The importance of the insect population in Colombian coffee production has been underestimated according to a new study. A joint research study by Cenicafé and Bayer, a German pharmaceutical and life science company, discovered that the Colombian coffee farms are home to 250 species of insects that visit the coffee plant.

The study sought to understand the role of these insects in coffee production, which may have been under-appreciated previously, due to the fact that coffee plants are self-pollinating.

Cenicafé, the scientific arm of the Colombian Coffee Growers Foundation, focuses on the study of coffee production-related issues, which includes quality control, pest and diseases and natural resource conservation.

They reported that among the 250 species of insects, which includes beetles, flies, bedbugs, butterflies, moths, ants, wasps and bees, 88 of them are species of native bees. These make up 16% of the total number of native bee species in the country, making this bee group the most abundant and diverse.

Bees and other floral visiting insects participate with 16% of the total fruit set of coffee fruits, a figure higher than the up to 10% that was believed –

The majority of plants (75-80%) rely on insects for pollination, but coffee plants are self-pollinating, and so the importance of insects and in particular, of bees, has potentially been overlooked. These insects, which are natural inhabitants of the Colombian coffee ecosystem, visit the coffee flowers and aid in pollination and further influence crop productivity and reproduction.

Results of the study show that they are participating in the pollination of 16% of all Colombian coffee fruit sets — 6% higher than the previous estimation before this study.

The diversity of insects was a result of a combined weed and pest management system and was evident when minimising the application of chemicals and pesticides. This preserved a larger number of pollinators of the coffee system, resulting in a larger floral diversity. 

This study proves that the careful management of coffee plantations, like the use and careful application of chemicals, can greatly preserve the biodiversity of the coffee system, and contribute to a more productive harvest.

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