27 Sep 2023

Forest surveillance "working well"

Scottish Forestry says that its surveillance programme to check for pests and diseases in Scotland’s forests is proving a success.

It’s the first year of the new programme, which is using aerial surveillance, drones, new traps, ground surveillance and ‘citizen science’ to report in sightings to Tree Alert.  

New and improved traps have been used for the first time and throughout the year tree health experts have had over 6,500 individual finds. Over 40 different species were trapped including, for the first time in Scotland, a single Ips typographus beetle.

James Nott, Head of Tree Health at Scottish Forestry, says his team have been working flat out and he is pleased to see the surveillance measures are working well.

He said: “It is really important that we know what pests and diseases are on our trees, and equally importantly which ones are not. 

“With the new pheromone traps in operation we were expecting to find more and that was certainly the case.

“These findings demonstrate the effectiveness of the new surveillance and monitoring system across Scotland. It is good news that no breeding populations of quarantine pests have been found so far and that we have identified so many natural predators. 

“These provide a great indication of the health of our forests.  It is important we do not become complacent and encourage everyone to remain vigilant and act swiftly if they see something out of place in an ever-changing environment.” 

On the positive end of the scale were the natural predators of tree pests including Rhizophagus spp.  Rhizophagus grandis is a natural predator of the bark beetle Dendroctonus micans which attacks spruce trees.

At the other end of the scale were the quarantine pests Ips cembrae and for the first time in a Scottish forest a single Ips typographus beetle.  These are bark beetles of larch and spruce respectively.

Ips typographus is a beetle that is found in mainland Europe and has had a damaging effect on Norway Spruce in particular. The beetle has also been present in Kent since 2018, where it is subject to eradication measures.

This single finding of an Ips typographus beetle was located on a trap in a Fife woodland. Tree health experts believe it is most likely to have come in on the back of goods being shipped at Grangemouth.

James added: “Although this is the first time we have found Ips typographus in Scotland, we currently believe it is a one-off and has simply hitchhiked here. To put it into some context, it is one beetle of its kind that Forest Research experts have found amongst the 6,500 other samples.

“However, whenever we find quarantine pests such as this, even in very small numbers, we always follow it up quickly with further surveys to ensure there are no other resident populations. That is what we are currently doing and as ever I would continue to ask the industry to remain vigilant regarding all tree pests and diseases.”

Scotland works very closely with the rest of the UK in monitoring the pests and diseases in trees.

Scottish Forestry’s results will be combined across the UK to give a big picture of where pests and diseases are present and how we are controlling their spread.