Featured News

The death of trees?

Indigenous and exotic trees in South Africa are dying by the thousands because of a tiny beetle that experts say is “impossible to eliminate”.

The beetle is only two millimetres in size and can be extremely difficult to spot.

The destructive polyphagous (able to feed on various kinds of foods) shot hole borer beetle has already infested thousands of trees and plants in the country and is expected to reach all corners of SA by 2022, killing off and damaging hundreds of species of trees. And while this happens, desperate calls to register chemicals to treat the trees have fallen on deaf ears.

View the article here

Chelsea Pieterse
The Witness

Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PHSB) Four-Year Forecast of Urban Tree Infestation in South Africa

Shot Hole Borer National Distribution Forecast

This paper uses current actual distribution of Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PHSB) within South Africa to provide a four-year forecast of how this invasive pest will spread in the urban environment.

View the article here

Hilton Fryer

A Tiny Beetle Is Killing an Urban Forest and There’s No Solution

A black beetle the size of a sesame seed is killing South Africa’s trees, and no one knows how to stop it.

After arriving from Southeast Asia about four years ago, the polyphagous shot-hole borer has spread a thousand miles across South Africa, from the eastern city of Pietermaritzburg, where it was discovered in 2017, to indigenous forests on the west coast near Cape Town. An unwelcome side effect of globalization, the pest is believed to have arrived along with wood pellets on a ship.

View the article here

Pauline Bax

Destructive shot hole borer beetle sighted in Somerset West

“The City of Cape Town can confirm that the invasive polyphagous shot hole Borer beetle (PSHB) has been sighted in Somerset West. The City is in the process of appointing an experienced invasive plant removal team to remove the infected trees.”

“The PSBH infestation was discovered in Oldenland Road in Somerset West by passionate gardeners and environmentalists who noted that a London plane tree in their garden was ailing and exhibited signs of a PSHB beetle invasion.”

“The City’s Invasive Species Unit was contacted last month and a student with a Master’s of Science degree (MSc) from Stellenbosch University who is currently working on the PSHB beetle for his thesis, collected samples from the infested sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and London plane trees in Oldenland Road for laboratory analyses.”

“On 3 April 2019 after extensive DNA testing the results of the positive PSHB identification were released in a statement by academic experts from the Stellenbosch University’s Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology and the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria.”

Read the full article here

City of Cape Town, Media Office

Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) Workshops

5 Workshops have been scheduled around the country.

The last workshop will be held in Cape Town on Saturday 30th March

The Workshop covers the following topics:

PSHB – Habitat and life cycle
PSHB – Control and treatment
South African Law and Act 36

Sign up for the Cape Town PSHB Workshop here

View the Cape Town PSHB Workshop agenda and programme here


PSHB Workshop 2019-03-09 Joburg
PSHB Workshop 2019-03-09 Johannesburg
PSHB Workshop 2019-03-02 Ballito
PSHB Workshop 2019-03-02 Ballito, KZN
PSHB Workshop 2019-02-23 Knysna
PSHB Workshop 2019-02-23 Knysna
PSHB Workshop 2019-01-19 Joburg
PSHB Workshop 2019-01-19 Johannesburg

Johannesburg City Parks removes bug infested trees

Johannesburg City Parks has promised it won’t be removing trees prematurely amid the spread of an invasive beetle.
The small Asian insect, called the polyphagous shot hole borer, has been threatening the city’s urban forest for quite some time.
This week the city cut down about 40 highly-infested trees in Craighall Park in an attempt to fight the spread.

View the video here


Borer infestation killing thousands of Joburg trees at alarming rate

The lack of data on the infestation of trees in the City of Joburg is leading to thousands of trees succumbing to the polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB).

This has been described as a potential disaster with the collapse of the city’s ecosystem collapse of up to 70% of the city’s 10.2 million trees die. Joburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) said because the borer infestation was relatively newly discovered, there was very little data available.

View the article here

Anna Cox

City Parks commits to more engagement with community regarding shot-hole-borer

“EMMARENTIA – A heated public meeting hosted by JCPZ sought to inform and engage with community members regarding ways to deal with the shot-hole-borer infestation threatening Joburg’s green canopy.”

“Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) has committed to providing leadership and more engagement with community members regarding the containment of the shot-hole-borer beetle following a heated public meeting hosted at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens on 11 March.”

“City Parks hosted the meeting to educate various stakeholders about the beetle and how they were dealing with its containment.”

“General manager for ecosystems and open space management at City Parks, Senzo Nyembe described the beetle as a ‘tiny terror’ which has baffled scientists. The beetle called the polyphagous shot-hole-borer was identified by City Parks in 2018 as a pest which has infested and killed a number of street trees, threatening the Johannesburg urban forest.”

View the article here

Sarah Koning

Tree borer activists slam city’s ‘inaction’

“The City of Johannesburg has been accused of “misleading” the public about the extent of the polyphagous shothole borer (PSHB) infestation, which is killing off some of the city’s trees.”

“While Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo last week said it was too early to classify the borer beetle outbreak as a disaster, the Borer Action Group (BAG) countered that this was another attempt “to minimise this environmental threat to excuse its inaction”

View the article here

Sheree Bega
Saturday Star

Carte Blanche – Shot Hole Borer Beetle

Excellent Carte Blanche coverage on the Shot Hole Borer, and a very useful infographic on their website. #CarteBlanche #PSHB

Shot Hole Borer Beetle: What You Need to Know – Carte Blanche – Shot Hole Borer Beetle

READ the article on the Carte Blanche Website that has practical information on what to do.

Contrary to belief, the beetle isn’t the direct cause of harm to the tree. Instead, the beetle releases a fungus called Fusarium euwallaceae.

A tiny alien invader is threatening South Africa’s trees. Called the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer Beetle (or PSHB), this little critter is cause for huge concern. According to scientists, the PSHB has managed to wriggle its way into millions of trees across the world, and now it’s been spotted in local trees.

Carte Blanche – Evicting Alien Borer Beetles

WATCH the Carte Blanche video here

For South Africa, globalisation has come at a price – pests like the tiny polyphagous shot hole borer beetle are invading fruit trees, natural forests around the country, and one of the world’s largest urban forests – Johannesburg.

Carte Blanche

TheConversation.com – The spread of shothole borer beetles in South Africa is proving tough to control

“A tiny tree-killing beetle with the awkwardly long name of Polyphagous Shothole Borer was detected in South Africa for the first time last year. It’s now attacking and inserting its deadly fungal ally, Fusarium euwallaceae, in a wider array of tree species across a much wider geographical area.”

“The beetle was initially discovered in a Botanical Garden on the country’s east coast. It has since been detected along the southern Cape coast line as well as in several inland urban areas. The number of tree species attacked in South Africa has also risen alarmingly. It currently stands at more than 80, 35 of which are native.”

Wilhelm de Beer – Associate Professor, University of Pretoria
Trudy Paap – Postdoctoral Fellow Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria

Yale.edu – Beetle Mania: The Nasty Insect That Is Killing the Trees of Johannesburg

“South Africa’s largest city proudly notes that it has one of the world’s largest urban forests. But an invasive insect has been killing Johannesburg’s trees by the tens of thousands, and baffled experts are scrambling to find ways to stop it.”

Adam Welz

SABC News – Mobile App to report PSHB infestation

It’s a Friday and time for our weekly tech feature called Techbase. And tonight we’re speaking to the developer of the mobile app that allows people to report infestations of the tiny beetle that is killing South African trees. Earlier we spoke to an academic involved in efforts to deal with the Polyphagous shot hole borer. It bores holes into tree trunks and then spreads a fungus it carries which cuts off the system that transports water and nutrients. It is impossible to tell how many trees have already died or will. The app is called “Tree Survey”, and the developer is Hilton Fryer.

Francis Herd

ITWeb.co.za – New app helps tackle tree threats in SA

Sabahle Malinga

DailyMaverick.co.za – Tree apocalypse looms in the face of policy paralysis

Tree apocalypse looms in the face of policy paralysis

Hilton Fryer

LinkedIn.com – Can technology and data save South Africa’s trees?

“The polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB), a beetle that devastated green belts in California and avocado plantations in Israel, has been identified in South Africa. Containment is no longer possible, and institutions are now looking to control the infestation nationally. Policy and protocols need to be developed, however this takes time – spring has just arrived and the beetles are now flying.”

“Heuristic Guru, a data science consultancy, has partnered with Solution House, a software development company, to deploy the mobile app “Tree Survey” to report PSHB infestation to regional and national stakeholders. This incident management platform supports GIS reporting to enable PSHB infestation to be tracked within the country, which will allow municipalities to respond as the beetle reaches them.”

Hilton Fryer

SABC News – Beetle that kills SA trees: Prof. Wilhelm de Beer

A tiny beetle is killing trees in South Africa. And fear is rising that Johannesburg’s massive manmade forest could be decimated.
The little beetle has a long name – the polyphagous shot hole borer.
It bores holes into tree trunks and then spreads a fungus it carries which cuts off the system that transports water and nutrients.
And the trees die. It has already reportedly infested large parts of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs as well as the West Rand and Bedfordview. And the government in the Northern Cape is concerned about the destruction of pecan nut trees.

To discuss we’re joined by Associate Professor in Microbiology at the University of Pretoria, Wilhelm de Beer.

Francis Herd
SABC Digital News

Al Jazeera – Beetle infestation threatens Johannesburg’s forests

“Johannesburg is home to one of the world’s largest urban forests, but it’s come under threat from a tiny beetle.
About 200 species of trees – many of them indigenous to South Africa – are afflicted with the pest and the fungus it carries. As scientists desperately look for a solution, many of the city’s trees are dying and experts are concerned the infestation could move from the forest to croplands next.”

Fahmida Miller
Al Jazeera English

PSHB.co.za – Shot Hole Borer in South Africa

“Whiteboard video explaining the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) crisis in South Africa. Visit www.PSHB.co.za for info. Thanks to the Quick2draw.co.uk team for creating the video.”

Hilton Fryer

MoneyWeb.co.za – Tree-borer beetle found in Northern Cape pecans

“The beetle is a threat to a range of crops, including avocado, macadamias, peaches and oranges and grapevines.”

Alastair Reed and Felix Njini, Bloomberg


To view all South African PSHB articles view the news archive