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Invasive borer beetles resurface in the Cape

Sightings of the Polyphagous shot hole borer beetle (PSHB) were first reported to the City’s Invasive Species Unit (ISU) in April 2019. Since then, an experienced invasive species removal team from the City has visited 361 sites across Cape Town to inspect trees that were suspected of infestation by the Asian borer beetle.

“We have found that 160 trees in Somerset West have been infested, of which 156 were chipped on-site, carefully removed under cover of heavy-duty plastic, and incinerated at appropriate sites. The City is busy removing the remaining four infested trees,” the City’s Mayco Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Marian Nieuwoudt. “About 130 of the infested trees were removed from privately-owned residential properties in the northern parts of Somerset West, and the rest from City-owned land – mainly road reserves and parks. At this stage, it seems the pest is confined to this area only.”

The ISU has recently appointed a team of temporary workers through the Expanded Public Works Programme to assist with inspecting trees in and around the Somerset West area to record the extent and spread of the pest.

“I’m asking residents to please allow these workers access to their properties so that they can inspect the trees for any possible infestation. The workers will be wearing dark green shirts, and must have an identification card with their name, photo, staff number, and City logo in their possession. We also encourage members of the public to be on the lookout for possible infestations on their properties. This beetle is extremely harmful and devastating,” said Nieuwoudt.

There are reports about alleged infestations in other parts of Cape Town as well.

What to look for:

Indications that the tree may be infested include tiny (not more than 2mm) holes directly in the tree (not under the bark); oozing of sap or resin, frass (millings), and later partial or full dieback or progressive death of twigs and branches of the tree. The insect is black, about 2mm in size, and is sometimes seen flying.

The spread of the PSHB pest is also buoyed by transporting infested material and infested firewood. Residents are advised not to cut down or transport possibly infested trees and firewood, but rather to report the infestation to the ISU.

“Residents should also be on the lookout for dishonest or uninformed contractors who offer to treat, cut and transport infested material. The City is currently assisting residents with removal of infested material at no cost. In fact, the ISU has spent nearly R1,3 million over the past ten months to remove infested trees,” said Nieuwoudt.

To report any sightings:

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

– Call 0860 103 089 and state that a possible PSHB case is being reported.

The exact location of the sighting is very important. Officials from the City’s Invasive Species Unit and an arborist at the City Parks and Recreation Department will conduct an investigation.

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