Camdeboo National Park winning the fight against alien invasive species

APRIL 25, 2016

The release of an addition to Camdeboo National Park’s insect family towards the end of 2015 is starting to show results.  

The project is being jointly run by Rhodes University in Grahamstown, the park and its Biodiversity Social Projects.  

The purpose is to aid in the fight against an alien invasive species which is threatening the biodiversity of the park.

Solanum elaeagnifolium, commonly known as satansbos or silverleaf nightshade, is a perennial plant with extensive root systems which can extend to three metres deep and two metres horizontally, with an aerial growth of about 60cm.  

This alien species commonly occurs on disturbed farmlands or along road verges.  Herbicides can be used but is only effective during the flowering cycle of the plant.

Rhodes University released 9 000 Leptinotarsa texana, or satansbos leaf beatle, in the game viewing area and around the Gannaleegte gate in December last year.  

This biocontrol agent is indigenous to North America, is dome shaped and is about eight millimetres in diametre. These little insects are pale yellow with black stripes along the front wings.

Signs of its success in the park are already visible – with plants along the banks of the Sundays River losing leaves and starting to die. 

The monitoring of the satansbos leaf beetles is of high importance as it will have a direct impact on the control of the satansbos, leading to adaptive management and further implementation – not only in national parks, but possibly to their neighbours too.

With new initiatives and strategies like these, BSP will continue to work towards saving and protecting our biodiversity, even if this comes in the shape of small, beetle-sized packages.