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The City of Cape Town can confirm that the invasive polyphagous shot hole Borer beetle (PSHB) has been sighted in Somerset West. The City is in the process of appointing an experienced invasive plant removal team to remove the infected trees. Read more below:

The PSBH infestation was discovered in Oldenland Road in Somerset West by passionate gardeners and environmentalists who noted that a London plane tree in their garden was ailing and exhibited signs of a PSHB beetle invasion.

The City’s Invasive Species Unit was contacted last month and a student with a Master’s of Science degree (MSc) from Stellenbosch University who is currently working on the PSHB beetle for his thesis, collected samples from the infested sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and London plane trees in Oldenland Road for laboratory analyses.

On 3 April 2019 after extensive DNA testing the results of the positive PSHB identification were released in a statement by academic experts from the Stellenbosch University’s Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology and the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria.

The City can as such confirm that a limited number of trees in Oldenland Road in Somerset West, namely London planes and sweetgums, are infested with shot hole borer beetles.

The City is working on a plan to remove the trees. It is critical that the PSHB beetles are not spread during the removal project. An experienced invasive plant removal team trained in the dangers of vector pathways and cleaning equipment will be appointed to assist the City. The wood will be chipped on site and carefully removed to a different site for solarisation or burning.

Report PSHB beetle sightings online

The City is encouraging residents to report any suspected sightings of a PSHB invasion or fusarium dieback online by visiting the Invasive Species Unit’s shot hole borer reporting tool on www.capetowninvasives.org.za.

· Click on ‘Report a PSHB sighting’ to give your details and the location of the infected tree. Residents can also upload images of the tree and entrance tunnels as this will assist the City to do a speedy identification.

· Officials from the City’s Invasive Species Unit and an arborist at the City Parks and Recreation Department will conduct an investigation.

The website has an extensive database of information about PSHB where residents can learn more about this destructive beetle.

More about the PSHB beetle

The beetle is the size of a sesame seed and is approximately two millimetres in length. Its symbiont fungal partner are threatened trees across South Africa
It is an ambrosia beetle native to Southeast Asia
It was first discovered in South Africa in 2017 on London plane trees in KwaZulu-Natal’s National Botanical Gardens in Pietermaritzburg
The beetle is invading and poses a threat to exotic and indigenous trees across South Africa
The beetle’s most likely pathway or vector is through the movement of infested wood, originating from dead or dying PSHB infested trees, including wood intended to be used for cooking or heating

Lifecycle of the PSHB beetle

The female beetle carries with her three species of fungi, including the pathogen, Fusarium euwallaceae
The adult females burrow into trees to establish brood galleries where they lay their eggs. They introduce the fungus which colonises gallery walls, becoming a food source for developing larvae and adult beetles. The fungus kills the water conducting tissues of the tree and can lead to branch dieback and eventually causes the tree to die

What trees are invaded?

Alien trees infested to date include London plane trees, sweetgums, Japanese maples, Chinese maples, pin oaks, and English oaks
Indigenous trees invaded to date include the coast coral tree, the forest bush willow and the Cape willow

What to do

Burning of the infected wood is the preferred method
Chipping of the wood into small pieces for compost is also recommended as the heat build-up in the composting process will kill the beetle
Once the tree has been felled the debris should be cleared as soon as possible and if required, the area should be sanitised
Infested plant material can be placed in refuse bags and sealed. The bags must be put in direct sunlight for solarisation as the heat from the sun helps to kill the beetle and its larvae

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