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There is truth in the saying that “prevention is better than cure”. Preventative home maintenance can save you thousands of Rands.Read More
A while back I half-watched a kiddies science show on how to build a home-made mosquito trap. What I remembered from it was that mosquitoes are attracted to the CO2 we breathe out and emit through our pores, and the ‘trap’ creates CO2 attracting mozzies to IT instead of YOU.Read More
Since being discovered in KwaZulu-Natal in 2017, the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer Beetle (PSHB) has now spread to eight out of nine provinces. South Africa is known for its natural beauty, with Johannesburg and Durban placing 8th and 7th in the most tree covered cities in the world. With the ability to kill hundreds of tree species, the PSHB infestation is a serious national and international environmental issue.
Here are a few things you should know about PSHB to better protect our trees.
PSHB is a 2mm long, weevil related, ambrosia beetle that carries a number of fungi, in particular the tree-killing fungi called Fusarium euwallacea. Originating in Southeast Asia, it is suspected that the beetles were brought to South Africa through infected trade goods.
There are four species in the Shot Hole Borer species. Introduction of another Shot Hole Borer species could lead to greater damage as the species could interbreed and adapt to the new environment. The different species are only identifiable through specialised study of DNA.
As the name suggests, PSHB bores into the bark of trees. As it bores, the fungus it carries infects the bark and starts to grow in the bored tunnels. The fungus feeds any potential beetle larvae at the same time causing disease and possible death in susceptible trees.
As our trees have not grown with the beetle and fungus, they have not built effective resistance, making them more susceptible to irreversible damage.
Depending on the infestation, trees are identified as either being a reproductive or non-reproductive host. Reproductive hosts face the highest threat as the beetle will complete its life cycle of infesting, egg laying and larvae development in these trees. Due to fungal growth, these trees are most likely to die from the fungal disease.
Non-reproductive hosts are trees that have been attacked but the beetle has left or died before laying eggs. These trees are still infected with the fungus but will not spread it to other trees.
In the early 2000’s California and Israel both experienced a Shot Hole Borer Beetle infestation.
In California, two out of the four species now co-occur, species interbreeding leads to a greater threat has the mixed species is more adaptable to the environment and able to infest more tree species. The infestation has affected over 200 tree species in California according to current surveys. This has resulted in the damage and death of hundred of trees.
As experienced in other cases, avocado trees are particularly susceptible to PHSB. Agriculture will be hardest hit by the beetle, which has already been found in avo, lemon, guava and peach trees as well as grapevines in gardens in Sandton and Knysna.
Commercial farming has also been affected with pecan tree orchards in the Northern Cape and Limpopo being infested.
The exact impact is still unknown as there is uncertainty as to what extent our trees will be affected. The risk the infestation poses could be detrimental to our urban and native forests, where it is easily spread.
Reports of infestation have also come from George, Sedgefield, Bloemfontein, Ekurhuleni, Jankempdorp, Hartbeesfontein, Pietermaritzburg, Somerset West and Durban.
Currently the most commonly killed trees include English oak, Chinese maple, Japanese maple, boxelder and sweetgum.
The symptoms of attack vary depending in the tree species but include branch dieback, when your tree starts loosing leaves and dying from the edge of its branches inwards. A second symptom is the development of shotgun-like scars, lesions and oozing resin, particularly around PSHB entrance holes. Lastly, the inoculated fungus produces streaking and staining in the tree’s bark.
See the symptoms here.
Trees infested with PSHB are currently untreatable. The only way to stop further spread is to cut down reproductive host trees and dispose of them properly so the PSHB can not infest other trees.
Recommended disposal includes:
*Information from the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI).Read More
Ants are often used as an example to demonstrate the advantages of teamwork, but to most of us these little insects are nothing more than an irritation in the home. It seems like once they have invaded your home, they are almost impossible to get rid of.
There are mainly three types of ant species found in cities:
Garden Ants are attracted to sweet foods and leave a pheromone trail back to their nests for others to follow.
Pharaoh’s Ants feed on decomposing food and carry harmful germs picked up from their feedings.
Fire ants are found in sunny spaces and sting animals and humans.
All of these ant species can be killed via pesticides and other poisonous products, but these are not only harmful to the environment but can also be poisonous to animals and children. Therefore, it is better to consider options that are more Eco-friendly and poison-free when you decide to start your battle against these busy insects.
Here are a few homemade solutions to keep the ants at bay.
It may be easier said than done but do your best make your home unappealing to ants. Cover food, immediately clean up crumbs and spills, close your bun lid, do a daily counter wipe and seal all ant size access points.
Find ant nests and sprinkle baby powder over the nest and ‘scouts’ that are looking for food. Baby powder does not necessarily kill ants, but they dislike it so much that they will leave. Best of all, it isn’t toxic for kids and animals.
Pour some plain white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray it on counters and on the ground around your house. The smell will evaporate as it dries.
Fill a spray bottle with water and add 10 to 15 drops of mint peppermint oil. Spray it in front of door openings and cracks to prevent ants from entering your home.
Mix a cup of water with a cup of apple cider vinegar and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the targeted surfaces several times a day with this mixture. Ants guide themselves with their scent and will naturally avoid these areas.
Make a red chilli paste by adding a little bit of water to the powder. Find the area where the ants are coming from and put paste in and over the ant holes.
Please note that none of these remedies will actually kill ants, they will only repel and keep them away for a while.Read More