In the week of 4 March, the TPCP had three different field trips to the KwaZulu-Natal, Midlands. The first trip was led by a PhD candidate Agil Katumanyane and she was joined by Prof. Brett Hurley and Firehiwot Eshetu. The aim of the trip was to collect different species of white grubs that will be used to investigate the patterns and mechanisms of susceptibility of these white grubs to entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs). White grubs are a serious soil pest, and this project is part of a broader objective to examine the potential of EPNs to manage white grubs in forestry and other systems. The white grubs were collected in sugarcane and wattle sites in the northern KZN Midlands and around Hilton College. Nearly 3,000 white grubs were collected during this trip.

The second trip was led by Dr Marc Bouwer, and joined by MSc student Luki-Marie Scheepers and Prof. Jeremy Allison from Natural Resources Canada. The aim of this trip was to test pheromone-baited traps for the pine emperor moth. Larvae of these moths are sporadic, but at times serious, pests of pine trees and obtaining an effective monitoring tool is an important step towards the management of this insect. Traps were placed near Bulwer where these moths were prevalent. The traps were custom-made to accommodate the large size of these moths and 18 traps were deployed with three different treatments. The pheromone-baited traps caught moths within one day, which is a very positive result towards further developing this tool. 

The third trip was led by Sandisiwe Jali, who leads the biological control field extension at FABI. Sandisiwe was joined by Dr Trudy Paap (newly appointed in the TPCP to manage field extension services), and students Claudette Dewing and Barkat Ali. The purpose of this trip was to collect samples to assess the establishment of biological control agents of introduced eucalypt insect pests. This forms part of the Leptocybe national monitoring supported by Forestry South Africa (FSA). Visited areas include Bulwer, Greytown and Richmond. Leptocybe invasa infested plant material samples were collected as well as Gonipterus egg capsules from different sites. Parasitism levels of these pests will be evaluated and this information communicated to forestry partners to inform management decisions. 

Thank you very much to the various forestry staff, as well as Tom Webster and his team from the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI), for your assistance in the field and with the preparation of these trips.