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What Is a Coffee Berry Borer & How to Combat It

Coffee borer beetle in a coffee

Known as the Coffee Borer beetle and as the Berry Borer beetle, this insect is a threat to the coffee wherever it is grown. Based on the destruction caused by this pest, a Coffee Borer is a horrifying sight to coffee growers and spells doom for the prices of coffee.

Native to Africa, the Coffee Borer beetle is currently responsible for coffee crop destruction in over 70 countries, most of them in South America, though it has recently been reported in Hawaii as well, destroying Kona crops.

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The Appearance of the Coffee Borer Beetle

The female Coffee Borer beetle is about 1 inch long (1.5 mm long) and has wings. The male coffee borer beetle doesn’t have wings and averages around just under 1 inch (1.4 mm long). However, the female can only fly short distances.

How Do Coffee Borer Beetles Destroy Coffee Crops?

Now that you know what these destructive beetles look like, it’s time to delve into how they destroy the coffee beans that we’ve all come to rely on to wake us up in the morning and keep us going throughout the day.

Only the female beetle attacks the coffee fruit, which she does by boring into the fruit’s endosperm. The female bores into a berry and then lays two to three eggs over a 20-day period. She is known as the colonizing female, and this is where the damage to the coffee begins.

What Physical Damage Does the Coffee Borer Beetle Cause?

The physical damage to the coffee crop happens in two different ways. We’ll discuss both of these ways below.

First, the infestation causes the coffee cherry to fall off the tree before its time. The cherry then rots and is no good for harvesting.

The second type of infestation is more of a long game. The coffee crop produces fewer beans and has lower quality due to the Coffee Borer beetle feeding inside the cherry itself. This ends in a pretty much useless crop, which can lead to a coffee shortage, increasing the price of the coffee you enjoy.

What Can be Done to Stop the Coffee Borer Beetle?

Since the Coffee Borer beetle is able to digest caffeine, it has quickly become one of the most dangerous insects out there when it comes to coffee crops. However, a few things can be done to fight this pest.

There are five processes that farmers use to fight the coffee borer beetle.

  1. They inspect their crops regularly for any sign that beetles are present and wreaking havoc on their crops.
  2. If they find signs of infestation, they separate the infected cherries from the other coffee cherries as soon as possible.
  3. They use pesticides to treat the area, though some experts say organic is a better option.
  4. Some farmers make or purchase traps to put out and catch the beetles before they can do more harm.
  5. It’s extremely important that the farmer train any of his workers to know the signs of a Coffee Borer infestation. The faster the infestation is caught, the more possible it is that you’ll be able to get rid of it and save at least part of the crop.

As a coffee lover, these are just a few of the things that you should know about Coffee Borer beetles and what they can do to the coffee crops you love. In this way, at least you know why your favorite Kona coffee is now so expensive and can sympathize with the poor farmers who are dealing with these beetles every day.

Featured Image Credit: Fernando Teruhiko Hata, Shutterstock


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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