News Round-Up

Invasive species: biggest threat may be the most uncertain – disease


Showering celebrities with cockroaches, spiders and other exotic bugs might have seemed fun in Australia, but it’s a different story when the bushtucker trials move to Wales. Police are investigating I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here because of concerns that non-native wildlife used in the ITV reality show – said to include cockroaches, whip scorpions, mealworms and crayfish – may be escaping into the Welsh countryside.

The UK is at constant risk of invasion by animals, plants, and microbes that haven’t evolved here. We can appreciate their potential environmental impact by comparing invasive species with oil spills. The effect of an oil spill is largely determined by the total amount of fuel that leaks, but it can be cleaned up and over time it becomes less severe. But when an alien species enters a new environment and is able to survive, its population can grow out of control and continue to spread and affect ecosystems long after the first release, eventually becoming difficult to control.

If even a few insects or spiders were to make it into the Welsh countryside, their population could grow and compete with – or even eat – native wildlife. This is what keeps invasive species biologists up at night. Nests belonging to the invasive Asian hornet have been recorded at least three times in the UK. If this species were to gain a foothold, it could pose a major health risk to people and decimate native bee populations. MORE

Header image: Demon shrimp may not look like much, but they could spell bad news for native crustaceans. Credit: Jack Perks/Shutterstock.