HONOLULU (KHON2) — A wasp almost invisible to the naked eye will soon be let out to save Hawaii’s coffee industry.

This wasp will target the coffee berry borer, a beetle native to Central Africa that now disrupts coffee-producing companies around the world, according to the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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The Hawaii coffee industry is economically and culturally significant, and we hope that this work will improve the lives of many people associated with the industry.”

Professor and Extension Entomologist Mark Wright

This beetle was first found in south Kona on the big island of Hawaii in 2010. For more in-depth information on the coffee berry borer click here.

In 2018, shipments of this wasp were coming to Hawaii under strict quarantine for research.

The research included testing on insects similar to the coffee berry borer to make sure no negative impacts were to happen.

Researchers David Honsberger and Luis Aristizabal, graduates of UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, along with Marisa Wall and Peter Follett from the Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center are nearing the end of their research with the goal of releasing thousands of the wasps, targeting coffee berry borers.

Follett told UH the coffee berry borers came to Hawaii with no natural predator to keep the population regulated, that is where the wasp Phymastichus coffea comes into play.

The wasp has been released in other parts of the world and has shown to limit the population, according to Follett.

This biological control agent has the potential to make significant positive economic impacts in the Hawaiʻi coffee industry and offers an environmentally safe way to manage CBB.”

Professor and Extension Entomologist Mark Wright

Researchers intend to keep these wasps in quarantine for two generations to make sure they are not contaminated with disease.

Wright told UH he hopes these wasps will become established where they are first released and spread to other coffee-growing areas in the state.

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The team plans to release these wasps, with permission from the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and a permit from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, in Kau and Kona on the Big Island. They also plan to release them in Waialua on Oahu and in Maui.

Click here for more information on this research.