You’ve probably heard more than once that insects are all around us, at every point in our lives. They’re everywhere, whether we actively see them or not. So on some level, the news that particular insects have been copulating in our coffee beans is really not that surprising—it’s just that we probably didn’t ever think about it before. A new study in the Journal of Insect Behavior sheds more light on the coffee-centered lives of Hypothenemus hampei—commonly known as the coffee berry borer—than most people have probably ever considered. If you’re a huge coffee nerd, you’ve probably read by now that coffee borers are the single most serious coffee crop pest in the world. It turns out they just love having sex (and hatching eggs) inside coffee berries.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/L. Shyamal
Discovery News reports that University of São Paulo researcher Weliton Dias Silva and his colleagues observed several interesting things while monitoring the mating habits of coffee borers for 24 hours:
- Coffee borers spend most of their lives inside coffee beans. To find them, the beetles sniff out certain chemicals that coffee beans produce. Coffea arabica is their absolute favorite.
- The beetles are native to Africa, and are fairly small—females are .07 inches long, while males are .06 inches long.
- Females can fly, but males can’t. So when coffee borer eggs hatch inside a coffee bean, the siblings turn that coffee bean into a beetle sex shack for 15 days. Then the females fly away to lay eggs in a new bean—leaving the males behind to possibly end up as roasted extra protein sources in your cup of coffee. Females can also reproduce without any help from the males through the process of parthenogenesis—no sex required.
- Coffee borers live such a fast life, scientists have actually nicknamed them “Ferrari.” Yes, we’re serious.
Most infested beans are pulled from the market by coffee growers, which is where crop loss comes into play—but some beans with stowaway coffee borers inevitably slip through. Obvious signs that coffee borers have been throwing wild parties in your beans include tiny holes where larvae have chewed through to the surface, and coffee beans that seem hollow inside. While most affected beans get pulled before they ever see a roaster, complete coffee obsessives might want to hold onto this info as yet another reason to always bring your own grinder. [via Discovery News, Vox]