Termite army establishes Devon bridgehead, and DoE declares war
The army of Reticulitermes flavipes marches on its stomach. It will dine on fungi, paper, cloth, leather, plastic piping and lead-sheathed telephone cable. But, most of all, the termite likes to devour wood. And with a single colony consisting of up to three million insects, they are capable of eating a house.
For years, governments have been fighting a rearguard action to protect Britain's trees, fence posts, garden sheds and kitchen tables from being gobbled up by a scourge which is dreaded in Africa and southern Europe and has spread to the north coast of France.
But three years ago pest controllers received the news they had feared; a wooden conservatory in North Devon had been consumed.
The housewife who had discovered the termites was told to keep silent while the Department of Environment set up a secret task force to destroy the invading colony.
The man they turned to was Tony Bravery, director of the Centre of Timber Technology Construction at the Building Research Station near Watford. Working with a timber treatment expert, Mr Bravery blitzed the termites with chemical weapons.
The insecticides should have had a devastating effect on the insect soldiers, which are armed only with mandibles and a squirt gun in their snouts which fires a repellant glandular secretion, mostly at enemy ants.
Dr Bravery, who managed to trace the termite infestation to a plant which had been brought in from eastern Europe, was confident that the British winter would kill off any insects that had escaped. Yet, termites are great survivors. Each colony contains a large number of winged reproductives capable of flying several hundred yards to establish new nests.
This spring the termites have reappeared, eating their way through a timber porch. Dr Bravery said: "It does not look like a big colony but we keep finding them. It is very worrying."
Among the nervous onlookers will be the timber merchants who had been celebrating Government plans for the building of four million new homes by the year 2016.
Experts attribute the termite's survival in Britain to climate change, which has seen cockroaches, deathwatch beetle and other pests move north.
International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
Feminist quotes to inspire you on the International Women's Day
Oscar Pistorius trial: Case turns into a bizarre safari following the tracks of a wounded lion
Belle Knox: How the porn star student from Duke University became bigger than Justin Bieber
Liam Neeson on death of wife Natasha Richardson: ‘When I hear the door opening, I still think I’m going to hear her’
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Academy members voted for Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave 'without watching it'
- 3 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 4 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role to marry Natasha Richardson
- 5 Livr: A social network only for drunk people
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...