Research Features

The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) and its fungus in South Africa

FABI information pamphlets on the PSHB

PSHB - Information sheet     PSHB - Life stages of the beetle     PSHB - How to sample

PSHB - Symptoms     PSHB - External symptom types     PSHB - How to photograph for diagnosis

PSHB in the news

Californian information pamphlets  -  Californian host tree list


As participant in the International Plant Sentinel Network (IPSN), Dr Trudy Paap is tasked to do routine surveys for tree pests and diseases in and around the National Botanical Gardens of South Africa in collaboration with SANBI. It was during such a survey that she noticed small lesions resembling shotgun marks on the stems and branches of mature London plane (Platanus x acerifolia) trees planted along the street outside the KZN Botanical Gardens. Upon closer inspection, she found that the lesions developed around entrance holes of small beetles. When she removed the bark, the sapwood was discoloured by a fungus. She brought samples back to FABI, and with the assistance of FABI team members, the beetle and fungus were identified based on DNA sequences as Euwallacea whitfordiodendrus# (Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer or PSHB) and Fusarium euwallaceae, respectively. The results were published in the Australasian Journal of Plant Pathology (Paap et al. 2018).

The discovery of this beetle and fungus in South Africa is of major concern to foresters, farmers and landscapers, as these organisms are known as aggressive tree killers. The PSHB is a 2 mm long ambrosia beetle that is native to Southeast Asia. The beetle carries several fungal species, one of which is Fusarium euwallaceae, with it when it infests new trees. It bores through the bark into the sapwood of the trees and inoculate the fungus into living wood. The fungus grows in the galleries (tunnels) of the beetle and serve as 'vegetable garden' for the beetle larvae, but in susceptible trees the fungus can spread through the sapwood causing disease or even death of the tree. In its native environment in Southeast Asia, it seems as if the beetle and fungus do not cause serious damage because tree species have evolved with the beetle-fungus complex and have resistance towards them. However, the beetle and fungus were somehow introduced into Israel and California during the past 15 years where they cause serious damage on especially Avocado trees. In South Africa, it has only been found on some backyard avocado's in Sandton, and not in commercial orchards yet (Van den Berg et al. 2019).

In California, surveys in botanical gardens revealed that more than 200 tree species can be infested, damaged and often killed, by these organisms (Eskalen et al. 2013). The list of susceptible trees in California included several species native to southern Africa, including Cussonia spicata (cabbage tree), Calpurnia aurea (common calpurnia), Diospyros lycioides (monkey plum), Erythrina humeana (dwarf coral tree), Erythrina lysistemon (common coral tree), Schotia brachypetala (huilboerboon), Melianthus major (honey flower, kruidjie-roer-my-nie), Cunonia capensis (red alder), Nuxia floribunda (forest elder) and Bauhinia galpinii (red orchid bush). Most of these species showed some level of susceptibility to Fusarium dieback, except the last three species that were infested by the beetle but did not develop disease. According to Eskalen et al. (2013), several commercial crop trees that are also planted in South Africa, such as Persea americana (avocado), Macadamia integrifolia (macadamia nut), Carya illinoinensis (pecan), Prunus persica (peach), Citrus sinensis (orange) and Vitis vinifera (grapevine), are susceptible to PSHB infestation and Fusarium dieback. In addition, many exotic tree species planted as ornamentals in South Africa, are also susceptible. These include species of maple, holly, wisteria, oak and Camellia.

Profs Wilhelm de Beer, Noelani van den Berg, and Dr Gerda Fourie will continue to monitor the spread and host range of the beetle in South Africa in collaboration with academics from several other universities. They will also assess the risks posed to crop trees (e.g. avocado), commercial forests (e.g. eucalypts, wattle) and ornamental trees (plane, maple, etc.) in South Africa and investigate possible control measures. A current list of hosts identified from these surveys are given below.

# The taxonomy of the Euwallacea fornicatus species complex was recently revised (Gomez et al. 2018). The correct species names that should thus be used are:

1. Euwallacea fornicatus (Eichhoff 1868) = TSHB-a ‘Tea Shot Hole Borer Clade a’

2. Euwallacea fornicatior (Eggers 1923) = TSHB-b 'Tea Shot Hole Borer Clade b’

3. Euwallacea whitfordiodendrus (Schedl 1942) = PSHB ‘Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer’ [the species in South Africa, California and Israel] (previously referred to as Euwallacea nr. fornicatus)

4. Euwallacea kuroshio Gomez and Hulcr = KSHB ‘Kuroshio Shot Hole Borer’

Current host trees on which infestations in South Africa have been confirmed


Exotic species



Native SA species

Latin name

Common name



Latin name

Common name

Acacia melanoxylon




Combretum krausii

Forest bushwillow

Acacia mearnsii

Black wattle



Erythrina caffra

Coast coral tree

Acer buergerianum

Trident (Chinese) maple



Podalyria calyptrata

Water blossom pea

Acer negundo




Psoralea pinata

Fountain bush

Acer palmatum

Japanese maple



Salix mucronata

Cape willow

Brachychiton discolor

Pink flame tree





Gleditsia triacanthos

Honey locust





Liquidambar styraciflua

American sweetgum





Magnolia grandiflora

Southern magnolia





Pearsea americana






Platanus x acerifolia

London Plane





Quercus palustris

Pin oak





Quercus robur

English Oak





Ricinus communis

Castor bean





Salix alba

White willow






Exotic species



Native SA species

Latin name

Common name



Latin name

Common name

Bauhinia purpurea

Butterfly orchid tree



Bauhinia galpinii

Pride of De Kaap

Betula pendula

Silver birch



Buddleja saligna

False olive

Camellia japonica

Common camellia



Calodendrum capense

Cape chestnut

Carya illinoinensis

Pecan nut



Calpurnia aurea


Ceiba pentandra




Combretum erythrophyllum

River bushwillow

Cinnamomum camphora




Cordia caffra

Septee tree

Citrus limon




Cussonia spicata

Cabbage tree/ Kiepersol

Citrus sinensis




Diospyros dichrophylla

Star apple

Eriobotrya japonicum




Diospyros lycidioides

Monkey plum

Erythrina livingstoniana

Aloe coral tree



Ekebergia capensis

Cape ash

Eucalyptus camaldulensis

River red gum



Erythrina lysistemon

Common coral tree

Ficus carica

Common fig



Ficus natalensis

Natal fig

Fraxinus excelsior

European ash



Grewia occidentalis

Cross berry

Jacaranda mimosifolia




Gymnosporia buxifolia

Spike thorn

Melia azedarach




Halleria lucida

Tree fuschia

Morus sp.




Harpephyllum caffrum

Wild plum

Platanus occidentalis

American plane



Melianthus major

Honey flower/ Kruidjie-roer-my-nie

Platanus racemosa

Californian plane



Nuxia floribunda

Forest elder

Plumeria rubra




Olea europea subsp. africana

Wild olive

Populus nigra

Lombardy poplar



Podocarpus falcatus

Outeniqua yellowwood

Prunus nigra

Black plum



Podocarpus henkelii

Henkel’s yellowwood

Prunus persica




Protea mundii

Forest sugar bush

Psidium guajava




Rapanea melanophloeos

Cape beech

Schinus molle

Pepper tree



Schotia brachypetala

Weeping boerbean/ Huilboerboon

Taxodium distichum

Swamp cypress



Prunus africana

Red stinkwood

Ulmus minor = procera

English elm



Senegalia (Acacia) galpinii


Ulmus parvifolia

Chinese elm



Vachellia (Acacia) karroo

Sweet thorn

Viburnum sinensis




Vachellia (Acacia) sieberiana var. woodii

Paper bark thorn

Vitis vinifera




Virgilia divaricata



1 Host trees in which both the beetles and the fungus establish, and where the beetle successfully reproduce. In most cases the reproductive hosts will eventually be killed by the fungus.

2 Host trees that are attacked by the beetle and where the fungus establishes, but where the beetle does not successfully breed. The fungus might, or might not cause disease and kill the trees.

De Beer ZW. (2018) A tiny beetle and its deadly fungus is threatening South Africa’s trees. The Conversation (27 February) PDF

De Beer ZW, Paap T. (2018) The spread of shothole borer beetles in South Africa is proving tough to control. The Conversation

Gomez DF, Skelton J, Steininger MS, Stouthamer R, Rugman-Jones P, Sittichaya W, Rabaglia RJ, Hulcr J. (2018) Species delineation within the Euwallacea fornicatus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) complex revealed by morphometric and phylogenetic analyses. Insect Systematics and Diversity 2(6):1-11. 10.1093/isd/ixy018 PDF

Paap T, de Beer ZW, Migliorini D, Nel W, Wingfield MJ. (2018) The polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) and its fungal symbiont Fusarium euwallaceae: a new invasion in South Africa. Australasian Plant Pathology 47(2):231-237. 10.1007/s13313-018-0545-0 PDF

Van den Berg N, Du Toit M, Morgan SW, Fourie G, De Beer ZW. (2019) First Report of Fusarium euwallaceae on Persea americana in South Africa. Plant Disease 10.1094/PDIS-10-18-1818-PDN