Coffee Borer Beetle

Getting from point A to point Z can be daunting unless you remember that you don’t have to get from A to Z. You just have to get from A to B. Breaking big dreams into small steps is the way to move forward.

Sheryl Sandberg

I took the coffee borer beetle (CBB) workshop last year and repeated it earlier this year. Again, I had that feeling of “we’re doomed” that I felt last year. It’s really hard to stay optimistic when you learn about the beetle life cycle, the number of eggs a female lays, and how few days it takes for eggs to become adults. And farmers bemoan that even if they do what they can, their neighbor might not practice good beetle hygiene. The instructor called it “feral coffee,” wild coffee that is no longer actively farmed and cared for. However, the instructors were great at coaching us to keep on doing what we can. They taught us what we should ideally do, which seems impossible, but asked us to do our reasonable best.

Healthy versus beetle-damaged coffee beans shown at various processing stages.

I took this photo when I was at the coffee borer beetle workshop at the CTAHR extension office. The top row shows normal parchment, green bean, and roasted coffee. The second row demonstrates what beetle damage looks like in each stage of the beans.

I think of the New Zealand spirit that I’ve become acquainted with on two visits there. They really care about protecting their fragile environment and seem to face many daunting ecological problems. They educate the public about problems and ask for the public’s help, in the spirit of every person can do a little. They vigorously screen upon entry to the country (asking to see any food, hiking boots, camping equipment, etc.).

On hikes, bulletin boards would explain a problem, and squirt bottles would be available for you to clean off your boots. We saw clear-cut forest, thinking it was horrible until we learned that they’re getting rid of a problematic non-native tree and why. And they showed photos of the seedlings and asked you to remove any you might encounter on your hike.

For example, for Ironman New Zealand, you must have your wetsuit checked. “To protect the awesome water quality of The Great Lake Taupo Region from invasive freshwater threats (such as didymo & hornwort)  the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board and the Department of Conservation require that you Check Clean Dry all your swimming equipment prior to entry into Lake Taupo.”
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We have to channel that same Kiwi spirit. I’m grateful that in Hawaii grants have been provided to research and educate about, e.g., the beetle. And a financial subsidy is given for spray for the beetle.

If you’re curious and want to learn more, CTAHR created this website for educating Hawaii coffee farmers about CBB & other pests.

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