Coffee Borer Beetle

A major threat to coffee crops in various locations throughout the world is the coffee borer beetle. Hypothenemus hampei, its scientific name, is a small beetle native to Angola in Southern Africa. Over the 20th century it spread to the Americas and to Hawaii. The coffee borer beetle is a threat to coffee crops wherever it is found. In the Latin American regions where the pest if found it goes by the names barrenador del café, gorgojo del café and broca del café. Infestation is spread via the inadvertent transport of infected beans. The primary way to continue to produce healthy organic coffee when there is an infestation is to hand sort the bean and dry promptly after picking. Various organic approaches can be used to deter and destroy the pest while maintaining an organic crop and organic coffee certification.

Fighting the Coffee Borer Beetle without Pesticides

If you have an organic operation and want to maintain certification you need to use organic means to fight this pest. Here are a few:

Asking the Birds to Help

When young beetles come out of a coffee bean, various birds such as the Yellow and Rufous-capped Warbler feast on these insects. In Costa Rica the presence of these birds by itself reduces infestation by half.

Lethal Parasites

There are wasps native to Africa that are useful in controlling the coffee borer beetle. The wasp lays her eggs and the offspring eat the beetles. The downside is that the coffee plantation then has lots of stinging wasps flying around. Nevertheless this is a totally organic means of controlling a beetle than can destroy an entire crop. Another wasp found in Togo attacks adult beetles and tends to remain with the crop for a long time. It is widely used on the Arabica coffee plantations of Colombia. If you like Colombian organic coffee brands, be thankful for this approach.

Other Organic Approaches to Fighting the Coffee Borer Beetle

Ants, nematodes, and fungi can be used to help control the coffee borer beetle. All of these approaches allow the grower to control the pest without using chemicals. Besides, even in a non-organic crop, insecticides only work before the pest enters the coffee bean to lay its eggs.

Other Threats to the Coffee Crop

The other well-known threat to coffee crops is coffee leaf rust, la roya. This is a fungus that requires special attention or it will destroy an entire crop. Colombia has made substantial strides in developing strains resistant to roya. In the early 1970’s coffee leaf rust was found in the Americas. In the early 1980’s Cenicafé started work on producing a Colombian leaf rust resistant coffee. The Colombian leaf rust resistant coffee comes in two varieties, Colombian and Castillo. The first is a cross between an old Colombian variety, Caturra, and a rust-resistant strain from Southeast Asia, the Timor hybrid. Castillo is an offshoot of further cross breeding of the first Colombian leaf rust resistant coffee strain. Replanting with Colombian leaf rust resistant coffee in Colombia has reduced the incidence of leaf rust from 40% to 5% from 2011 to 2013. As with the coffee borer beetle the best treatment is prevention.

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