An ecosystem is a delicate balance of species which have lived together for millions of years. This balance can be disrupted by the accidental introduction of a non-native species, an organism which is not originally from there. With increasing human movement there is an increasing amount of introduction of non-native species, and certainly from a UK perspective our changing climate is resulting in those species introduced from warmer origins are increasingly likely to be able to survive in our environment.
Being an island physically separated from continental Europe, the seas around us offer some protection against the introduction of non-native pest insects. Whilst the English Channel offers a barrier against insect movement into the under their own steam, the risk of accidental introduction of non-native exotic species through trade and international travel remains high.
Exotic non-native insect species are a risk because of the threat they pose to agricultural crops and our food production, potential to disrupt delicately balanced natural ecosystems or the risk they pose to humans and animals. The UK authorities regularly monitor for non-native insect species which could have a potential economic impact should they be introduced, spread and become established. Trapping is used as a reliable method for detecting the presence of an insect species and is a common starting point for various non-native monitoring programs.
Whilst historically non-native species have been introduced intentionally and later become pests such as grey squirrels and Rhododendron, increasing international trade has accelerated the introduction of non-native alien species. In addition, our increasingly mild winters are resutling in non-native species from warmer climates being able to survive our UK winter. Andermatt have developed a number of monitoring systems which can be used to trap and help identify the presence of various non-native pest insects. Across a range of industries for horticulture, forestry, beekeeping and amenity management we are working with stake holders to understand the risk posed from the arrival and spread of non-native alien pest insect species.
What is a non-native species?
A non-native species, which can also be known as an alien or invasive species, is an organism which is introduced into an area outside of it normal range as a result of human activities.
Why is the introduction of a non-native species a problem?
Organisms will often move around naturally. They will spread to new areas to find food and resources or to get away from something they do not like. This natural movement however occurs at a very slow rate, over relatively small distances and long periods of time. A new species being introduced to an area a long distance from its native environment can cause problems to the ecological balance and biodiversity in that new area as the native fauna and flora do not have time to adapt to their new neighbour as they would have had with a very slow natural introduction. This can sometimes result in an imbalance in the environment where the non-native has been introduced and native species suffer.
Are non-native species a threat to the UK?
Whilst being an island provides a physical barrier to some invasion of non-native species, international trade is the greatest risk of accidental introduction of a species to the UK. The 2023 UK Government report Invasive Non-Native Species Strategy states that as of 2021 Britain had approximately 2,000 non-native species established within it, with 10-12 new invasive species becoming established every year. Of these invasive species establishing in the UK, 10-15% cause significant adverse effects costing the economy £1.84 billion per year.
Case Study: Asian hornets (Vespa velutina)
Originally from East Asia, Asian hornets (Vespa velutina) were accidentally introduced into Europe through France in 2004. The Asian hornet is now widely distributed across France and is rapidly spreading across Europe. Asian hornet was first recorded in the UK in 2016 and there is an annual activity co-ordinated by the National Bee Unit (NBU), part of APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency), to eradicate it in order to prevent the Asian hornet becoming established in the UK.
The Asian hornet poses a risk to British wildlife as a predator of beneficial and pollinating insects. It also poses a significant risk to honeybee (Apis mellifera) colonies being kept as either a hobby or farmed for honey and wax production. Asian hornets will hover outside the entrance to a beehive (hawking) and catch bees returning to their hive and can decimate a honeybee colony.
The National Bee Unit (NBU) have a comprehensive Asian hornet monitoring program. The aim of this program is to find and destroy any Asian hornet nests to prevent this non-native insect pest becoming established in the UK. This program includes the live trapping to catch, but not kill, Asian hornets. The trapped hornets have a DNA sample collected, analysis of which allows a trapped individual to be linked to both other trapped individuals as well as discovered and destroyed nests. The trapped Asian hornets are then released and tracked back to their nest which once located is DNA sampled and then destroyed. This use of DNA mapping allows the NBU to more clearly understand how many nests remain in an area to be found as well as generating an extensive database on both Asian hornet behaviour and dispersal patterns of invasive insects which will be able to be used in the ongoing battle against Asian hornet, but also other invasive pest insects which will come to our shores in future years.
Live trapping non-native species is not the normal approach to monitoring and controlling invasive species. This project therefore required a different approach to other non-native insect monitoring products Andermatt have developed. Andermatt have been involved with both the NBU and local beekeepers to develop an Asian hornet live trap. This project resulted in the development of several deigns of Asian hornet trap and their commercial launch in autumn of 2023.
Oak Processionary Moth (Thaumetopoea processionea)
Oak Processionary Moth (OPM, Thaumetopoea processionea) was introduced into the UK in 2005. It has since become established in the West of London and is spreading through the South-East of England. Not only does Oak Processionary Moth damage the oak trees it infests by defoliating them, but the hairs released by the caterpillars are a severe health hazard to people. In areas of France and The Netherlands where it is widespread there are warmings for people using areas known to be infested and restrictions on access and activities which can be carried out around infested oak trees.
Andermatt produce a pheromone trap to catch adult male Oak Processionary Moths. Using this species-specific monitoring trap helps identify is Oak Processionary Months are present in an area and can be used to more efficiently guide where visual assessments should be focussed to identify and remove nests of the caterpillars.
Case study: Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis)
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB, Agrilus planipennis) poses a significant threat to both woodland biodiversity and the forestry industry. Originally from Asia the larvae of the beetle burrow through the trunks of the trees through the phloem which cuts of the supply of nutrients and water resulting in the death of the tree. Since its accidental introduction into North America in the 1990’s, the Emerald Ash Borer has caused billions of dollars of damage and costs from lost ash trees.
Working within the Canadian forestry industry Andermatt Canada (formerly Sylvar) have helped to create aPhinity EAB, a trap for catching Emerald Ash Borer which uses a large green prism hung in the tree canopy along with separate pheromone and plant volatile lures which when hung in the same trap have a synergistic interaction to improve trap catches.
Case study: Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii)
Frist detected in 2012 in Kent, the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD, Drosophila suzukii) poses a significant risk to the UK soft fruit industry. The SWD differs from other flies because the females have a saw-like ovipositor for laying eggs, which allows them to cut into green unripe fruit to lay eggs. This is different to most other native flies which can be found around fruit farms which tend to lay their eggs in over-ripe very soft fruit and so often are not a problem as the crop they are targeting is often not intended to be harvested. The Spotted Wing Drosophila however poses a risk to the crop whilst it is still growing on the plant. Since its introduction, SWD has spread and is now widespread across much of Southern Britain where soft fruit such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries as well as top fruit such as plums and cherries are grown. Managing this invasive non-native pest is now standard practice for many fruit growers with an acceptance that it is here to stay. Working with colleagues from across Europe Andermatt have helped to develop high volume traps and a liquid attractant which can be used throughout and around the edges of soft fruit crops to catch and monitor adult SWD flies as they move around the crop to help growers make better informed decisions on how to manage this threat to their crops.
Discover more about Drosal Pro SWD traps and DrosaLure 2.0 SWD liquid attractant.
Case study: Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys)
Native to China, Korea and Japan, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys) gets its name from the smell it exudes when they feel threatened. Whilst they can be a nuisance pest if they move indoors seeking protection to overwinter, their greater importance as an invasive pest is their potential to cause damage to British soft fruit (strawberries, raspberries and blueberries) and vegetable production. The bugs feed on the plants can result in distorted growth, blemishes and entry points for disease. Another risk from the pest is the contamination of goods made from the harvested crop as a result of the stink bugs releasing their characteristic odour which can spoil produce. Andermatt supply the Pherocon BMSB (Brown Marmorated Stink Bug) trap to the UK and Irish markets, an example of where if we do not manufacture a product ourselves the global footprint of the Andermatt Group helping to source products from countries where the invasive pests are either originally from or are already causing concern.
Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to protection from invasive non-native species. Monitoring traps offer decision supporting tools to help identify the risk and implement a containment and pest management strategy if the pest monitoring trap identifies the non-native as being present. Monitoring and rapid response are often recommended when dealing with invasive pests, aiming to contain their spread and eradicate them to prevent them becoming established. Andermatt monitoring traps are a reliable way to support these strategies.