Vigilance needed to stop the spread of pests and diseases

Neville Evans, of Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, with some rare and endangered trees. Picture: Bicto

Neville Evans, of Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, with some rare and endangered trees. Picture: Bicton Park Botanical Gardens - Credit: Bicton Park Botanical Gardens

Guest columnist Neville Evans, curator of Bicton Botanical Gardens, explains why plant quarantining is essential to prevent the spread of bugs and diseases which threaten our native species.

If you haven't heard about the coronavirus yet then you might be living in a cave, which may quite possibly be the best way of avoiding the slightly concerning spread of the virus.

Quarantine and regular checks for those crossing borders is now widespread in an attempt to curb the spread and potential human deaths.

This is the daily life for plants.

With massive risks linked to the transportation of living plant material to our shores from around the world, the chances of some bug or disease taking hold is a clear and present danger.

A prime example is the case of the Asian longhorn beetle.

While becoming an increasing problem in parts of Europe, this beetle poses a serious threat to a wide range of broadleaved trees outside of its homeland of China.

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While it is currently not known to be in this country, there was an outbreak found of a breeding population in Kent in 2012 which was rapidly exterminated.

Other threats such as emerald ash borer and Xylella are real concerns for our botanical landscape and for those who rely on them.

Pests like oak processionary moth take hold in our country and surge to the clement south (how can you control a moth that can fly miles at a time).

This pest is of more concern to humans as it sheds irritant hairs that cause an uncomfortable rash to those who come into contact with them.

The UK's warmer winters mean that the climate is becoming more suited to more exotic wildlife, not all of it welcome.

We have a responsibility to be educated and vigilant of invasion, not in an Orwellian sense, whether this be a threat to human life or that of the plants and ecosystems that support us.