Asian pest beetle found at Rutland school

Citrus longhorn beetle The beetle is often accidentally imported in trees

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A beetle from Asia that poses a threat to the UK's native plants has been found at a Rutland school.

The citrus longhorn beetle, discovered at Langham Church of England Primary near Oakham, Rutland, devours broadleaved trees and shrubs.

An outbreak could threaten horticulture and forestry, according to the the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

The public is being urged to report sightings of the black insects, which have white markings and long antennae.

They are occasionally imported with trees accidentally, said Fera, but take up to four years to grow so are difficult to detect.

Adults are between 20mm and 40mm (1.5 inches) long, and lay eggs under bark.

Scientists are now hunting for the host plant in case there are more in the area, although currently it is only considered a finding and not an outbreak.

Possible hosts

Two other findings were reported this year in Haydock, Merseyside, and Hastings, East Sussex. In both instances the beetles emerged from Japanese maple (Acer palmatum).

Derek McCann, from the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate, said: "To rule out the existence of an established colony of this pest we need to look at all possible host plants within a 100m radius of the original finding, including private gardens.

"In the meantime we would like to ask members of the public to be on the alert for the beetle and let us know if they find anything."

The first sign of an infestation is often between May and October when an adult beetle emerges from a hole about 10mm in diameter.

Holes may be found just above ground level in stems and roots, and other signs include chewing damage to leaves and bark or sawdust-like debris from the trunk.

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