Coffee Crisis

Caffeine-Crazy Bugs Are Attacking the World’s Coffee Supply

Stealing all your coffee nbd.
Stealing all your coffee nbd. Photo: Science Stills/ARS/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis.

If you thought your caffeine addiction was bad, you’ve got nothing on the coffee berry borer. While java is usually harmful to insects, the beetles, which top out at just 1.8 millimeters for females and 1.6 for males, have a remarkable tolerance to caffeine — they can withstand the equivalent of a 150-pound person putting back 500 shots of espresso — and they apparently love the stuff.

Here’s the problem: The coffee industry is not happy because the bugs, which are found in multiple coffee-growing countries and basically just live in coffee beans their whole lives, can cut crop yields down by a whopping 80 percent. In a statement released this week, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab called them “the most devastating coffee pest in the world.”

Thankfully, the researchers think they’ve found a way to finally get the greedy squatters out once and for all, if only they can mess with the gut bacteria — so hot right now — that allows the bugs to safely digest all the coffee. Stopping these little monsters sounds important, but what would be even better is if these researchers could figure out how the borers manage to thrive — and not just get jittery and then crash super hard all the time — while consuming all that coffee. That’s some science we could definitely use.


Caffeine-Crazy Bugs Are Attacking the World’s Coffee Supply