscopic eggs which hatch into larvae, pupate and finally emerge as an adult beetle. The larva does the damage inside the cigar by tunnelling within it. The adult beetle does its damage by burrowing out of the cigar, leaving pinhole size holes in the wrapper. Female beetles do further damage by burrowing their way back into the cigar to lay eggs, so starting the cycle again.
The eggs are white oval microscopic size and are undetectable to the human eye.
They are laid in batches of between 10 and 100 at a time.
The eggs hatch in 7 to 10 days into the larval stage.
The larva is a white soft prickly grub that grows up to 4mm long.
They live for about two months inside the cigar, feeding on the tobacco, before the grub pupates.
The pupa is a protective cocoon that grows around the larva.
This pupation lasts 1 to 2 weeks while the larva changes into the adult beetle, before emerging from its cocoon
and then the cigar.
The adult is a 2-3mm long brownish-red, flying beetle, which lives around three weeks.
This photograph shows (from left to right) the pupa, adult beetle and the lava grub.
This pest was traditionally fought by fumigation of the finished cigars before packing.
The chemical used kills the tobacco beetle in all of its four stages of its life-cycle, is non-toxic,
leaves no residue and has no taste or effect on the cigar.
However, as fumigation has not been 100% effective (and as the use of such chemicals may eventually be banned),
since circa 2005 Habanos freeze their cigars during warehousing.
This is expected to totally eradicate this pest from finished cigars; however
notwithstanding this, there are occasionally reports of beetle infestation of current boxes.
See the comments on freezing in the
Production section.....click here.
Prevention is to keep correct storage temperatures and isolate new
cigars from non-Cuban cigars and from cigars produced before circa 2005.
In the absence of storage conditions below 18ºC/65ºF, consideration should be given to freezing newly received cigars.
A conventional household freezer normally operates around -15ºC/+5ºF,
so (wrapped/zip-locked) cigars should be stored for several days.
Allow a period of transition by moving the cigars from the freezer to the fridge for several days before returning them to the humidor.
If cigars are in prolonged contact with water (say from a leaking wet type humidifier) or subject to high humidity, a
damaging blue-green fungal mould can occur, affecting both cigars and humidor.
Affected cigars should be destroyed and the humidor thoroughly cleaned and dried.
White mould is a less aggressive form of the blue-green mould and generally can be wiped off
if only slightly affecting the wrapper.
However once it gets into the foot of the cigar, it may have terminally affected the cigar's taste.
White mould is not reflective under UV black-light.
White Powdery Bloom / Plume
This is not actually a problem, but it concerns many newcomers. It is a white, powdery, crystalline residue which occurs naturally with
age or when cigars are subject to a sudden increase in humidity. Bloom can be easily removed with a soft brush.
Bloom can be distinguished from mould by shining a UV-light on it in a dark-room.....bloom is reflective, mould is not.
Dry cigars can permanently lose their flavour. The period over which this occurs is debateable.
Habanos states that noticeable flavour loss starts within two or three months.
Others argue much shorter periods. Prevention is to keep the correct storage humidity.
Poor Draw - Plugged and Underfilled Cigars
Poor draw problems result from underfilled or overfilled cigars, or
badly bunched or twisted filler leaf within the cigar.
Poor draw can be more pronounced in young, inadequately aged cigars.
Allowing a longer time for the cigar to age may help.
Plugged cigars can vary from partial (hard to draw) to fully plugged (totally unsmokable).
A tight or badly bunched cigar might be saved by poking a thin skewer down the centre of the cigar.
Allowing the cigars to dry may help.
Underfilled cigars, while smokable, are very unsatisfying.
There is nothing you can do with an underfilled cigar, except that if the
cigars were over-dry, restoring them to their proper humidity level may help.
Plugged cigars were virtually unheard of before circa 1996.
Construction issues began to appear in 1998, and 2003-2004 was notorious for construction problems,
including gross underfilling.
The situation improved mid-2004.
Since 2005, suction tests are carried out on all cigars before the wrappers are applied.
Now construction is generally very good.