Page last updated at 13:05 GMT, Thursday, 14 August 2008 14:05 UK

Foreign beetle threat to plants

Citrus longhorn beetle
The beetles were thought to have been brought in on imported plants

A non-native beetle which poses a threat to trees and garden plants has been discovered in several regions across England.

The citrus longhorn beetle, a quarantine-listed pest, has been found in Kent, Lancashire, Essex, Cornwall, and Tyne and Wear.

The beetles' larvae damages trees by boring through trunks, leaving them susceptible to damage and disease.

Defra said it has urged anyone who spots the insect to trap it.

The beetles, which are black with white bands, are thought to have been brought in on Japanese Maple plants which were imported from China via the Netherlands and distributed by mail order.

They grow between 21mm and 37mm (0.8in to 1.6in) long and can affect trees and shrubs such as oak, beech, ash, willow hibiscus, mulberry and rose.

Symptoms of an infestation include large exit holes just above ground level, scraped bark and chewed leaves.

A Defra spokeswoman said: "If you see one of these distinctive beetles please isolate it in a sealed container and contact your local Plant Health and Seeds Inspector."

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