Human Rights

City advises on methods to beat the beetle

The City of Cape Town has developed best practice methods for the removal and disposal of trees infested with the invasive Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer beetle (PSHB). Horticulturists, landscapers, arborists or contractors assisting residents with the removal of dying, or dead trees are requested to follow this protocol.

In March 2019, a possible PSHB beetle infestation was discovered in Oldenland Road, Somerset West, in an ailing London plane tree. In April 2019, DNA tests conducted by scientists confirmed it was a positive PSHB identification.

An experienced invasive species removal team from the City has since then removed 46 trees from the Somerset West area in an attempt to contain and limit the spread of this invasive Asian borer beetle. The wood, from trees cut down in Somerset West, was chipped on site and carefully removed under cover of heavy duty plastic and incinerated at appropriate sites.

Best practice

This week, the City of Cape Town’s Invasive Species Unit, in cooperation with the City’s Recreation and Parks Department, local arborists and the country’s top entomologists, released a PSHB Protocol which prescribes the best practice for how to remove and dispose of trees infested with PSHB.

The 18-page Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer Protocol is useful for identifying, pruning, cutting down, removing and disposing of infected PSHB wood.

Experiences in California, Israel, and closer to home � in Gauteng, have shown that the PSHB beetle can easily spread across suburbs if extra precaution is not taken. Apart from infected wood, the 2 mm big borer beetle can also spread through clothing, vehicle crevices, or unclean horticultural equipment.

The authors of the protocol advise that the use of pesticides and fungicides have a limited effect. These may reduce the rate of recolonization in lightly infected trees, but have not proven effective at eradicating PSHB from infected trees.

The movement of infested wood is an important pathway for the spread of the beetle. Appropriate disposal of infested trees � by chipping and then incineration, solarisation, or composting � is therefore essential for reducing the spread of the pest.

The PSHB Protocol is available to anyone who needs a scientific and realistic set of best practice advice for dealing with a PSHB infestation.

The PSHB Protocol can be downloaded from

Report PSHB beetle sightings online

The City also encourages residents to report suspected sightings of a PSHB invasion or fusarium dieback online by visiting the Invasive Species Unit’s Shot Hole Borer Reporting Tool on

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, approximately 2 mm in length, and its symbiont fungal partner have 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 invasive 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

The following trees are invaded

Alien trees infested to date include London plane trees, Liquid amber, Japanese maples, Chinese maples, pin oaks, and English oaks

Indigenous trees invaded to date include the Coast Coral tree, Forest Bushwillow, 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

Source: City Of Cape Town