Coffee Pests: The Coffee Bean Borer

Apologies for the delay in this post, which was initially going to be a massive article entitled “Pests in Coffee Production”. Having realised that I may have bitten off more than I could chew, it will now be broken down into individually titled posts. My kindest thanks go to James for providing some very useful information, without which, this would end somewhere around here.

This is a closer look at one of the more noticeable pests (from the consumer’s point of view, at least) in coffee production, with particular regard to the growing trend for organic coffee production, as the problem appears to be more evident within that field.
When faced with examples of green coffee that had been attacked by pests, much as I was a few months ago, one may look for the most obvious link between examples and assume that the problem occurs as a result. In the case of which I speak, the common link between examples was that each was certified organic. As a result I assumed, as I suspect many would, that due to the lack of any chemical pesticides or treatments to counter the pests, a greater proportion of the crop would fall subject to them.

The coffee bean borer, Hypothenemus hampei/Stephanoderes coffeae does not pose a significant threat to coffee production in comparison to other pests such as stem borer beetles (where the success or failure of actually achieving a crop is itself in danger), though as I have stated earlier, from the consumer’s point of view, some damage is clearly evident and it is this that has caught my attention.

It originates in Africa¹ (older text such as Modern Coffee Production cite it as indigenous to Uganda) and exists in over populated plantations where shading becomes an issue. Poor care and general sanitation on the farm may result in cherries left on the plant to mature or dry, or those fallen to the floor to remain undisturbed and lay to the following season. It are these conditions which attract the beetles, breeding in the drier, more compact tissue with a moisture content of around 20%, as opposed to the moister flesh of younger, unripe fruit². The larvae burrow through the fruit and into the seed, thus damaging the potential harvest.

The clearing of fallen cherries and removal of older specimens can prevent the increase of infestation, though if present, beneficial parasites that prey on the beetle may also be removed. The issue of overcrowding and shade can be easily prevented, though a potential crop yield would also be reduced. This suggests that perhaps due to the recent shift in consumer demand for organic products, farmers have increased crop density within their estates, though in doing so have improved the breeding environment for the pest.

The farm space at Sitio Du Tileco is not exclusively for coffee, but incorporates the natural vegetation of its surroundings into their “natural” approach to agriculture. This may pose difficulties when clearing fruit, which has naturally fallen to the ground, possibly among grasses or weeds, where it would contribute to the pest problem. Increased shade from vegetation may also add to this.


¹ Mitchell, H. W. 1988. Cultivation and Harvesting of the Arabica Coffee Tree. Coffee: Agronomy. Ed. R.J. Clarke. New York: Elsevier Applied Science

²  Haarer, A. E. 1962. Modern Coffee Production. London: Leonard Hill


~ by E-83 on October 23, 2007.

4 Responses to “Coffee Pests: The Coffee Bean Borer”

  1. I’ve added a link to my post on common coffee pests ( with a link to this post. From what I understand, fighting broca with pesticides is very difficult — they spend too much of their lives inside the cherry and the entrance holes are so small that killing them is nearly futile. I believe some chemicals can be used for prevention, but that hygiene (as you note) is also very effective. I have read a number of ecological studies on birds in shaded farms preying on insect pests, and wrote about an interesting study that found ants were more prevalent and fed on more broca in shaded farms in Colombia than sun farms (

  2. […] just that one sack, but it isn’t really a good sign. I guess this brings us back to the whole Pests and Diseases topic. I’ve done a little looking around and found a few pay-per-view articles from […]

  3. i want to know how to attack the coffee by pests and types of coffee pests

  4. I brewed/boiled some non organic coffee (to use for something other than drinking) and poured it into a bowl and covered it with plastic wrap. In the morning, there were tiny little squiggles on the inside of the plastic that looked very much like worm trails in the condensation. What could that be? And if there is some type of worm that came with the coffee grounds, wouldn’t it have died in the boiling process?

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