Hawaiian Coffee Beetle Infestation Spreads

Hawaiian agricultural officials report that the coffee berry borer, a species of beetle that attacks coffee plants, has been found in the Kau district of the main island of Hawaii. The beetle infestation was first discovered in the Kona district in September 2010 by University of Hawaii researchers. Despite efforts by the state Department of Agriculture, the beetle has spread, further threatening Hawaii’s coffee crop.

The coffee berry borer is one of the most significant threats to coffee plants worldwide, one that is extremely difficult to eradicate. The beetle burrows into coffee berries from between eight weeks and thirty two weeks past flowering, laying eggs inside of the berries. The larvas proceed to feed on the coffee beans, reducing yields and, in extreme cases, destroying entire crops.

In addition to their destructive nature, coffee berry borers are notoriously hard to exterminate. Pesticides are only effective before the beetle enters to coffee berry. There are several biological treatments, ranging from predatory insects to naturally occurring fungi, and Hawaiian officials employed several of these, to limited effect. The best method of controlling the beetle population is through careful inspection of coffee beans to avoid spreading the insect to other plants. Hawaiian agricultural officials are urging coffee growers to remain vigilant and report any outbreaks to the HDOA.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer