Coffee Pest and Problems

Coffee Pest and Problems

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 accompanies him.

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.


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