Shropshire

Vine weevils electronically tagged to stop crop damage

Weevil
Image caption Small electronic trackers have been glued to the backs of the vine weevils

Vine weevils have been electronically tagged by researchers in Shropshire to work out a way to kill them without using chemical insecticides.

Experts at Harper Adams University said the insects caused £10m of damage to strawberry crops in the UK every year.

They kill soft fruit plants by laying eggs and feeding on the roots.

Researchers are tracking the movements of 40 weevils. They aim to encourage them to use man-made "weevil houses" filled with a fungus that kills them.

Small electronic trackers have been glued to the backs of the weevils and each has its own unique ID number.

They have been released into a strawberry crop inside a greenhouse at the university.

'Killing the pest'

"Adult vine weevils are nocturnal making them very hard to find... using this electronic equipment we can find them quickly and record the distance they move," said Dr Tom Pope, who is leading the project.

"The object is to encourage the weevils to hide in artificial refuges filled with a naturally occurring pathogen so weevils will pick up the spores of that and spread them, eventually killing them off."

Mr Pope said by tracking how far the weevils move they could work out how many refuges would be needed and if the method was cost effective.

He said although weevil larvae can be controlled by non-chemical methods, growers currently rely on insecticides to control the adult insects.

The research programme has been funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

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