Tobacco moth and cigarette beetle are small creatures, seemingly harmless yet they are required by law through the Plant Pest and Diseases (Plant and Alternative Hosts) Order of 1976 to be reported to government authorities whenever they are seen.

This is because though by the look of it, they seem trivial, they contaminate and destroy vast amounts of tobacco.

Contrary to general expectation, it is not the adult moth responsible for damaging tobacco, but the caterpillar (larva) that eats the lamina (tobacco leaf).

When the caterpillar is full, it crawls away from the tobacco it would have fed on, spinning silken webs, evidence of long infestations.

Spider webs are indicators of pest activities and reason for fumigation to take place.

As they move on floors and walls, which are usually dirty, mature caterpillars hide in cracks, gaps and ceiling spaces, spinning small often dust covered silken cocoons in which they pupate.

This habit of moving away from the infested tobacco or bales makes the pests more difficult to control by merely fumigating the tobacco and bales.

The entire building needs to be closed up and fumigated in order to eliminate both the pupae and adults.

Farmers are advised to burn or bury in a pit all leftover tobacco including waste material such as tobacco fines, dust and scraps.

The reason behind this is that the cigarette beetles, feed on diverse edible and non edible stuff such as tobacco fines, dust and scraps.

Though the moths and beetles are seemingly tiny, they destroy a sizeable amount of crop if not prevented at best or alternatively monitored and controlled.

Whilst after curing tobacco, all focus is on the sales floors and more often than not, attention only returns to the barns and shades during curing time for the following season, a prudent farmer should clean up his barns and burn or bury tobacco fines, dust and scrap to prevent carry-over of pests and diseases. Ideally, a farmer could clean and check boilers, clean out tobacco scrap in shades, wash his equipment, paint walls with white wash and treat his barns and shades with insecticide if necessary.

For any reason, if farmers have leftover tobacco, they should approach Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) before December 15, seeking authority to keep the leftover tobacco.

Zimbabweans are generally a communal people hence if one is asked by a relative or neighbour if they can store their tobacco in his or her barns, one can agree without giving much thought to it. One thing that needs serious consideration for a tobacco grower, however is the pest infestation status of the tobacco.

Many times on a farm or homestead, equipment, machinery and fixtures that are dear to us breakdown and become obsolete, instead of discarding them, sometimes we find a safe storage place, which may in some cases be in the barn. When these old broken equipment accumulate dirt and tobacco residue, they harbour moths and pests.

Farmers are also urged to put wire mesh of appropriate gauge on doors and windows which stay open in order to prevent insects from entering.

These pests can fly a couple of kilometres, sometimes up to 10km, hence they can come from neighbouring farms and sometimes distant places.

As a result farming practices in the community are everyone’s concern.

If one’s neighbour does not destroy stalk, every other member of the community’s tobacco is at risk as a result.

When tobacco bales infested with any of these pests are found on the sales floors (auction or contract), they are quarantined and fumigated at the tobacco farmer’s expense.

This does not only interrupt the selling process but also inconveniences the grower.

  • For more information about Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board please contact us on the following: Tel 263-04-613263/70/88/88/95; 613310/17/18/19; 613532; 613425; 613431; 613108; 613911; 613604; 613925; 0772145166-9. Fax 613264 Email [email protected] Website www.timb.co.zw >

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