Coffee bean borer spreads to Oahu

Published: Dec. 10, 2014 at 10:50 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 10, 2014 at 10:57 PM HST
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Dole has two coffee fields on 155 acres in Waialua. The company has been growing coffee for about ten years. Now trees in some sections of the farm are infested with coffee berry borer beetles.

"It's beyond the point where the department and our partner agencies can really go in and effectively eradicate the infestation," state entomologist Darcy Oishi said.

The tiny beetles bore their way into the the cherry of coffee beans and lay eggs, decreasing the quality of crops.

"Coffee berry borer is one of the three major pests of coffee in the world. This can affect production and yield," Oishi said.

Up to now infestations have been isolated to coffee farms on the Big Island. Waialua coffee is one of eight coffee farms on Oahu. Green World Coffee Farm is another.

"I don't really see the problem here as being anything like as difficult as it is down there," owner Donald Green said.

He has 3,000 coffee trees on his seven acres in Wahiawa.  So far his farm is free of the insects, but he's been expecting the beetle's arrival.  He doesn't think the problem on Oahu will be as bad as on the Big Island.

"There's thousands and thousands of wild coffee trees all across the Kona coast. It's virtually impossible down there to control or eradicate this. We don't have wild coffee trees here on Oahu," Green said.

The agriculture department will work with Dole on sanitation techniques. Leftover berries that aren't cleared away are an open invitation to the beetle.

"Coffee berries that are on the ground. Coffee that's left on the branch unharvested. All of that is an issue," Oishi said.

He said eradication of the beetle from infested farms is very difficult, control and containment are easier.

"If you do your job well it won't be a total disaster. If you don't do it, it could be a 70 or 80 percent loss situation," Green said.

Oishi said the department will work to try to keep the beetle from moving from Oahu to the other islands. This is a wake-up call for coffee farmers around the state.

"All the other islands should be concerned with this latest find," he said.

The Agriculture Department doesn't know how the borer beetle made its way to Oahu. Oishi said inspectors will check other coffee farms in search of the insect.

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