River lettuce weevil warriors boosted

Amanzimtoti Conservancy chairman, Angus Pyke.

Amanzimtoti Conservancy released another 2,000 weevils into the Little Amanzimtoti River on Friday, 20 April.

This follows the release of 4,000 of the little pistia stratiotes (water lettuce) destroyers into the river two months ago.

Pistia is a perennial plant which forms a dense mat. The weed was introduced from South America as an ornamental pond plant but soon invaded rivers and dams in the country’s subtropical areas. It is classed as a category one weed and it is crucial to clear our rivers and dams from it and its cousin, water hyacinth.

Some of the weevils feeding on the water lettuce leaves.

The South American weevils (Neohydronomus affinis), obtained from the bio-control department of the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASI), were released upstream about 200m past the N2 bridge in February.

READ ALSO: Weevils deployed to battle Little Toti River water lettuce

“It’s been a slow process but we are starting to see the results now from the weevils released in February,” said Amanzimtoti Conservancy chairman, Angus Pyke before beginning his paddle upstream on Friday. “We can see the results at the mouth, which is nice and open now.”

Results can be seen at the mouth, which is open now.

The weevils are let loose on a patch of lettuce where they eat the leaves to stay alive. The plant becomes waterlogged, dies and eventually sinks. The weevils then move onto less-infested plants and newly germinating seedlings. The plant, now free from the mat, will eventually get washed out to sea during the next flash flood.

READ ALSO: Amanzimtoti Conservancy calls for more eco warriors

Over the years lots of work has been done to clear the Little Toti River from the pesky lettuce. About two years ago Shaun Callaghan and his team of Army Saints did back-breaking labour to rake out the lettuce. Last year ex-Toti Conservancy member, Corrine Winson also did her fair bit to rake off the lettuce close to the mouth.

 

Weevils have previously been released in the river, only to be swept out to sea during a flash flood. It is hoped this lot of little helpers will have a chance to make a difference before that happens again. “Water lettuce can double in size every two weeks, so these little guys have got an important job to do, said Angus. “We just need to keep the river clear and so far that have made a huge difference.”

 

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  AUTHOR
Earl Baillache
Journalist

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