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WATCH | Tree-killing beetles spread to Cape Town’s lush southern suburbs


  • For years, the destructive polyphagous shot hole borer beetle in Cape Town was contained to Somerset West.
  • But the sesame seed-sized beetle was recently detected in Cape Town’s green southern suburbs.
  • And unlike the containment programme in Somerset West, the City of Cape Town won’t be cutting trees on private property.

The polyphagous shot hole borer beetle (PSHB), responsible for the destruction of thousands of trees in Somerset West, was recently detected in Cape Town’s lush southern suburbs and is spreading fast.

The sesame seed-sized beetle has the City of Cape Town rattled. Since 2019, the City has been trying to contain its spread to Somerset West.

On 24 January, nearly four years after it was first found in Somerset West, the beetle was detected on private property in Kildare Road, Newlands.

Following the detection in Newlands, the City has urged residents to be on the lookout for telltale signs of PSHB infestation while its Invasive Species Unit inspects trees in the area.

“Since we first detected it (PSHB) in Newlands, I think we’ve found around 30 trees that have been affected, most of which are along the Liesbeek River,” Phumudzo Ramabulana, project manager of the City’s Invasive Species Unit, told News24 on Tuesday.

READ | Concern as tree-killing beetle spotted in southern suburbs

He is leading the early detection and rapid response programme.

Most of these infestations have affected boxelder and London plane trees in Newlands, Rondebosch, Rosebank and Mowbray.

Andre de Villiers, a PSHB specialist in the Invasive Species Unit, told News24:

We have increased capacity of people on the ground, walking around [and] looking for cases on public land, and as soon as any incident is reported, our team will go out and just confirm if it is PSHB or not, so we can get an idea of the spread of the beetle at the moment.

And while the initial success of the Somerset West containment was underpinned by the City’s programme of tree removals on private property, slowing the infestation in Cape Town’s southern suburbs wouldn’t be as effective due to “feasibility” issues.

“So, we were quickly cutting down and getting rid of all the material, chipping and taking it to incineration. In that way, we kept it in Somerset West. Unfortunately, we will not be cutting trees on private properties; we will only be focusing on the trees that are situated on public land,” De Villiers said.

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