Out of the Woodwork

Author: Katherine Deeks, Biosecurity Officer.

Hello and welcome to the first post of ‘Out of the Woodwork’, an official Forestry Commission (FC) blog focusing on tree health.  The aim of this blog is to share with you some of the incredibly diverse and interesting work plant health professionals undertake.  Trees are an integral part our landscapes (rural and urban) and people become attached to them and the spaces they occupy – this is perhaps why we’ve found the topic of tree health to be such a popular one!

I’m Katherine Deeks, the biosecurity officer for forestry within the FC’s Tree Health team. Although I will be leading the blog, there will be plenty of guest bloggers along the way, providing greater insight into the world of tree health in England.  Guest bloggers will be from within and outside of the FC, including other Governmental departments and the private sector.

So where did the name ‘Out of the woodwork’ come from? There are plenty of stories about longhorn beetles making unexpected appearances in people’s homes having escaped from inside wooden furniture.  Indeed, our colleagues at Forest Research have a mantel clock that is often brought out at shows and events, whose previous owners found an Asian longhorn beetle (ALB) on their mantelpiece having had the clock for a number of years (they did report hearing scratching coming from the clock in the days leading up to its appearance).

Such exciting discoveries occur where an adult beetle has chewed a small pit beneath the bark of a tree or piece of wood and then laid an egg which has then gone on to hatch.  The larva from this egg has then fed on the tree tissue, increasing in size and creating larval galleries, before entering its pupating stage, and then emerging as an adult longhorn beetle.  This whole process usually takes about 1 to 2 years in its native homelands of Asia, but evidence suggests that when in cooler climates such as ours, this lifecycle can be extended.

Which goes to show that as we move around our planet with greater ease and regularity, the chances of accidentally moving pests increases.  As those pests are taken out of their native ecosystems, they have the potential to play havoc with ours.

Future posts will take a look at our biosecurity campaign, the latest on tree pests and diseases and a post from Chief Plant Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spence. So welcome to the new blog – take a look around and tell us what you think.

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