In today’s news of What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Wasps! They’re like bees but honey-less, meaner, and they don’t die when they sting you so they can really go for it. Nonetheless, these flying bullies can be useful in a select few scenarios. One of them happens to be in dealing with the coffee borer beetle, a scourge of producers everywhere. Coffee farms in Hawaii are currently trying to figure out a way to rid themselves of the pest, and wasps may just be the answer.
As reported by Kauai Now News, the coffee borer beetle is wreaking havoc on Hawaiian coffee farms, causing an estimated 30% reduction in yield as well as requiring an “extensive hand sorting” process to remove any infected cherries, per Maui Coffee Association president Gerald M. Ross. The beetle, which eats its way into coffee cherries still on the tree in order to lay its eggs thereby destroying the seed, has led to millions of dollars in damages each year in Hawaii alone.
To combat this, the University of Hawai’i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources has proposed a plan to release a small wasp statewide. Known as P. coffea, the little stinger is a parasite that feasts primarily on the coffee borer beetle, killing the beetle in about 15 days. In a 2021 study, P. coffea was introduced to nearly 70 different species of beetle, 43 Coleoptera and 23 Scolytinae, one of which was H. hampie, the coffee borer beetle. The study found that the wasp favored parasitizing H. hampie and was not harmful to any native Hawaiian species.
As such, the University of Hawai’i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources stated that the plan to release the wasp had a “Finding of No Significant Impact.” Per Kauai Now, the public will have 30 days to challenge the plan in environmental court. Otherwise, the plan will move ahead, requiring permits and approvals from both the state and national Departments of Agriculture. P. coffea has been used in at least 12 other countries to control the coffee borer beetle.
I’m all for whatever measures can safely eradicate the coffee borer beetle from farms. That said, I’m also very anti any non-bee needle with wings. And I’m sure it’s a good plan, thoroughly researched by those experts in these sorts of matters, but doesn’t it just sound like the first in a series of unfortunate events? What happens when the wasp runs out of beetles to eat and moves on to something else and we need to eradicate it? So we bring in some spiders to eat the wasps, and then a reptile to eat the spider, then a snake to eat the reptile, then a mongoose to eat the snake, then a tiger to eat the mongoose. Has no one read There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly?!