There are countless pests and diseases that regularly
wreak great damage on coffee crops every year around the world. Perhaps
one of the most surprising things about the fact that coffee production
is the second largest in the world after oil, is that it is an industry
subject to such a great number of natural disasters, in the form of
pest, diseases and weather patterns.
It has been estimated that there are at least 850 species
of insects that regularly book tables at their favorite coffee
plantations. There are those who enjoy a salad of tender green leaves,
such as various leaf-miners; leaf-cutting ants; leaf-skeletonizers;
thrips; countless caterpillars; and nutrition-sucking scale, which come
in shades of green, white and brown, and are such messy eaters that the
mucus they leave behind breeds a fungus disease called "soot".
There are many mealy bugs and numerous nematodes, whose
secret binges on coffee roots go unnoticed until the plants appear to
suffer from nutritional problems, while stem and twig borers prefer a
liquid lunch straight from the tap. The antestia bug, whose first choice
is green cherries, but who will settle for buds or even twigs, is like
an elegant vampire; no one knows he has supped until the pulping process
exposes the darkly stained zebra-striped parchment coatings, and the
beans within, shriveled and black, decayed with the fungus which often
The Mediterranean fruit fly does her damage by laying her
eggs in the pulp of the coffee fruit, which then becomes an
all-you-can-eat buffet for the young maggots. The yellow tea mite may
find itself in the wrong venue, but it stays nevertheless.
By far the most serious coffee pest is the dreaded coffee
berry borer, the broca del cafeto, a tiny black female beetle that
bores into a coffee cherry, going through the fruit pulp and penetrating
the coffee bean itself, where she lays her eggs. If the bean is not
totally destroyed by the voracious tunnel-making larvae, it will succumb
to the secondary rot fungus carried by the borer. Coffee berry borers
were first noted in Africa in 1867, since which time they have infested
every coffee-growing continent around the world, causing billions of
dollars' worth of damage and devastation.
Global trends in pest control management are attempting
to reduce, and hopefully ultimately replace, the use of chemical
pesticides by the introduction and encouragement of natural predators
and parasites of the coffee-preying pest. For example, a current
International Coffee Organization project, funded by the United Nations'
Common Fund for Commodities, hopes to control the coffee berry borer in
at least seven member coffee-producing countries, by releasing certain
wasps which prey on the borer beetles.