Bug unleashed to kill foreign home-wreckers

This plant also stops other plants from growing and destroys habitats for native species.

Its powerful root system is the cause of most damage – and attempts to destroy it are difficult because it can regenerate itself from a piece the size of a finger nail.

Now though the Government has approved the use of an insect called a psyllid – a predator of the plant in Japan – to act as a natural form of pest control.

Wildlife Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said: "This project is not only ground-breaking, it offers real hope that we can redress the balance. These tiny insects, which naturally prey on Japanese Knotweed, will help free local authorities and industry from the huge cost of treating and killing this devastating plant."

Chair of Environment and Sustainability expert panel at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Ian Nicholson said: "Japanese Knotweed is a big issue for the construction industry, costing millions of pounds each year to manage. The ICE therefore welcomes any advances in providing solutions to this invasive species, provided of course they do not produce any other negative impacts on the environment."

CABI – a world expert in natural control methods – have carried out extensive research into the best way to combat Japanese Knotweed with the least impact on the environment. The psyllid was found on Knotweed growing wild in Japan and has now been tested in the UK on over 90 types of plants, focusing on closely related native species as well as important crops and ornamental species to ensure it does not attack other plants. If the first phase is successful, the psyllid will be released at further sites where it will continue to be monitored.

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