GEORGE NEWS - Posters warning against falling tree branches are decorating trees all over town. Municipal Manager Trevor Botha said this precaution was taken to warn residents of the danger posed by trees dying due to borer beetle infestation. The posters are part of an ongoing campaign to make people aware of the effects of borer beetle and warn of any potential dangers. "These warnings, however, do not relate to any specific incident," he said.
The posters have been placed in York, Meade and Courtenay streets where most infected trees on sidewalks have been identified. Botha says they want people to steer clear of trees that appear to be dying, as hundreds of trees in the municipal area are starting to succumb to, mainly, borer beetle infestation.
Botha asks people to first take a good look at a tree before they walk, park, stand or picnic under it and avoid trees that show signs of dying, such as broken branches.
The municipality was dismayed to learn that this beetle and its associated fungus had not only decimated entire species in other parts of the world, but there is also little-proven success in controlling it. They called upon expert advice from professor Wilhelm de Beer of the University of Pretoria. His initial observations and the many trees that have started dying off, certainly point in that direction. The municipality has been awaiting results of DNA sequence testing - to confirm if the local infestation is in fact the same beetle and fungus that have killed thousands of trees elsewhere - since April.
De Beer said the beetle, native to Southeast Asia, is suspected to have come into the country via packaging in harbours. It is a 2mm long ambrosia type beetle (which means it feeds on ambrosia produced by fungus) and is also known as Euwallacea fornicatus (Afrikaans: Stompkopkewer).
Meade Street in the CBD has been identified as the greatest immediate threat, where the fungus had accelerated the dying off of several mature trees.
In George, trees most likely to be infected are box elder, maple and oak trees, which line many of the city's streets. Overseas surveys have also indicated susceptibility of important crop trees such as avocado, macadamia, pecan, peach, orange and grapevine.
"These are not the only species that can be affected and we suggest people take heed as a general rule. Please note, indigenous species can also be infected."
It is recommended that all infected stumps, branches and plant material must be taken to the municipal garden waste site on the Airport Road (R102) to be burned. Infected cut materials should preferably be moved off the premises to the waste site within 24 hours of being cut.
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