Project's biological controls and monitoring keep lid on Wales' forest pests

Deploying biological controls has been effective against two significant tree pests in Wales, a conference last month to mark the end of the five-year, EU-funded IMPACT project heard.

Hylobius abietis - image: Maximilian Paradiz
Hylobius abietis - image: Maximilian Paradiz

Lead agency Forest Research has worked with foresters to release a host-specific predatory beetle, Rhizophagus grandis, to control the great spruce bark beetle, Dendroctonus micans, an exotic pest from the European mainland.

IMPACT project manager Tim Saunders told the conference: "Dendroctonus has spread through much of the spruce forests of Wales, but its numbers are contained by its predator. We now know that current controls are working, even in the furthest corners of Wales."

Meanwhile, the combined use of nematodes and fungi has succeeded in reducing numbers of the large pine weevil (Hylobius abietis) in Welsh forests by up to 90 per cent, according to Professor Tariq Butt of Swansea University, a partner in the project.

"We have shown that we can use a lower concentration of the nematode and fungal agents in treating threatened areas, which has an important impact financially, reducing expenditure by up to 20 per cent," he added.

Similar results were reported by IMPACT partners from Ireland's Maynooth University, using a similar management strategy.

Saunders also confirmed that IMPACT studies have shown that the large larch bark beetle (Ips cembrae) and the spruce saw fly (Gilpinia hercyniae) are absent from Welsh forests.

The project's leader, Professor Hugh Evans of Forest Research in Wales, said: "This proactive action, monitoring the forests to see whether some of the pests on our 'not wanted' list have migrated here, has given us a clearer understanding of what is happening on the ground.

"This knowledge enables us to provide advice to foresters to help them combat pests old and new. It is vital work which will help with planning any possible counter-measures, and is essential to the future health of our forests."

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