I recently decided to open a brand new box of Diplomatico #2’s I had purchased on a trip to Cuba. I slowly broke the seal, and opened the box. Beautiful chocolate brown cigars, with an amazing aroma of sweet fresh tobacco. However, I noticed something – something that no cigar collector ever wants to see. There were small white bugs on my cigars crawling over my cigars! My heart skipped a beat as the thought crossed my mind. Was it the dreaded tobacco beetle, coming to infest my humidor and feast on my cigars?
Not quite. What I’ve come across is much smaller than the infamous beetle. A little white translucent bug about .5mm in size. Upon a first glance I started to worry. I quickly pulled every single box out of my humidor and started inspecting them. Every inch of every cigar, every corner of every box – but there were no holes and no damage to my cigars. I found these little critters in about 4 of approximately 50 boxes in my humidor. There weren’t very many, maybe 1-2 in each box. But what were they?
After closely inspecting this small white critter, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are just wood mites. Yes, “just” wood mites. They look a lot worse than they actually are. Thankfully, these little guys do not feed on cigars! So what are they doing in my humidor? The wood mite is a harmless insect that actually prefers water and feeds of the glue of cigar bands. They also like mould, but don’t get any ideas – they won’t salvage your mouldy cigars!
These mites require temperatures between 3 – 35 °C, an RH of 60%+, or a moisture level within 15%. Sounds like a humidor is the ideal climate for them, doesn’t it? The good news is that a cigar usually only contains about 12% moisture. So the thought of these guys crawling up into your cigars is just not favoured by them! They typically just run around the box, and on top of your cigars. With that being said, they will not hurt your tobacco. However, they are quite unappealing to see. I mean, who enjoys opening a nice box of cigars to finding bugs crawling on them? Not me, that’s for sure!
So what can you do to eradicate this situation? Well, you can either leave them running around, as their life span is typically only 4-8 weeks. Or you can wipe the visible critters off your cigars and freeze them. What you need to keep in mind is that freezing your cigars won’t always kill them. In the wild, some mites crawl into trees in colder climates and freeze.These mites eventually unfreeze and continue about their business. So It may take a few tries, but eventually they’ll disperse.
At some point or another, you may come across these guys in your humidor. Don’t freak out and throw your cigars in the trash! We suggest wiping the critters off your sticks and placing your cigars in the freezer for 3-4 days. While you do this, vacuum any dust and loose wood out of your humidor and boxes. You’ll want to give it a thorough cleaning! As I’ve said before, freezing them is not always a guaranteed solution, so you MIGHT have to do this a couple times. However, keep in mind, they are harmless to your cigars.