Pupils help collect and breed insects to clean Nahoon

EDIT: An earlier version of this article misidentified Kim Weaver as the head of the CBC when she is in fact head of CBC community engagement. We apologise for the error.

Merrifield College’s Enviroclub has partnered with the Centre for Biological Control (CBC) based at Rhodes University to help combat the spread of water hyacinth in the Nahoon River.

HARVEST TIME: Merrifield College pupils collect water hyacinth from Nahoon River which they will use to feed their planthoppers over the exam period
Picture: SUPPLIED

Hyacinth, originally imported from Brazil, has spread quickly due to increasing levels of pollution in East London’s river system.

Enviroclub teacher-in-charge Pauline Wetmore first came across the CBC while researching the effects of water hyacinth on local ecosystems. She saw that the centre was bringing schools from around the country on board to help with their hyacinth control programme.

This programme involves breeding certain species of insect that feed solely on water hyacinth.

Wetmore got in contact with CBC head of community engagement Kim Weaver and soon representatives from the CBC arrived at Merrifield to educate the students on their work and how they could help.

Last month, Merrifield collected their first batch of 800 Megamelus scutellaris, also known as the water hyacinth planthopper. Besides feasting exclusively on hyacinth, as their name suggests, the planthopper is also notable for it’s incredible jumping ability.

Despite being only the size of an ant, they are able to leap as high as a kangaroo, roughly two metres.

The insects are being fed on hyacinth collected from Nahoon River by the pupils. They will be given a month over the exam period to breed at which point the insects will be released into the river.

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