Mike Clough's Japanese Knotweed blog

Welcome to my blog. Here I'll be posting about the most important issues in the Japanese Knotweed industry and how it affects companies. Please do drop me an email with any thoughts or comments.

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Don’t Cry – she’s not worth it….

April 16th, 2014 by Mike Clough

I have been shocked twice this week and both of these incidents involved Japanese knotweed. The first was a couple who came to one of presentations who ended up in tears and the second related to a couple whose knotweed problem ended up with someone being killed!

I really thought that I had seen everything with JK….but apparently not.

What is sad about both of these shocking incidents is that they were all born from the misconception that a Japanese knotweed infestation is the end of the world. I admit it’s not a laughing matter but it’s also not something worth killing somebody over.

The first of these incidents involved a couple that came along to my presentation – they had been duped when they bought their house and were now struggling to sell their property because of a knotweed infestation. The seller didn’t confess to having knotweed in their sale documents and the surveyor didn’t pick up on the tell-tale signs of Japanese knotweed in it’s over winter state. So the sale went through and it was only in the following Spring that the new owner noticed bright red shoots rapidly growing in the bottom of the garden and began to wonder what this plant could be. A bit of Google research and a nifty look over the fence led to the conclusion that they had a major problem in their garden and an even bigger issue on the adjoining river bank. Japanese knotweed was everywhere and in such an advanced state of growth that even the thought of trying to start an eradication strategy was mind boggling.

The second incident was in the paper this morning with an article describing a husbands defence in the murder of his wife being that the ….’stress of a nearby Japanese knotweed infestation’ which had driven him to the terrible act in the heat of the distress caused. This – from what we are told- related to Japanese knotweed on adjacent land – with the land owner refusing to take action to eradicate the plant, again resulting in an un-saleable property.

Whilst I don’t profess to having all the answers to Japanese knotweed legal problems - both of these incidents are covered under legal precedent. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is illegal to allow Japanese knotweed to grow from your land into an adjacent property – this is covered under ‘common law’ as a ‘nuisance’ and can result in fines and compensation.

With the first incident where the house sale went through and the Japanese knotweed wasn’t spotted by the surveyor – I’m sorry – but his Professional Indemnity Insurance would be my first port of call. It is fairly straightforward to tell how long Japanese knotweed has been in a certain location. Growth patterns and size of growth will give a clear indication of whether the plant has been there for one year two years or ten years. So any signs of growth (and there are always signs) the surveyor should have picked up on them – whatever the time of year. I would be asking for compensation from the surveyor and would happily get a solicitor to pursue them for the costs of employing a reputable contractor to resolve the issues - and to provide a twenty five year insurance backed warranty for the new purchaser of the property.

With the second incident we are given to understand that the infestation was on local authority land – and again they are in breach of the law for allowing the infestation to spread onto adjacent properties. This is pretty straightforward stuff – first a letter advising them of the problem and giving them a timescale to resolve the issues. Second a letter from your solicitor telling them that you want the issue resolving and compensation for your stress and the upset caused.

So in both of these cases it isn’t worth tears and it certainly isn’t worth killing somebody over. Japanese knotweed isn’t pleasant but it is treatable and it shouldn’t be seen as the end of the world.

Mike C

Weed Solutions ’r’ us…..

April 9th, 2014 by Mike Clough

Another new weed control company and another new name on Google, and unfortunately another company copying my photographs and putting them on their website (…you would think I would get tired of suing people….but I don’t).

But….dear reader….how can you….the Google punter – decide which are the best companies to call once you have done a quick search of the generic term Japanese Knotweed?

All of these companies state that they are ‘experts’ they are all‘the number 1 service provider’ they are all ‘the first company to recognise the problems’…..aaarrrrggghhh…..who’s telling the truth….who should you believe?

Do you go for the ‘Number 1’ on the PPC (Pay Per Click) adverts on the top of the page or do look within the ‘organic links which have been optimised by the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation teams)…

Or do you think… ‘hmmmm the person on top of the PPC page is just paying for that position and may not actually be the best company to deal with….?’

Or….do you phone a few different websites and see what takes your fancy? Maybe you ring a couple of numbers and see who you like the sound of …..maybe….?

Or…..you could take the guesswork out of the equation and look for a trade body that actually checks the qualifications and skills of its members?

You need to be looking at the Invasive Non –Native Specialists Association website – www.innsa.org – all of their members are vetted and checked, they must all be members of BASIS and be able to meet the Amenity Assured standard, they must have ISO 9000 and ISO 14001 and all of their teams must be qualified to the highest of standards.

You will be able to see on the INNSA website all of the company qualifications and skills – and see examples of their works on the section marked case studies. Any domestic works will be covered under the INNSA insurance backed guarantee and any commercial works will be covered under specific insurance policies specific to the company that you select.

Take away the guesswork , use a trade body you can trust – www.innsa.org

Mike C


April 2nd, 2014 by Mike Clough

Why do invasive species have to dominate their environment? Why can’t they just live happily with other species in a balanced way? The majority of plants live quite happily in their natural setting and don’t feel the need to strangle, kill and poison their neighbours – so why do the likes of Japanese knotweed behave so aggressively?

A statement that I read recently seemed to cover this question - ‘given the slightest opportunity invasive speciesmust fulfill their purpose…’ this was a description of a new infestation of Japanese knotweed on a development site. ‘Must fulfill their purpose’ – this seems a great way to describe what these plants are doing - their purpose in life being to reproduce and spread…

The reason that these plants reproduce and spread so aggressively comes down to the strategies that have enabled them to survive in their natural environment, where they are predated and reduced in numbers by the environmental factors that surround them. If you use the human reproductive system as an analogy – the male of our species produces millions upon millions of sperm which go into a fairly hostile environment –and the majority of them die. Imagine if you took those sperm and put them in a different environment where they all survived!!

With Japanese knotweed, its natural setting is on the sides of volcanic terrain in Japan where it has produced strategies that enable it to survive in the most difficult of conditions. We have then uprooted it (literally) and placed it in environments where it has little or no factors mitigating against its total domination.

Nobody has told Japanese knotweed that it doesn’t need to be so aggressive. Nobody has told Japanese knotweed that nothing is going to eat it or infect it with rust pathogens…so as far as Japanese knotweed is concerned…it’s still living in an environment where it will struggle to survive – so it’s still in ‘rapid spread’ mode. It still thinks the majority of its efforts to reproduce will fail…so it produces as many new shoots and new areas of growth as it can …expecting to lose the majority of its new progeny to predation.

Maybe some sort of Newsletter or public service announcement would help –

‘Hello – Japanese knotweed – please calm down…you are not living on a volcano so you can stop spreading so quickly’

Maybe not?

Mike C

Sh*t Service…

March 26th, 2014 by Mike Clough

Is it just me or is the world falling apart?

Do you remember when the last time was that you actually had great service? When did someone actually impress you so much that you just had to ring the manager of their company and say – …. ‘that guy/girl who works for you was fantastic….’

I’m a bit anal with the way I do things. I tend to use the same hotels, the same garages, the same cars, the same pen…..I even have lucky shoes and lucky pants. When you are as OCD as me you get to notice things – for example if you keep going to the same hotel and the service gradually gets worse and worse, it’s noticeable. If you just visit a place once and the service is average you might just think – it’s like this all the time.

But….if you go to a hotel and the service is exemplary and then a year later its average, then the following year its crap…..something is going badly wrong…..

Well I’m sorry…..but everywhere I go and everything I do….service levels are going down the crapper.

This must be to do with the global economy – everyone’s trying to save a few quid and to do this they are cutting corners.

The trouble is they cut the wrong corners…..

I’m not a business genius, I’m far too generous to ever be a millionaire…. but the one thing I do know is that a business is not about a name or a product it’s about the PEOPLE that work there. If your first contact with a company is bad…..then it’s going to be difficult to correct that poor first impression.

If the receptionist puts you on ‘hold’ for twenty minutes or doesn’t know that the person your calling is out of the office it creates a terrible start to the working relationship.

If you arrive at a hotel and nobody helps you with your bags you will be looking for problems from the moment you arrive sweating profusely in your room.

If the car salesman shakes his head and says ‘you couldn’t afford it mate’ he isn’t going to get a sale….

All of the above problems have happened to me in the last week and I’m convinced either there is a conspiracy to piss me off….or the world has truly lost all concepts of what good service actually is……I’m pretty sure that all the problems mentioned above are down to the management of these companies wanting to save money.

The receptionist is paid peanuts so she leaves and a young inexperienced teenager is employed.

The hotel gets rid of the doorman to save a few quid.

The car showroom reduces the bonus paid to the sales team so the best guys move on – new younger cheaper salesmen are brought in – who all work exactly to the script they’ve been given – and boy can you tell….

So….here at Japanese Knotweed Solutions we try and go one step beyond the expectations of our customers. We want you to feel loved, we want your business….and we want you to come back and use our services again, we want you to recommend us to your friends and relations, we want a testimonial from you on our website.

We have a friendly, well paid receptionist, we have an administration department to deal with all your practical needs, we have friendly site teams who are managed by friendly managers, we have a young good looking Managing Director who will answer any of your problems – and if there are still any issues…..we have me….which is where the buck stops.

We want you to be pleased that you chose our services and to feel confident in the service levels that we provide.

We want you to be happy.

Mike C

The Exorcist

March 19th, 2014 by Mike Clough

The Exorcist, The Possessed, Poltergeist, The Evil Dead….pick whichever horror story you want, they all have a common story line. Something bad happens and everyone is horrified and doesn’t know what to do about the problem.

Everyone scratches their heads then someone wanders down into the cellar and is killed in the most horrific way the ‘special effects’ team can produce.

Then someone calls in an ‘expert’ who gets rid of the problem…everything settles back to normality….

…then aaaaarrrrggghhh out of the blue….

….the ‘thing’ comes back and kills everyone…

Cue – The Exorcist 2, The Possessed 2 etc

Hmmmm does this remind you of anything?

A Japanese Knotweed infestation can be as horrific as even the most ‘18’ rated movie. Your house suddenly can’t be sold, neighbours are walking past your property and pointing and whispering. Friends avoid coming round…and the postman won’t walk up the path to deliver your post.

You just don’t know what to do so you hit the internet and start to look for a local ‘expert’, you haven’t really got a clue what you’re looking for so you just pick the one with the cheapest price? The guy turns up in his white chemical suit and sprays some dodgy ‘XXX Brand’ chemical onto your Japanese Knotweed and it quickly turns brown and curls up.

He takes the cash with his grubby fingers, shoves it in his back pocket and jumps in his white van with a nod and a wink….then drives off at great speed leaving you with nothing other than a slight suspicion that you’ve just been ‘had’.

You are reasonably happy though – pretty convinced you’ve done the right thing.


The problems are over and you can sleep easily at night, the neighbours start talking to you again and the postman happily whistles as he delivers your post through your letter box…

….but….what’s that red stem appearing through the debris of the surface growth…


Its back!

What I’m saying here is don’t get taken in by the first film, jump straight to the sequel or even the final chapter in the Trilogy….get someone in who knows what they are doing at the first visit.

Films and horror stories are fine, but with movies the second chapter is never as good and by the time you’ve hit Poltergeist 4 – the plot has gone completely bonkers.

With Japanese Knotweed eradication the first attempt to kill the plant is often the weakest and most ineffective – done by someone who just isn’t qualified to deal with the issues. It then takes the second or third attempt to put things right.

This can be avoided by coming straight to the experts as soon as you realise that you are dealing with a ‘monster’ of a plant – call Japanese Knotweed Solutions as soon as you suspect you have a ‘Possession’ by this most ‘horrific’ of plants.

Mike C

You buy one, you get one free….

March 12th, 2014 by Mike Clough

I’m a big fan of marketing and advertising, I also think it’s a great way to see how a business views its product. I always note when companies sell themselves based on how cheap they are…‘nobody can beat our prices’ or ‘forever driving prices down’…or ‘you buy one you get one free’…

What sort of business can give away their product ‘free’ and still be providing a quality service?

Either they are overcharging you in the first place so have enough margin in what they bill you that they can afford to give stuff away (in which case you were being ripped off anyway) or they are about to cease trading and are grasping at straws to get your business prior to then shutting down?

What about companies that state….‘we won’t be beaten on price’…?

Surely market forces must mean that you can’t always be the lowest price? Geography must make a difference? A company next door to the site must be cheaper than one that has to travel 200 miles…obviously?

I’ve been thinking about these strategies for marketing and watching TV the other night noticed a new angle for selling cars along the lines of…‘you get what you pay for’….This is an ethos that I have always lived by. If you have two identical looking objects and one is £5 and the one next to it is £50 – I don’t immediately think ‘oooh….I will have the cheap one’ – I tend to think ‘why the price difference?’

Now I must admit there are objects out there that are identical and are simply different in price due to the way that they are being sold – obviously an item sold on Amazon will be cheaper than a high street store – they don’t have the overheads that the street store has and can therefore pass discounts on to their customers. I’m not saying this is a good thing I’m just saying…..it’s a fact.

Cars are a good example – I’ve had people say to me that a Porsche is no better than a Skoda – they are both a car….they both have four wheels and will both get you from A to B…but I’m sorry they are not both the same – the Porsche will be reliable, last forever and hold its value as well as providing a quick and luxurious way to travel. The Skoda will be ok but will never put a smile on your face – it will lose its value and be worthless and on the scrap heap whilst the Porsche is still being loved and polished in someone’s garage.

We at Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd (JKSL) have in the past had a reputation for being expensive. We have often been undercut by less experienced companies offering ‘quick fix’ solutions to Japanese Knotweed eradication – one most famous example JKSL quoted £15,000.00 and the local garden company quoted £500.00 – the client didn’t understand how we had arrived at our quote and went with the lower price. Twelve months later the same client rang back asking for advice on his now escalating problem as the Knotweed had now spread into his car park and was damaging the hard surfaces….revised costs from JKSL…. £22,000.00

We will always sit down and explain to our clients how we have arrived at our costs. We are happy to be transparent with our rates and our gross margin and will be happy to show our net profit on a particular project. We also strongly believe that a ‘profit’ should be made….and shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed about.

One thing to bear in mind when trying to get the cheapest possible price for your invasive weed problems….

Companies that are cheap (and often not very cheerful) may very well not be around in twelve months’ time. Many of these invasive non-native species will take years of repeat treatments to fully eradicate – if your cheaply priced contractor goes bump after his initial treatment has been carried out – who’s going to do the follow up….?

So whilst it’s not quite a Porsche/Skoda comparison – you may be better getting the company that’s going to last and have value – and be around to sort your follow up treatment….rather than the company that’s broken down by the roadside.

We don’t give away anything ‘free’ and we aren’t….‘the cheapest possible price’ – what we will do is sort your problem plants out at a reasonable price….and still be around for the foreseeable future.

Mike C

Species Control Orders

March 5th, 2014 by Mike Clough

To summarise what’s likely to come out of the discussions that have been held in Parliament - it’s likely that the ‘powers that be*’ will be able to serve ‘Species Control Orders’ on land owners who allow non-native invasive species to establish on their land.

This will impact on the control of invasive non-native species in England and Wales modelled broadly on the procedure introduced by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011.

The definition of an ‘invasive non-native species’ would relate to control of an animal or plant which is both;

  • Invasive, and
  • Either
  • An animal not ordinarily resident in, or a regular visitor to Great Britain or
  • An animal or plant listed in schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

What this will entail is a little more complex.

Initially it is likely that the land owner would simply be contacted and ‘advised’ that they have a problem with an invasive non-native invasive species. This will probably be in the form of a letter or perhaps even a phone call to the land owner advising them of current legislation and the powers that are in place to enforce the regulation. This relevant body will then suggest that it wishes to enter a ‘species control agreement’.

If no action is promised then a ‘Species Control Order’ would be served on the land owner. This is likely to then give a period of 42 days for the land owner to take action to resolve the issue. If after 42 days no action has been taken then contractors would be instructed to access the land and to take action to remove the infestation or eradicate the plant. The costs for carrying out these works would then be levied against the land owner.

The ‘species control order’ will consist of;

  • The date the order comes into place and the period for which it has effect
  • The invasive animal or plant to which it relates
  • The operations which are to be carried out on the land for the eradication or control of the relevant invasive non-native species
  • A specification of the person or persons that are to carry out the works

It is not likely that someone with thousands of square metres of Japanese Knotweed will suddenly be served with a species control order, nor is it likely that those unable to afford to have these works carried out would be made to suffer hardship.

The recommendation states that the ‘proportionality’ of the proposed order should be considered and the decision maker must ensure that he is satisfied… ‘that the taking of action contemplated in the agreement order is proportionate to what the action seeks to achieve’.

It is therefore likely that large wealthy landowners will be required to take action where their inactivity has allowed the identified problems to spread and multiply. The phrase used is ‘the body making the order should consider whether any culpably irresponsible action or inaction of the owner has created or compounded the problem that the control order is intended to address. Mere past failure to control an invasive non-native species that is present otherwise than as a result of the persons conduct should not normally be sufficient to justify making an owner or occupier bear the cost of the operation’.

There are in fact 45 recommendations up for consideration – what they all basically detail is that whereas currently nobody can make you do anything about an invasive non-native species’ within your site boundary –

…if these recommendations become law then any land owner with an invasive non-native species on their land must now be aware they could be served notice to take action.

Mike C

NB* ‘powers that be’

  • Secretary of State
  • Natural England
  • The Environment Agency
  • The Forestry Commission

In Wales

  • The Welsh Ministers
  • Natural Resources Wales

Is Japanese Knotweed a problem in Japan?

February 26th, 2014 by Mike Clough

Is Japanese Knotweed a big problem in Japan? …This is a question I get asked on a regular basis, with people wondering whether the Japanese have some secret strategy for dealing with this problematic plant. Other regular questions are… ‘is it poisonous?’ and… ‘could I feed it my wife to get rid of her…?’.

In Japan although sometimes regarded as a weed Fallopia japonica is nowhere near as problematic as it is when it has accidentally been introduced. Japanese Knotweed is a ‘ruderal’ species meaning it is one of the first plants to colonise bare ground. The dwarf variety var.compacta is often the first plant to colonise volcanic lava and ash fields where its tolerance of sulphur dioxide enables it to survive where other plants would simply be unable to cope. In these types of habitats var.compacta is often the only plant to be seen.

In the UK Japanese Knotweed is very much the aggressor – easily outgrowing the native herbaceous communities with its prolific growth rate (upwards of 30cm a week). In its native Japan the situation is rather different with knotweed being just another plant within a huge herb community all fighting for dominance with the other plants native to the region.

The Japanese Knotweed plants in Japan also have the local pests and diseases to contend with and suffer predation from a whole range of invertebrates and fungi. It is when a plant is introduced to a new setting without these pests and diseases that they thrive and out-compete the indigenous population.

It is to this end that CABI has researched the introduction of a variety of insects and plant pathogens to try and come up with an answer to the continued spread of Japanese Knotweed. The basic premise of biological control is very simple – you simply introduce something that predates on the target in its native setting – into the new environment in which the target has become a problem. Whilst the premise is simple, the possible side effects and ramifications of introducing further alien species is highly complex.

Once a new species has been let loose – it’s very difficult to put it back in the box!

What about the possible knock on effects? Introduce an insect to eat Japanese Knotweed, then a wasp begins to eat the insect and becomes over dominant? …or something else begins to eat the wasp and the whole balance of the ecosystem changes…

History would suggest that there have been some successful Biological Control programmes against alien species. In Britain Japanese Knotweed was introduced without any natural enemies and only a few of our native species will touch it. We therefore get these enormous stands of knotweed which grow tall and healthy – untouched by any insect or disease. These plants then pour their resources into creating the storage rhizomes beneath the ground allowing them to both survive over winter and to defend themselves against surface applied herbicides which are mainly foliar applied and often just kill the above ground growth.

The systemic herbicides will at times, only kill part of these extensive systems and may even encourage the germination of buds on the periphery of the rhizome network (Bailey).

In Japan all parts of the plant are under attack, even the rhizomes are targeted – the leaves will usually show damage and it would be rare to find a leaf in perfect condition. The plant is also attacked by various fungi with varying degrees of specificity.

The Japanese Knotweed in the UK is a clone of the original plant brought in to Kew in the 1840’s – it has no close relatives amongst our native flora or our farmed crops – and as such has been identified as a perfect target for bio-control.

So the answer to the question – is Japanese Knotweed as problematic in its native setting? – would be a resounding ‘no’…due to pests and diseases it has a tough time in Japan…and taking our cue from this… we intend to make it feel just as uncomfortable in the UK.

Mike C

Sex sex sex

February 19th, 2014 by Mike Clough

I’m often asked about sex, generally it’s me… asking myself when I might get some…but on other occasions its people asking me about the reproductive capabilities of Japanese Knotweed?

How can all of these plants have spread across the UK without the ability to produce viable seed?

They produce flowers, they seem to produce seed…what’s going on?

Japanese Knotweed, Giant Knotweed and its hybrids and back crosses have two different sexes, however it is a rather unusual sex system – known as gynodiecy – where you have female and hermaphrodite individuals.

The hermaphrodite individuals produce good pollen and can also produce small quantities of viable seed when cross pollinated.

This sex system is thought to have originated from a mutation in a hermaphrodite species which knocks out the pollen production in affected individuals to produce female individuals.

It is accepted that only a female clone of Japanese Knotweed is found in Britain and thus the plant is unable to reproduce itself by seed. It is accepted that any seed found on these plants is the result of pollination by related species.

It has also been found (Bailey 1989) that the hermaphrodite plant of F.sachalinensis and F. x bohemica are self – incompatible, that is they are unable to form seed without an additional source of pollen.

Japanese Knotweed in the UK occupies two main types of habitat – one natural and one created by man’s intervention.

It establishes well along river banks and water bodies where it shows the characteristics of being native – the plant spreads by propagules, water borne rhizome or viable stem fragments. During flooding events the plant spreads by fragments being carried downstream by the water, then being deposited lower down the watercourse where it establishes and spreads creating new infestations.

The other main area where growth occurs are the man-made habitats of our poorly managed roadsides, railways and areas of derelict industrial land. There are also large areas where Japanese Knotweed has been planted on purpose, the Victorian gardeners also often used the plant for its perceived horticultural value. There is also some evidence of railway and river authorities using the plant to stabilise embankments.

Where Japanese Knotweed grows adjacent to residential areas - the plant is often cut back by home owners who do not realise that the cuttings they throw onto the compost have the ability to grow into new plants – thus inadvertently making the problem worse.

Once the plant becomes established the new stems elongate rapidly and in a few weeks will have produced a dense canopy of green which excludes any light from reaching any of our native flaura. The plant will flower in late August and September – and in areas where there is a pollen source – large amounts of seed may be produced. These seeds are inevitably hybrid and although they can be viable under laboratory conditions – they only rarely germinate in –situ.

So whilst it doesn’t have a fantastic sex life, the plants reproductive capabilities are second to none…

Mike C

With thanks to John Bailey, University of Leicester.

Weeds in parliament…?

February 12th, 2014 by Mike Clough

No, I’m not referring to Public School Members of Parliament wimps who have never worked an honest day in their lives – I’m talking about Invasive Non Native Species actually getting some air time with our Government.

There are currently over 2000 non-native species currently at large in the UK but only 200 of them are considered to be ‘invasive’.

The ‘International Union for the Conservation of Nature’ defines invasive alien species as…’ animals, plants or other organisms introduced by man into places out of their natural range of distribution, where they become established and disperse, generating a negative impact on the local ecosystem and species.’

The Environmental Audit Committee have been discussing key points:

  • Invasive species, climate change and habitat loss were named as the three most significant threats to global diversity
  • Climate change has made Britain more susceptible to new species proliferating where they did not before.
  • The degradation of Britain’s natural environment means there is less natural resistance to the spread of dangerous organisms
  • International trade is the major means of arrival for invasive species
  • There is an increasing trend for species to come from much further afield than in the past
  • Britain has a huge advantage over many other European countries in combatting the spread of these species because it is an island.
  • There is a need to collaborate across the EU in order to stop the spread of these species – although there also a danger in focussing solely on pan-EU measures because some species are native to some parts of Europe and not others
  • The relative merits of ‘black’ and ‘white’ lists which respectively ban or sanction the importation of certain species, were discussed and it was suggested that a combination of both could be used to regulate the organism trade.
  • The need to prioritise the species which posed the greatest threat was outlined and MP’s were informed that there is an adequate risk assessment process in place to make these decisions – although the panel indicated that it is often far more cost effective to tackle a problem BEFORE waiting for a full study to take place.
  • Eradication is impossible for many of these species as they are already established beyond hope. The only approach then is to manage their encroachment on the native environment. This proves to be a far more costly exercise than an early eradication.
  • The UK is blessed with an outstanding tradition of amateur biologists who can act as a frontline detection force to catch new invaders early.

The reality is that the British Government and the EU place economic impact alongside the impact on biodiversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity which informs EU policy defines invasive pests as:

‘…the subset of alien species that are invasive can have a significant environmental, economic and public health impacts and present a significant risk of the wholesale homogenisation of ecosystems.’

It is obvious that in their risk assessments scientists must attempt to evaluate the ‘economic impact’ of any existing or new infestation…but how is this measured? Should weight be given to economic or bio-diversity…? If for example a species poses a risk to bio-diversity but little economic harm – will it be taken seriously?

When arguing for funding for eradication measures… the argument is bound to be taken more seriously… if there are financial implications…

There are also other arguments to consider – along the lines that natural migration should not be stifled. The acceptance of one species and vilification of another can be seen as entirely subjective. What actually represents an ‘alien’ species? How long do they have to be within a particular area before they are described as being part of the ‘natural’ ecosystem?…

All of these issues are up for discussion in Parliament at the moment – let’s just hope that the public schoolboy ‘types’ don’t ‘wimp’ out and do actually make some decisions!

Mike C