2. Kenya: Tiny insect may be the answer to coffee farmers’ pest problems (Scientific Blogging, Daily Nation)

| February 8, 2010

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Scientists may have found the solution to a tiny pest that can devastate coffee plantations. The answer is – an even smaller insect that eats the pest.

The coffee berry beetle is the most serious pest facing coffee farmers. It’s also known as the coffee berry borer. The beetle drills holes into coffee berries and deposits eggs. When the eggs turn into larvae, they eat the fruit from the inside out.

The pest causes the most trouble in Kenya. Farmers around Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro are hardest hit.

Dr. Juliana Jaramillo is with the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi. She was dissecting coffee berries one day when she discovered something interesting. The coffee beetle isn’t the only creature that dives into the coffee berry. An insect called Karnyothrips flavipes will go in after the beetle to eat its eggs. The thrips eat beetle larvae, too.

Thrips are found naturally around the Kisii District of southwestern Kenya. It’s the first predator of the coffee beetle ever found in Africa. Dr. Jaramillo and her colleagues believe that thrips could be an important tool for managing the coffee beetle.