This Is How Beetles Ruin Our Coffee Supply

Coffee berry borers are notorious for destroying coffee crops, and new research shows how they do it
Coffee Beetles Can Be Stopped

Wikimedia Commons/Shyamal/CC 3.0

Coffee berry borers use their gut bacteria to store caffeine from coffee crops.

Think you love coffee? These beetles can take in the equivalent of a 150-pound person drinking 500 espresso shots.

The coffee berry borer has long been known to harm coffee berries, and can even destroy up to 80 percent of crop yield. New research by Nature Communications shows that these beetles have gut bacteria that helps them withstand the effects of caffeine.

Caffeine is known to be toxic to insects, but the coffee berry borer uses it as a source of carbon and nitrogen. Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Agriculture took a look at the beetle’s gut and found that when they gave them antibiotics, the beetles lost their ability to break down caffeine.

When researchers added the naturally occuring bacteria, called Pseudomonas fulva, back into the beetles, they found no trace of caffeine in their guts. The antibiotics could very well be the answer to save the world’s coffee supply from these beetles.


The coffee berry borer is mostly found in coffee-producing regions, such as Kenya, Indonesia, India, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guatemala, and Mexico.