Coast KZN

02 Aug 2021

Be careful of giving invaders a new home, warns Beachwood Mangroves

(Northglen News) Picture: Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve manager, Basil Pather, has urged members of the public not to take pieces of driftwood found on the reserve's beach home as it could potentially house the PSHB beetle, an invasive species.

In May this year, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, sounded the alarm on the invasive species, the polyphagous shot hole borer beetle. Creecy said the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) and its associated fungus have already killed thousands of trees in South Africa and it looks set to be one of the most damaging and costly biological invasions faced by the country.

According to the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), since its discovery in KwaZulu-Natal in 2017, they have confirmed the presence of the PSHB in eight of the nine provinces in the country. Since its detection in the province, there has also been concern as the beetles are potentially found in driftwood pieces washing up along the beach.

With this in mind, Northglen News recently spoke to Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve Manager, Basil Pather, who urged members of the public to avoid taking pieces of driftwood home as it could potentially house the borer.

“We often get calls from people asking if they can take timber or pieces of driftwood found washed up along the reserve beach. In fact I’ve recently found pieces of wood with tell-tale signs it had been affected by the borer. The reason for the name is that they leave shotgun-like holes in the bark of an infected section of wood. There are clear entry and exit holes and what is concerning with the PSHB is they are like a Trojan Horse. Visitors unexpectedly take home the infected pieces of wood with the borer which has the potential to spread and infect trees in an area.

“A lot of the infected drift wood ends up along our shoreline as they are carried down river due to heavy rains. So there is a potential invasion from the ocean due to the infected pieces of wood found along the shoreline. We are urging visitors and residents to avoid taking any pieces of drift wood they find on the beach. We recently had a sampling of trees tested within the reserve for the polyphagous shot hole borer. A scientist, who is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Conservation Ecology and Entomology discovered the presence of the borer in the reserve in three coral trees, however she did raise concern that the PSHB beetles are entering the nature reserve from the oceans’ side through driftwood,” Pather said.

Pather added the reserve was also monitoring for a terrestrial invasion.