Bugs to help address water hyacinth problem
River warrior Mark Pontes with the Neochetina bugs that were released in the Illovo River to combat water hyacinth.
"In the larval stage, the bugs tunnel into the petioles and the crown of the plant, which stunts its growth.
Local paddlers are pinning their hopes on bugs to clear the Illovo River of the ongoing water hyacinth problem. River warrior and Amanzimtoti Watersports Club member, Mark Pontes released 2,000 Neochetina species bugs in the river on Saturday, 16 February.
“With the help of Mike Chiazzari, the bugs were released on the upper section of the steel bridge over an area of about three kilometres,” said Mark. “These will hopefully multiply and start eradicating the water hyacinth in the next two to three months.
It is advised that people don’t remove or spray the hyacinth, as this will effect the bugs. This process is slow but in the long-term we have found it to be very effective.”
Local paddlers have been plagued by the aquatic weed covering the Amanzimtoti River, despite Mark’s tireless efforts over the years, which was one of the reasons the club opted to relocate to the Illovo River.
The bugs feed on the leaves and petioles of the hyacinth and in the larval stage, tunnel into the petioles and the crown of the plant, which reduces the plant’s ability to produce flowers and seeds, and stunts its growth.
Mark hopes it is now just a matter of time before he and his fellow paddlers have a clear river to paddle on. “Thanks to Zukiswa Zulu of the Department of Environmental Affairs and the South African Sugarcane Research Institute for supplying the bugs and to our club chairman, Stan Whiting for initiating the project,” said Mark.