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Legislation introduced to protect woodland from the larger eight-toothed spruce bark beetle discovered in Ashford

By Lynn Cox

New measures have been introduced to protect the country against the tree pest known as the larger eight-toothed spruce bark beetle which was discovered in the county last year.

The UK's first ever outbreak of the beetle, (Ips typographus), which ravages conifer trees, was found detected in woodland in Ashford in December.

The destructive foreign insects were identified at an unnamed location in Ashford and at the time the discovery of the species, as labelled a "great concern".

The spruce bark beetle has been found in Ashford (6549436)
The spruce bark beetle has been found in Ashford (6549436)

The discovery came following routine surveillance activity by Forestry Commission officials.

Further investigations of the site were also carried out after the initiation of a government contingency plan which aims to eradicate the insects which have never been seen before in the UK.

The beetle poses no risk to human health but is a serious and destructive pest.

Smaller spruce trees - less than 15 years old - including domestic Christmas trees, are too small to be susceptible to infestation and very unlikely to be affected by any outbreak.

How the lava of the beetle looks (6550552)
How the lava of the beetle looks (6550552)

And forestry Commission officials were attempting to minimise the spread of the bugs and at the time issued a warning to land owners, tree nurseries and woodland managers to remain vigilant.

Now, legislation is being laid in Parliament which will restrict the movement of all susceptible material, including trees and wood with bark, within 50km of the outbreak sites where the beetle was found.

This legislation is a necessary precaution to prevent the spread of the pest further afield and will remain in place until further notice, but will be kept under review.

The exact boundaries of the restricted area and details of the materials under restriction are available on the Forestry Commission website or by clicking here.

Industries are also urged to remain vigilant for signs of the pest and to report any suspicions to the commission.

Eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus)
Eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus)

Nicola Spence, the UK chief plant health officer, said: “The eight-toothed spruce bark beetle poses no threat to human health, but it can be a serious pest to the spruce tree species and the forestry industry.

“That is why we are taking robust action through this new legislation and its restriction of movement for spruce trees in a 50km area around the outbreak.

“I encourage anyone who suspects a sighting of the bark beetle to report these to the Forestry Commission online through Tree Alert.”

Further detail on how to report suspected cases is available here.

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