Coffee parasite discovered in Kona

Published: Sep. 8, 2010 at 8:22 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 9, 2010 at 4:00 AM HST
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The coffee berry borer (center top) with coffee berries
The coffee berry borer (center top) with coffee berries

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – One of the worst parasites to prey upon coffee crops has been discovered on the Big Island. The coffee berry borer, a small beetle native to Africa, has been found feasting on coffee on several Kona area farms, according to officials at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

"This is terrible news for our important coffee industry. It appears that this pest has been here for several years and may be well established in some growing areas in South Kona" said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. 

It is unknown how the pest was introduced to Hawaii. Although the beetle was only officially reported last week, information obtained from growers indicates that the beetle may have become established more than a year ago.

Entomologists are organizing surveys across the state to size up the extent of the infestation. Preliminary inquiries suggest that the beetle has become established from Kainaliu to Honaunau, in the heart of the Big Island's Kona coffee growing region, which is already struggling with severe drought conditions.

The small beetle bores its way into the growing coffee berry and then lays its eggs. Because the insect lives inside the coffee bean, it is difficult to control with standard pesticides. Officials with the Agriculture Department, working with scientists from the University of Hawaii, are already working on plans to control the beetle, including investigating the possibility of using biological controls, or natural enemies of the insect.

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