IMPORTS of pine and cedar trees from several counties are to be banned after a pest was discovered in the UK. 

Movement of the species from nations where Pine Processionary Moth has already been established will be restricted from tomorrow. 

It comes after the pest was found on a "small number" of pine trees at nurseries in England and Wales. Imported from France in February, the infected trees were "swiftly contained and destroyed". While no evidence exists of any further spread at this time, officials say 'robust monitoring' will take place. 

Present in North Africa and Southern Europe, the new rules will also apply to the likes of Italy. 

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Professor Nicola Spence, UK Chief Plant Health Officer, said: “We have taken authoritative and immediate action to protect tree nurseries and the wider natural environment from the imminent threat of Pine Processionary Moth.

“The increasingly globalised plant trade, along with climate change, continue to present new and emerging risks from pests and diseases.

"Strengthening our rigorous standards of biosecurity – already among the highest in Europe – will both minimise the net potential losses to our existing treescapes and serve to realise our long-term vision for the nation’s trees and woodlands.” 

The bolstered measures will only permit imports of these species, both of which are host species of Pine Processionary Moth, from: 

  • Countries officially confirmed by the National Plant Protection Organisation as free of Pine Processionary Moth; 
  • Officially designated pest-free areas;
  • Nurseries where the trees have been grown under complete physical protection for their lifetime.

The controls apply to all businesses which import living plants and their constituent parts, including live plant foliage and plants for planting, into Great Britain. The restrictions do not apply to processed plant products, such as timber, wood chips and packaging materials.

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Pine Processionary Moth larvae and caterpillars can cause significant damage to pine and other conifer tree species, and pose a risk to human and animal health.