Coffee Berry Borer

Coffee Berry Borer

The coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) is the most serious pest of coffee all over the world. It has caused considerable losses in various all coffee growing countries like India, Central African & Brazil. It is endemic and in countries to which it has been introduced. Read about nature, management, measures & control of coffee's biggest enemy.

(GRAPHIC CONTENT SHOWN. Reader discretion advised)

This pest was first noticed in India during February 1990 on a few plantations in The Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu. It has now spread to almost all the coffee growing areas in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The adult coffee berry borer is a black beetle, about 1.5mm long. It bores into young as well as ripe berries generally through the naval (tip) region. Around 50 eggs, on an average, are laid in the tunnel within the mature bean. The eggs hatch in 5-9 days. The grubs feed on the beans, making small tunnels. Complete development from egg to adult takes place in about thirty days.

Berry Borer Life CycleBerry Borer Life Cycle

Coffee Berry Borer

Mating usually takes place inside the berries and the female is capable of laying eggs in 3-4 days after emergence.

The fertilized female leaves the parent tunnel and bores into a fresh fruit for ovipositor. The ratio of female to male is about 10:1. The male is incapable of flight and doesn't leave the berry. Average longevity of the female is 156 days, which is sufficient to enable the pest to carry over from one season's crop to the next, under Indian conditions.

Berry Borer Holes

Nature and symptoms of damage

Damage is caused to young as well as developed berries. Though the beetle doesn't breed in tender berries, some of the affected berries may fall due to injury. Breeding occurs in developed berries from the time the endosperm becomes hard. It may continue in the black left over ripe berries either on the tree and or on the ground. In case of severe infestation, 30-80% of the fruits may be attacked, resulting in heavy crop loss. Generally only one of the beans is observed in case of severe infestation. The infested berry can be easily identified by the presence of small holes, generally one and sometimes two or three, in the navel region. The berry borer attacks all the coffee cultivars.

Berry Borer Damage


The population of this pest could be effectively maintained at very low levels by adopting an integrated plan management (IPM) which includes cultural, biological and chemical measures. These are explained in detail below..

Cultural measures

Under favorable conditions and when coffee berries are present throughout the year, the pest can maintain an uninterrupted series of generations. In order to break the continuity of the life cycle, it is essential to maintain a period (the longer the better) during which there are no suitable berries for the development of the pest on the estate. This is possible by collection of gleanings and left over berries, including off season crop, on the plants scrupulously. Timely and thorough harvest is also important to reduce the pest build up. At the time of harvest, spreading polythene sheets or mats under the plants is very useful in minimizing the gleanings and improving the harvesting efficiency. Infested fruits should be processed after dipping in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Heavily infested berries may be destroyed by burning or burying in the soil to a depth of at least 20 inches. Maintain thin shade and train the plant regularly so that harvest and plant protection operations are efficient.

Special care needs to be taken in situations where Arabica is inter-planted in Robusta field. As Arabica fruits mature earlier, the berry borer completes a few generations on Arabica and then very easily moves over to Robusta. Hence, the concept of breaking the life cycle is not fully met.

While processing coffee at the estate level, extreme care should be taken to dry the coffee to the following moisture specifications so that the stages inside, if any, do not survive.

Type of coffee



One forlit weight to obtain the moisture level

Arabica/ Robusta parchment


15.5 kg

Arabica cherry


16.0 kg

Robusta cherry


18.0 kg

Avoid transport of pest infested coffee to non-infested areas. Dry the infested coffee properly, fumigate and then transport using fumigated gunny bags.

Tree coffee serves as a potential inoculum during off season. Don't leave the tree coffee un-harvested. If harvesting is not possible, stump them.

Use of Brocatraps

Install Brocatraps around the drying yard during harvest to monitor the incidence and also in the field after harvest at the rate of 30 traps per acre. The traps should be used at the time of sprinkler irrigation in Robusta. The trap has a ethanol/methanol lure which attracts the berry borers and get trapped. This necessarily does not end the borer menace but informs the farmer if the borer infestation has started in different plots of the farm and to take immediate preventive action


Chemical control

Endosulfan 35 EC at the dosage of 340ml in 200 liters of water is found to be the most effective insecticide against this pest world over. But it has to be used with caution. This chemical has been banned in Kerala due to injudicious use. Chlorpyriphos 20 EC at the dosage of 600ml per barrel along with 200ml of any wetting agent is also very effective and can be used for hot spot spray. The timing of the spray is very critical and so for getting good control the spray should be given when most of the beetles are still at the tip of the navel region of the fruit before entering into beans. The thumb rule is to spray the berries between 120 to 150 days after blossom (August-September for Arabica and September-October for Robusta). This is the time when the endosperm starts hardening and most of the berry borer beetles ate at the tip of the berry.

Endosulfan Spray

Biological control

Biological control by using fungal pathogens and parasitoids has been attempted in many countries. The white muscardine fungus Beauveria bassiana could be used as a bio control agent against the pest very effectively. This pathogen which kills the borer can be cultured at the estate level and sprayed on the infested plants.

Application of Beauveria bassiana

Berry Borer Control

To prepare one barrel (200 Ltr) of spray fluid with about 10 million conidia per ml, take the conidia harvested from one kg of rice culture (about 40 grams) and add 100ml of non-ionic surfactants like APSA 80 or ACTIVE 80, and mix thoroughly to form a uniform paste (the conidia are not miscible with most of the ordinary wetting agents and hence they cannot be used). Add small quantities of water into the bag and mix thoroughly so that no lumps remain in the suspension. Make up to 200 liters. If the culture bags are used for immediate field application, the following method can be adopted. Crush the contents of five bags (prepared with one kg of rice) and empty into a suitable container with a screw cap. Add 100 ml of APSA 80 / ACTIVE 80 and about 2 liters of water. Close the container tightly and mix thoroughly by vigorous agitation (a churner may be used for better mixing). Filter the suspension into the barrel. Repeat mixing and filtration three or four times to extract maximum spores. Make up to 200 Ltr and spray using a knapsack or rocker sprayer fitted with solid cone or adjustable nozzle of 350 to 450 cc output per minute. For covering large areas, motorized sprayers with suitable lances and nozzles can be used for better efficacy.

Unlike chemical insecticides, B. Bassiana has got very little persistence on the treated plant surface. Hence, for a pest like berry borer, direct contact of the formulation with the insect cuticle is essential for effective control. The spray suspension should come in contact with all the berries. The effect of the fungus can be observed in the field in about 10 days with the development of white hyphal mass or spores on the dead insect, often projecting through the bore holes on the berries. Around 80% suppression can be achieved. Apart from environmental safety, the advantage of the fungus over insecticides is its ability to kill the stages inside the tunnels through cross contamination. Hence, field application can be taken up till berry ripening starts. June to September, when temperature is below 30 C and humidity above 70%, is the ideal period for best results. Mist as well as the microclimate in the tunnels also provides high humidity required for fungal development. The important precaution to be followed while handling (particularly while mixing) the fungus is to avoid inhalation of spores; some people may be allergic.

Berry Borer Beetle.. We do not like you!