- Unusual insect enters UK without a passport
Unusual insect enters UK without a passport
Inspectors from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) found a brightly
coloured and unexpected passenger on a flight from India which arrived into Stansted
Airport last week.
Fera’s Pest Identification Team identified the beautiful stowaway as a ‘Painted
Grasshopper’ (Poekilocerus pictus) and confirmed that the uninvited guest is the first of its
kind to reach British soils.
Fera’s Sharon Reid, Entomologist and Invertebrate Curator, who identified the Painted
"It is not unusual for Fera’s Inspectors to find stray insects in aeroplane holds, but this is
the first alive and well Painted Grasshopper we have seen. However, a single insect like
this wouldn’t be able to reproduce, and is unlikely to survive our UK climate.”
This is not always the case, however, as many other imported insects could cause an
outbreak which could potentially ruin UK crops or horticultural plants. Fera’s Plant Health
and Seed Inspectors are a key part of the UK’s frontline defences, checking imports at our
ports and airports.
This colourful creature’s six centimetre long body looks like it could be a plastic model kit,
hand painted in the blue and yellow colours of Shrewsbury Town F.C. In fact, these bright
colours serve a valuable purpose, to warn birds and other predators (including humans)
not to eat them, as they are distasteful.
Fera Entomologist Chris Malumphy said:
“The visitor has a voracious appetite and rapidly ate its way through a cabbage plant in the
quarantine lab. Grasshoppers can consume green forage roughly eight times as fast as
cattle in proportion to their weight.
This insect is an economic pest in Pakistan and India where it is reported damaging a
number of food plants including aubergine, citrus, cucurbits, potatoes and tomatoes,
though it’s primary host is milkweed (Calotrops procera).”