Facts About the Coffee Berry Borer in Kona - Why Quarantine?

by dan on November 24, 2010

Harmful Coffee Pest Has History of Damaging Coffee Crops

The Coffee Berry Borer beetle is native to Angola. In the 1920s the beetle spread throughout Africa. The first documented case of the Coffee Berry Borer in America was in 1926 in Brazil.

Mexico and Guatemala were affected by the Coffee Berry Borer in the 1970s. During the last part of the 1980s the Coffee Berry Borer beetle was found in Columbia, and then in the 1990s the coffee was found in the Dominican Republic.

In August of 2007 the Coffee Berry Borer was found in coffee plants in Puerto Rico. In September of 2010 the Coffee Berry Borer was discovered on Kona coffee farms in the Kona region of the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Coffee Berry Borer has had a significant effect on country’s economies by reducing coffee prices and lowering yields, sometimes destroying entire harvests.

Control of the coffee pest is made difficult due to the perennial nature of coffee trees which have numerous flowering periods. The Coffee Berry Borer pest can be transferred along with green coffee beans (unroasted coffee beans).

An insecticide will only be effective if used before the Coffee Berry Borer penetrates the outer skin of the coffee cherry (coffee fruit). Some chemicals that may work are illegal in the United States because they have been shown to be extremely harmful the environment as well as human health.

Some areas have employed the parasitoid hymenoptera (wasps) to control the Coffee Berry Borer. The coffee can thus retain its organic status although the wasps have a relatively small impact on the population of the beetle. Other wasp species as well as other parasitoids have also been tried and have been mostly unsuccessful for various reasons.

Columbia has had some success with a Eulophyd parasitoid named Phymastichus coffea which attacks the adult Coffee Berry Borer. Various ant species are also natural predators of the beetle. Certain diseases have also been found to infect the beetle, and some fungi also cause mortality in the species.

Researchers continue to investigate ways to deal with the Coffee Berry Borer to help farmers growing Kona coffee and protect Hawaii’s premium gourmet coffees including Kona Peaberry coffee.

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