Locals are devastated after it was announced 20 trees will be torn from Kings Park in Perth as a beetle infestation sweeps the city, threatening the native Australian plant.
The Polyphagus shot-hole borer beetle is native to Southeast Asia but was first found in Fremantle in August 2021.
The destructive bug, which blocks nutrient flow in trees and causes them to die, has since been found in more than 80 Perth suburbs, with quarantine measures in place to control its spread.
But 20 Moreton Bay and Port Jackson fig trees fell to the tiny beetle this week, with the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development announcing they will be removed from Mounts Bay Gardens in Kings Park.
Located at the base of the park off Mounts Bay Road, the spot is a popular location for wedding photography, with besotted couples frequently posing under the towering, century-old trees.
What do Polyphagus shot-hole borer beetles do to trees?
The tunnelling beetle, which is only about the size of a sesame seed, bores its way into the trunks, branches and stems of trees.
It cultivates a fungus which spreads through the plant, blocking the flow of water and nutrients and slowly killing its mammoth host.
Both Moreton Bay and Port Jackson fig trees are native to Australia and grow to be more than 100 metres tall over their long lives.
Sonya Broughton, acting biosecurity director at WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), says removing the infested trees is the only way to stop the beetle from spreading.
“I’ll stress that it is basically a last resort that we remove trees,” she told the ABC.
“[The shot-hold borer] can severely damage host trees once it takes hold with some species dying within two years of infestation.”
Still, locals were devastated by the news.
“I hope they’re going to replant to replace the canopy. Perth is so barren. We need so many more trees,” one person wrote on social media.
“They know what they are doing in Kings Park but loss of any tree is sad,” added another.
Bug quarantine in Perth
WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) says it has inspected more than one million trees on 59,000 properties as it fights to stamp out the pest.
Insect traps have been set up in Pemberton, Manjimup and Northam to catch and kill them.
Locals have been advised to report beetle sightings to authorities and not to move green waste outside of the Perth area.
The beetle has not yet been spotted outside of Perth.