The hidden danger in used tyres

The international used tyre trade is bringing unwanted visitors to Europe – exotic mosquitoes. Species such as the Asian ‘Tiger Mosquito’ are able to survive in temperate climates, spread diseases (such as dengue and West Nile virus, among others) and may be poised to take Britain by surprise, unless monitoring systems are put in place.

Tiger mosquitoes lay their eggs around places that are prone to flooding. Their eggs can survive long periods of drought and, when a pool forms, the larvae emerge into a predator-free environment. This strategy developed among tree-holes and forest pools, but is proving to be perfectly adapted to man-made containers such as tyres – often stored in loose piles while awaiting export.

The used tyre trade is expanding internationally and, as tyres are imported to Europe from mosquito zones, they carry the eggs of exotic mosquitoes. Formerly restricted to eastern and south-eastern Asia, these mosquitoes are now present in New Zealand, continental Africa, South and North America and, most recently, Europe. Global temperature rises mean that exotic visitors are more likely than ever before to survive.

Writing in April’s issue of Biologist, Keith Snow (UEL) and Clement Ramsdale warn that: ‘It must only be a matter of time before one or more [exotic mosquito] is discovered here. As a system of monitoring, such as exists in France and some other European countries, does not exist in Britain, one or more of these alien species may already be present

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