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Wood boring pests at large in the UK

Recently the Royal Academy of Art accidentally imported an Asian longhorned beetle into the UK in a sculpture called the Tree. Tell tale signs of the beetle emerging from the artwork (beetle exit holes) were noticed by Prof Nicola Spence. This was a serious concern since Asian longhorn beetles can kill broad-leaved trees such as oak by burrowing into their heartwood. Defra has been battling for years to prevent the insects becoming established in Britain. The artwork had come from the mountains of southern China. The exhibit was closed and then fumigated once the Forestry Commission had surveyed and inspected it thoroughly to ensure that there were no signs of active infestation. The exhibit was destined to travel to other European cities, so it averted further risk of infection elsewhere.

Many imported items including furniture, sculpture and picture frames can sometimes be infested with pests. Sometimes a strange looking pest will be spotted in someones conservatory after emerging from a chair or some other item. Identification of non-indigenous species is key. In one incident a family heard a scratching noise coming from their headboard, thinking it was the neighbours at first. Only to find it was an Asian longhorned beetle boring its way out through their headboard.

Perhaps we should adopt an approach like Australia, having an import ban on all organic material. This would ensure that our native species stay safe. On our doorstep in the UK there are about 1000 pests and diseases close by in other countries which we do not want here. It is up to all of us, when visiting abroad, do not be tempted to bring flowers, seeds, plants or foods back into the UK. They may unbeknown to us have stowaway pests or diseases on board which could threaten our native species.

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