These insects are considered the coffee world’s most devastating pest; infestations can slash a crop yield by up to 80 percent. The beetles don’t just use the coffee for food; they burrow into coffee beans and spend their lives inside.
Caffeine typically repels insects, and being exposed to a lot of it can be harmful for insects and humans alike. But for the coffee berry borer? No problem. The beetles love coffee, more than even you do. They expose themselves to so much coffee, in fact, that it’s the equivalent of a 150-pound person drinking 500 shots of espresso.
Scientists have finally figured out how the coffee berry borer can thrive off what’s toxic to most other living things. The key is gut bacteria, according to research published this week in the journal Nature Communications by Berkeley Lab and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists.