What’s that famous line from Braveheart again? I think it goes something like, “you can take our lives, but you can never take our coffee!” Is that right? Well, that’s what I am going to be chanting on repeat to the tiny coffee berry borers, beetles whose voracious appetite for coffee beans could cut yields by up to 80%. This is obviously a problem for coffee farmers, but also, as one journalist wisely pointed out, “A world without coffee would lead to the end of productivity and civilization as we know it.” That is a statement I can whole heartedly agree with.
The weird thing is that, normally, caffeine is toxic to insects. So it came as a bit of a mystery as to how these bugs can survive consuming the equivalent of — wait for it — 500 shots of espresso per day for a 150-pound person. Whoa.
Researchers have discovered that the beetles have bacteria in their gut (yes, even beetles have gut bacteria. Is that a surprise to anyone else?) that help them process the caffeine. This is a major finding, because it means that scientists could potentially target the beetle’s gut bacteria to save the coffee crops, instead of using pesticides. How exactly they go about doing this has yet to be discovered. In the meantime, I'll be keeping an extra tight grip on my precious little shot of espresso.