As most residents on Simbithi are now aware, a nasty, alien, invasive, live-wood borer beetle has invaded Simbithi and, for that matter most of South Africa. The Polyphagous Shot-hole borer, PSHB, is a cause of huge concern as it introduces a fungus into the sapwood of trees that causes a disease, Fusarium Dieback. This disease causes branch dieback and ultimately the demise of the tree. It is assumed the borer came to South Africa in wooden shipping pallets as it can survive very happily in dead wood for up to four months before flying out to establish new colonies.
In South Africa there are numerous incidences of how this borer has spread to new areas through the transportation of firewood. One example is that when the PSHB killed mature oak trees in Knysna, the municipality felled the trees cutting them into logs. Unaware that PSHB was responsible for the death of the trees, the municipality invited residents to “help themselves” to the logs and firewood. As a result, the wood was transported into nearby areas and the emerging beetles, fertilised females, infested many surrounding trees in gardens and forest patches even spreading the infestation into the magnificent yellowwoods of the garden route. Another documented example is how firewood from dead and dying trees in Sandton, Johannesburg was transported into Soweto where it has infested many trees that were planted as part of the expensive and extensive Soweto Greenification Programme initiated in 2010.
Kruger National Park has now banned firewood as PSHB has been found in trees in the park and we, to help manage the infestation on Simbithi have done likewise. Help limit the spread of PSHB by only using briquettes and charcoal, and don’t buy or collect firewood. After all, the beetles are tiny and a single beetle can initiate a new infestation.