The Ethiopian Harrar Beetle

Excerpt from the book Animals Evolution Avoided. This book describes 40 animals that ought to exist but don’t, because I made them up.


Ethiopian harrar coffee beans contain 1.13 percent caffeine. This amount of caffeine doesn’t seem to harm the Ethiopian Coffee Bean Beetle or Ethiopian Harrar Beetle, for whom the coffee bean forms a major part of its diet.

When fully grown, these beetles are about two inches in length. They have very powerful jaws and are able to nip off the beans from the plants with ease. These beetles work in teams, two longer beetles on the plant and eight shorter beetles underneath, picking up the beans and rolling them back to their nest.

The beetles don’t push or even pull the beans, but balance on them and roll them back using a combination of back and front legs. The nests of these beetles are always at the bottom of slopes, so that once a beetle has rolled a bean to the top of the other side of the slope, the bean will roll down towards the nest under the influence of gravity. There are normally four or five beetles outside the nest entrance, who will guide any errant coffee beans into the entrance, where the storekeeper beetles roll them into the larder. Here the chief beetle assesses the hardness of the bean. If it’s an immature bean it will be allowed to ripen, but mature beans are set aside for immediate consumption.

These beetles tend to work early in the morning for about four hours roughly around sunrise. They start off slowly at first, but their pace quickens once they have rolled a few beans back to the nest. Scientists believe that the caffeine from the beans is absorbed through the beetles’ skin on their feet.

After their four-hour shift the beetles return to the nest and rest during the heat of the day. They normally then eat some of the mature beans and spend their late evenings working manically on flood defences for the nest. Nests at the bottoms of slopes could flood easily, but these beetles build channels at 45 degrees to the slope, which diverts water past the entrance to the nest, leaving their home dry even during the rainy season.



Published by Julian Worker

I was born in Leicester. I attended school in Yorkshire and University in Liverpool. I have been to 93 countries and territories including The Balkans and Armenia in 2015, France and Slovakia in 2016, and some of the Greek Islands in 2017. My sense of humour is distilled from The Goons, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. I love being creative in my writing and I love writing about travelling. My next books are a travel book about Greece and a novel inspired by Brexit.

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