British Waterways turns to insect for weed help

Garden and greenhouse enthusiasts will know how infuriating weeds can be, but one UK firm hopes it can be given a helping hand in dealing with its problem.

British Waterways is responsible for the Maunsel Lock on the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal in Somerset but has been beset with problems caused by the Azolla filiculoides weed, which is more commonly known as water fern.

The plant was introduced by the Victorians as an ornamental pond variety, but soon escaped into rivers and canals, where it chokes oxygen out of the water, killing other plants and wildlife, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) reported.

However, the firm is hopeful that the tiny azolla weevil, which measures just two millimetres in length, can help to tackle the problem before it gets worse.

"Introducing weevils to the canal acts as a natural pre-emptive strike in getting rid of this weed," British Waterways ecologist Robert Randall told the RHS.

The insects are a natural predator and only consume water fern, making them seem like the perfect solution to the problem.

Meanwhile, the RHS has reported that the waterfall at a Yorkshire horticultural attraction is flowing again after a restoration project.