BORER BEETLE TASK FORCE LAUNCHED

 

Journalist Yolandé Stander | Thursday, 11 April 2019, 10:01

It was discovered last year that the beetle and its fungus infest native trees in the gardens of George and Knysna.

PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS – Pledge Nature Reserve in Knysna has been chosen as a site for a research project on the polyphagous shothole borer beetle in the Southern Cape.

During last month, professor Wilhelm de Beer of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute and professor Francois Roets from Stellenbosch University visited the Southern Cape to launch two research projects on the impact of this beetle on native trees in the area.

It was discovered last year that the beetle and its fungus infest native trees in the gardens of George and Knysna. Over the next two years, two master’s students – Elmar van Rooyen, based at Stellenbosch University, and Garyn Townsend, based at Rhodes University but registered at the University of Pretoria – will regularly survey the forests around George and Knysna.

The aims of these projects are to determine the rate of spread of the beetle; which native tree species are infested; and what the impact of the beetle and its fungus will be on these native trees.

To date, the beetle has been recorded on 35 native host tree species in South Africa. During the week’s surveys the beetle was found on several more tree species. The students are currently doing fungal isolations and identifications of the beetles and fungi to confirm whether all of these represent the borer. Although the beetle and fungus will definitely not kill all the native tree species that it infests, there might be some species at risk of being killed and thus removed from sensitive ecosystems, and some tree species might be resistant.

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