Revised policy to licence the release of augmentative arthropod biological control agents outside of glasshouses and into other protected structures, such as polytunnels, in England
In England and Wales, under section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, non-native animals are not allowed to be released into the environment. An option exists, under the same Act, to issue licences for the release of otherwise prohibited biological control agents to control plant pests and weeds.
For augmentative arthropod biological control agents, Defra previously only licenced their release in glasshouses, but not in other protected structures (such as polytunnels, biomes etc.) or outdoors. One of the few exceptions to this was the mite Amblyseius swirskii, which was given approval to be released in polytunnels.
A paper was put together by Defra in collaboration with Natural England, Natural Resource Wales and Scotland, providing justification for changing the current policy and allowing the release of non-native augmentative arthropod biological control agents outside of glasshouses and into other protected structures. This paper was sent out for public/stakeholder consultation between June and August 2022, and all respondents were supportive of the policy change. See the attached paper for a summary of consultation responses.
Following Ministerial approval, it is now possible for augmentative arthropod biological control agents that Defra currently licence to be released in glasshouses and other protected structures, if requested by the supplier. The one exception to this is Neoseiulus californicus, which can still only be released in glasshouses, save for some particular circumstances. The release of other non-native augmentative arthropod biological control agents outside of glasshouses and into other protected structures can be considered as an option under licence for future applications if the agents are assessed as not posing a significant risk in such situations.