NATIONAL Highways has employed a trio of working dogs to sniff out roadside Japanese knotweed.

Fenix the Dutch Shepherd, springer spaniel Nica and cocker spaniel Nettle have helped out on Balfour Beatty’s £250m M25 junction 10 upgrade at Wisley.

The dogs were brought in to detect the rhizomes of invasive Japanese knotweed.

Pippa Jordan, National Highways’ environment lead on the scheme, said: “Conservation plays an important role in our construction projects. Before we start, we create a map of the area which shows nearby plant species allowing us to tackle any invasive species growing on the construction site. 

“In this case, we decided to put our paws on the pavement and take a unique approach to tackling the Japanese knotweed. These sniffer dogs are not only adorable, but also incredibly skilled at detecting the presence of unwanted plants, especially those not readily visible.”

Forestry Journal: Nica, the springer spanielNica, the springer spaniel (Image: Supplied)

It’s also an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, to allow these invasive plant species to spread in the wild, which is why National Highways called in the dogs to help.  When the dogs detect Japanese knotweed, they freeze to alert their handler.

Kat Janczur, owner and handler at Canine Detection Solutions, said: "The dogs have got the most amazing sense of smell, and they can pick up the scent that Japanese knotweed rhizome gives off into the soil. They're amazing animals and a great tool in efforts to prevent the spread of these invasive plants on and around the site.”  

Each dog can only be worked in half-hour shifts before resting for at least the same time to keep efficiency levels up.

Over the course of two days the dogs found several areas where rhizomes were located underground, which would have otherwise been missed.