The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer beetle (PSHB), originally hails from South East Asia, most likely Vietnam.
The beetle probably landed in South Africa on wooden pallets used in the shipping of goods, says Professor Francois Roets of the Department of Conservation, Ecology, and Entomology, Faculty of AgriScience at Stellenbosch University.
It is a tiny beetle not much bigger than a sesame seed, reports Cape Town Invasives.
These wooden pallets are not treated very well in other parts of the world and get infested with insects, and they land on our shores and start exploring.— Professor Francois Roets, Department of Conservation, Ecology, and Entomology, Faculty of AgriScience - Stellenbosch University.
He says the earliest reports in South Africa are around 2012 in the Richards Bay area and 2016 in KwaZulu-Natal.
One of the biggest concerns is that these beetle hosts on multiple species of trees.
It has been reported here on over 100 tree species...on some, it can kill the tree in a few years.— Professor Francois Roets, Department of Conservation, Ecology, and Entomology, Faculty of AgriScience - Stellenbosch University.
Roets explains how the beetle bores into the tree and carries a fungus inside the tree and as the fungus grows in the sapwood and blocks all the vessels and channels in the tree preventing water and nutrients moving around.
The beetles leave tiny holes on the trees.
The female beetles attack the trees as they are the ones that can fly and lay eggs.— Professor Francois Roets, Department of Conservation, Ecology, and Entomology, Faculty of AgriScience - Stellenbosch University.
He says it is part of a research network trying to find ways of combatting the beetles.
What is the City doing and what steps can you take if you see the beetles?
Programme manager of the Invasive Species Unit at City of Cape Town Chandre Rhoda explains to Pippa Hudson the steps the City is taking to protect the trees, and what you can do to help.
Members of the public can report any sightings of the shothole borer beetle here, says Rhoda.
It has launched various media campaigns to raise awareness, she adds.
Sightings of the beetle began in the Somerset West area and she says 244 reports have been received via the reporting tool.
75 cases from the reports have tested positive for the Shothole Borer beetle so far, and 65 of these trees have been removed.
A protocol has been launched to make people aware of what they can do and how to safely dispose of the biomass.
- Chip the material as small as possible.
- Bag the pieces and solarise or burn it.
Chips need to be bagged and solarised before being added to any compost.— Chandre Rhoda, Programme manager - Invasive Species Unit at City of Cape Town
It is essential to clean all materials once you have cut down the tree or been in contact with infested material. She recommends F10 which is an anti-fungal cleaner.
The City's rapid response unit is currently assessing and verifying every report.
The City is currently carrying the costs of removal from homes.
Listen to the interviews below: