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Bid to stop plant bugging buildings

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A plant that damages buildings will be tackled using jumping insects, following government approval.

Foreign bugs will attack the destructive knotweed plant when they are released across sites in the UK.

The Japanese plant is in the top 100 of the world's most invasive species, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Wildlife Minister Huw Irranca-Davies gave the green light to plans to allow a tiny, sap-sucking insect called a psyllid to tackle the problem.

The Government estimates it costs more than £150 million to control and clear the non-native plant each year in the UK.

It grows at up to a metre a month and can damage buildings, roads, railways and drains, as well as eroding river banks, destroying natural habitat and crowding out other, native plants.

Officials are hoping the introduction of a species of psyllid insect will act as a form of natural pest control for the knotweed.

The research suggests the psyllid would only target the Japanese knotweed and a few other closely related non-native species if it were released in the UK.

Ian Nicholson, chairman of the environment and sustainability expert panel at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), said: "Japanese knotweed is a big issue for the construction industry, costing millions of pounds each year to manage.

"The ICE therefore welcomes any advances in providing solutions to this invasive species, provided of course they do not produce any other negative impacts on the environment."

© Press Association 2010