People have their say about destructive beetle

The size of the holes are about that of a ballpoint pen tip.
Sap oozing from the tree is an indication of infestation.
Look for telltale signs of sawdust around the base of the tree.

Bolander spoke to many people at Radloff Park on Sunday during the awareness and fund-raising walk, and collated comments from the local Stop Borer Beetle SW Group.

● I am very concerned about the lack of information “out there” for the neighbourhood. I see the municipality simply arriving and cutting down trees and the property owner not knowing what to do. Have articles been published? How else can information be disseminated in the community? (Ed’s note: visit Bolander online for our prior borer beetle articles.)

● Be aware of the following: nobody may access your property, unless you have been served. PSHB currently has no backing of Parliament or being declared a disaster.

● Should we get to the point PSHB is gazetted with its own set of regulations, you may in fact sit in a scenario that all infected trees, whether on or off your property, you have no rights to – and then if you refuse entry to the trees you could be fined or criminal charges.

● I allowed the CoCT into my property to remove a tree (not worth saving) that was riddled with bore beetle… Upon inspection, it was definitely the right thing to do… They destroyed the infected tree at once and left. They did make an appointment and inspected all the other trees which are all mild and can be saved.

● Council cutting is free of charge; should you refuse them entry they won’t come to your aid again, and you may be in for a nasty surprise of anything between R10K to R50k in the private sector.

● What I would recommend is first ensuring you treat all your other trees before they fell a tree, to discourage the mobile female borers, who will take flight at the first chainsaw into the tree, from setting up a new breeding colony in another of your trees.

● They were polite and efficient, and it took all of 20 minutes to do the job and they sealed the base. Frightening to see how badly the stump/trunk was riddled.

● Council is hiding behind the scientific data that cutting the trees down is the only proven method against PSHB. I’ll put them to the test and I will be demonstrating one of my own. I will prove to them cutting a tree down is not the solution, and I will be asking council to ask the science gurus to prove their claim that they correct.

While I spoke to many of the attendees, the common refrain seemed to be “how can we build up the vitality of our trees, to give them a fighting chance; who do we trust and what can we do?”.

So… how do you place a value on a tree?

Is the City consulting alternative voices and viewpoints, and in the absence of clinical data, are we rendered inert, and possibly apathetic?

If ever, this is a moving target, and while there is (a semblance) of a window of opportunity, it needs to be seized, with a clear-eyed perspective.

Last week, Bolander met with Stellenbosch University Emeritus Professor in biochemistry, Dirk Bellstedt, and Faye Crankshaw and Jimmy Deane, to discuss their strategy to reach members of the greater community through the newspaper, radio broadcasts and neighbourhood WhatsApp groups.

Professor Bellstedt says a new scientific article is to be published within days by Stellenbosch University, with treatment as an option to kill the borer and to treat the fungus included. “We are awaiting a press release as soon as the article appears,” he adds.

“At this stage this problem is so enormous and so out of hand that this needs co-ordination, and much as it may be testing our patience, we need to be careful to not create a situation of council versus residents, but rather work together.

“Trees that are very badly infested will need to be removed, no doubt, but the whole approach is not co-ordinated at all.

“It is here that residents will have to organise themselves into smaller neighbourhood groups so that each resident in a street can be contacted, and a co-ordinated treatment and tree removal project be started in smaller areas.”

He has a PDF document with current treatment options, contact details and treatment outlines (and where treatment is registered against the borer but only for agricultural use, which he says they are trying to remedy as soon as possible).

“I fear that with the amount of information that flies around, and after all the up and down discussions about Covid, there is a major tendency to be sceptical about this.

“This is understandable, but at the moment, if you want to think of saving your trees that are attacked by the beetle and the fungus, you are going to have to consider treatment options.”

Regarding a question as to whether it be effective to treat now with the cooler weather coming on, he responded as follows:

“Yes, stem sprays will still be effective and soil drenches will also be. If you can get in a treatment before your trees lose their leaves this will be better, but stem sprays will still penetrate with the surfactant added.”

He adds: “Council needs to acknowledge that there is this product, but it has apparently not got through to them. I am not sure when it was registered, and this cannot have been too long ago.”

He said: “What I would also like to emphasise, is that we are talking here about council and referring to them as the council and ‘They’.

“The council has to pay for the removal of trees, and that means we ratepayers are paying for the removal of the trees. This must not be forgotten, because this will cost a lot of money and holds the distinct possibility of pushing up our municipal rates.

“It costs between R10 000 and R50 000 to remove infected and dead trees. If council removes it, it is for council to pay, and means we are all paying. I am not saying don’t request council to remove your trees, but I would like to bring it to your attention that this payment is not going to come from government but from all of our pockets.

“If council does this the cost is huge in terms of salaried staff, masses of expense equipment such as chain saws, ladders, chippers, safety harnesses for staff and trucks to transport them as well as fuel, etc.”

He says that the cost of treatment is actually much cheaper by comparison, and council should be convinced to pursue this option, before trees are irreversibly damaged.

Ms Crankshaw urges residents to start their own WhatsApp groups for their street/area and to include their common land.

“Standing together and identifying which trees are beyond hope and need felling, and which to treat, and communicating that to each other and the council, will go a long way in effectively dealing with this problem we all face.

“Breaking it up in to bite size chunks, managed by concerned residents of that area is I believe the best approach.“

Contact bolander@inl.co.za for a copy of the PDF document.