by Andy Johnston
Rewilding is all the rage at the moment. However it may come as a surprise that there are over 2,000 non-native species of plants & animals already established in the UK. Many have been deliberately introduced, but a significant number have arrived accidentally. Examples in our neighbourhood include Himalayan balsam, Japanese knot-weed, giant hogweed, mink, signal crayfish and ring neck parakeets. Some of these alien species can be disruptive and cause problems to indigenous species.
The noble false widow spider is highly invasive and spreading widely in the UK. It gives a nasty bite akin to a bee or wasp sting. The most worrying invasive insect is the Asian hornet which is endemic in Europe and often found in the UK. Larger than our own hornet, it preys on insects and honey bees and are a major threat to their existence as they are unable to fend off attacks.
Not all animals that have been introduced have major negative impacts on native species. The little owl, Canada goose, fallow deer, red necked wallaby and black swan have all fitted in well. However, if Chris Packham and George Monbiot have their way the sighting of lynx and wolf may become relatively common! I am not sure that local farmers would be too pleased! Then again, I understand that a previous owner of Kirkby Fleetham mill owned a pet lion that escaped at least once.