Coffee News: from Seed to Cup

Traps & Training: How to Tackle The Coffee Borer Beetle

The coffee berry borer is a horrifying sight for coffee farmers. It has the ability to destroy crops, devouring them from the insides and reducing both quality and yield.

But producers, you aren’t powerless against this pest. There are five simple but effective measures you can take to protect your coffee and its quality. 

Lee este artículo en español Trampas & Capacitación: Cómo Enfrentar la Broca del Café

Ripe coffee cherries at Origen San Marcos, Honduras. Credit: Amec Velásquez 

Why You Need to Know About The Coffee Borer Beetle

The coffee borer beetle, or la broca in Spanish, may be less infamous than coffee leaf rust but it can be just as much of a threat to your crops. According to the inter-governmental not-for-profit Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), if action isn’t taken, it can:

  • Attack between 50% and 100% of cherries, damaging at least one seed per cherry, by the time of harvest
  • Cause “severe” crop losses
  • Result in poor-quality coffee that is “difficult to market”

The pest originated in Africa, but today it’s present in nearly every coffee-producing country in the world. As of 2017, only Nepal is free from it.

So, what actually is the coffee borer beetle? Well, this small beetle lays its eggs inside the coffee cherry. When these eggs hatch, the larvae live off the crop. Due to bacteria in its gut, it is able to consume caffeine, unlike other insects. And it’s this that makes it one of the most dangerous insects on coffee farms.

You might also like How to Respond to Coffee Leaf Rust: A Video Guide

Coffee borer beetleA coffee borer beetle inside a damaged and unripe cherry. Credit: Santuario Birdum

How to Spot a Coffee Borer Beetle Infestation

CABI explains that the coffee borer beetle often attacks plants eight weeks after flowering. Keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • A 1 mm perforation of the fruit
  • Brown, grey, or green deposit over the perforation on the fruit
  • Black or brown fruit lesions
  • Premature fruit drop

To confirm there is an infestation, cut the fruit open and check inside.

coffee beanDamaged green coffee beans; the holes were caused by the coffee borer beetle. Credit: Baobab Coffee Roasters

How to Fight The Coffee Borer Beetle

Growing coffee demands endless hard work and passion, with at times limited rewards. It can feel like there are constant challenges that will never be overcome.

But if you see signs of an infestation on your farm, know that you can fight it. Adopt the following five processes:

  • Regularly inspect your crops for signs of infestation. The earlier you spot it, the easier it is to fight it.
  • Immediately separate all infected samples and cherries. You want to limit the amount of your farm that is affected.
  • Use pesticides (organic farmers may also be able to find appropriate pesticides).
  • Use traps. You can buy your own or, for a cheaper and more environmentally friendly option, make your own with recycled plastic bottles.
  • Train your farm workers so they can identify the signs of the coffee berry borer and know what to do.

Green coffee cherryUnripe coffee cherries that have been infested by the coffee borer beetle; the holes indicate that the beetle has burrowed inside and probably already laid its eggs there. Credit: Tiga Raja Collective

The best way to fight against the coffee borer beetle is to be prepared. Make sure you know the signs of an infestation and regularly inspect your farm. Know what pesticides are available to you and, if needed, how to make traps. Train your staff.

The coffee borer beetle will always be a challenge – but you’re not powerless against it.

Found this useful? Check out How to Respond to Coffee Leaf Rust: A Video Guide

Written by Kirsten Motz.

Please note: Before implementing the advice in this article, we advise also consulting with a local technical expert, since differences in climate, soil type, varieties, processing methods, and more can affect the best practices for production and processing.

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