Sunshine, beetles and fungi 2022-08-04
Over the weekend of 15-17 July, Prof. Irene Barnes, Dr Wilma Nel (postdoctoral fellow), Kira Lynn (PhD candidate), and Claire Randolph (MSc student) went on a field trip to visit two sites in KZN to collect material for various FABI research projects. The first stop was in Durban to collect wood infested with Euwallacea sp. ambrosia beetles. Claire’s project is investigating the Fusarium symbionts of the polyphagous shot hole borer (Euwallacea fornicatus/PSHB). With the recent discovery of a new haplotype of PSHB in South Africa, Claire is screening emerging beetles to determine if they vector the same or a different Fusarium as the original PSHB haplotype. In addition to PSHB, this material is also being infested by another beetle species, Euwallacea xanthopus. Wilma is investigating these beetles to identify their associated fungi and to determine if they are host to potential parasitoid species that can investigated for the biological control of PSHB. The second leg of the trip was to Mtubatuba area, where Ceratocystis infested Eucalyptus material was collected for the PhD project of Kira Lynn, who is developing a qPCR detection method for these fungi. During this stop, castor oil plants (Ricinus cumminus) heavily infested with PSHB were collected to be screened for potential biological control fungi and to investigate if the second haplotype of PSHB has spread father inland. The ladies finished off their trip with a dip of their feet in the Indian ocean close to their accommodation in St. Lucia to celebrate the conclusion of a successful collection trip.