GEORGE NEWS - The manager of Garden Route Botanical Garden, Finn Rautenbach, invites concerned gardeners to identification sessions to learn how to recognise the beetle infestation that is threatening the health of trees in the area.
He will take people around the botanical garden, pointing out manifestations on the infested Keurboom trees.
The beetle that has conservationists worried is suspected to be the Polyphagous Shothole Borer Beetle (PSBB), which has sown destruction in Gauteng.
"Over the last few months, a group of George citizens started noticing strange pock marks appearing on a number of trees in surrounding neighbourhoods," said Rautenbach this week.
"The PSBB is a tiny borer beetle, roughly half the size of a match head, which lives in a symbiotic relationship with a fungus. Unlike other borer beetles, this beetle bores into the living tissue of wood, resulting in the tree dying. Though the borer is what enters the wood, it is in fact the fungus that kills the tree."
Professor Wilhelm de Beer from the Forestry and Agriculture Biotechnology Institute (Fabi) visited George on 12 April to investigate whether the signs really represent beetle infestation.
Rautenbach said a borer was confirmed on a number of species of trees and an information session was held with a selection of environmental institutions.
Physical inspection cannot confirm without doubt whether the infestation really is the PSBB. To obtain 100% certainty, De Beer took DNA samples for testing.
George Municipality communications officer Athane Scholtz said yesterday that the DNA sequencing results have to their knowledge not been finalised.
"We are in communication with him in this regard. He did at the time of his visit say the examples of what he has seen were most likely the Polyphagous Shothole Borer (PSHB) - however, it was important to know exactly which one, since there are several similar species and false reports may complicate control.
"The George Municipality will release information regarding a dumping site as soon as the fire department has approved its location."
Leave trees intact
De Beer encouraged citizens of George to leave infected trees uncut until a safe burning site is located.
One-hour meetings are scheduled for 9, 10 and 11 May. To book a walk-and-talk tour with Rautenbach, contact the Garden Route Botanical Garden on 044 874 1558 / email@example.com.
'We bring you the latest George, Garden Route news'