First release of Aphalara itadori to control Fallopia japonica in the UK
On 2010-03-09, approval was granted by Defra (NPPO of the United Kingdom) to release Aphalara itadori (Hemiptera: Psyllidae), a biological control agent of Fallopia japonica (Polygonaceae, EPPO List of Invasive Alien Plants). In the UK, F. japonica is a devastating invasive plant which costs more than £150 million a year to control. This will be the first classical biological control release against an invasive alien plant in Europe. Like its host, F. japonica, A. itadori originates from Japan where it is one of more than 180 insects that feed on this plant. A. itadori is about 2 mm in length and its nymphs are capable of causing significant damage to the target plant.
CABI has carried extensive testing on this insect over the past 5 years to verify that it can be safely released into the environment. A. itadori has been tested on over 90 selected plants, focussing on closely related native species of the UK as well as important crops and ornamental species to ensure it does not damage other plants. Results have shown that these psyllids could not survive and develop even on the most closely related species to F. japonica in the UK.
A public consultation was carried out in the UK in summer 2009 on whether this biological control agent should be released. Twenty respondants were against the release, and 42 were in favour. On 2010-03-09, the British Wildlife Minister announced that A. itadori would initially be released on a few secret sites which would be monitored with contingency measures on standby, in the unlikely event that the insect would behave unexpectedly.
CAB International (2010) Japanese Knotweed Alliance. http://www.cabi.org/japaneseknotweedalliance/?site=139;page=356
DEFRA (2010) Bug tackles UK’s knotty problem. http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2010/100309b.htm
Morelle R (2010) "Insect that fights Japanese knotweed to be released". BBC News, 2010-03-09. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8555378.stm
Morin H (2010) En Grande-Bretagne, le duel à mort entre un insecte et une plante invasive venus du Japon. Le Monde, 2010-03-12. http://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2010/03/12/en-grande-bretagne-le-duel-a-mort-entre-un-insecte-et-une-plante-invasive-venues-du-japon_1318196_3244.html
Shaw RH, Bryner S ; Tanner R (2009) The life history and host range of the Japanese knotweed psyllid, Aphalara itadori Shinji: Potentially the first classical biological weed control agent for the European Union. Biological Control 49(2), 105–113.