Prevention – Biosecurity

Some advice relevant to working safely in the Scottish natural environment is summarised here. More detailed guidance can be found in the recommended sources.



The advice provided in this site is intended as a guide only.
In undertaking any suggested method for destroying diseased or infected trees or plants that involves applying any chemical treatments, it is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions for use and associated safety data.
Take all necessary safety precautions if burning infected plant material and never burn material where there may be any risk to life or property. You should always consult SEPA prior to burning material to ensure you have any required permissions or licences.
You should seek further advice from the relevant authorities listed in this site if you are in any doubt as to how to treat or destroy infected plants or trees.

Personal hygiene

Staff and visitors can carry pests in soil on shoes, gloves, or other clothing; bicycle or buggy tyres; or pets' paws. Encourage staff to keep designated gloves and boots for your site, and encourage all staff and visitors to wash mud from boots, tyres, and paws before and after visiting as a part of normal practice. A water source with a low tub, washing up liquid, and a scrub brush is enough to accomplish this when the risk is low, and is recommended by the Forestry Commission for the general public.

When traveling between multiple sites or in higher risk cases, such as when a pest outbreak is suspected, for at risk plant communities (such as juniper woodlands), washing with soap and water should be followed with disinfectant. The Forestry Commission recommends Cleankill Sanitising Spray (a quaternary ammonium compound, which can be used on clothing, surfaces, and boots) or Propellar (70% isopropyl alcohol, which will not corrode metal tools) as disinfectants.

Tools and equipment

Tools like secateurs, chainsaws, and ropes, and heavy equipment can all effectively move pests between plants and across sites. Disinfect cutting tools before moving between plants at a minimum, avoid soil buildup and disinfect larger tools and equipment regularly, and before moving between sites. Ropes should be washed and vehicles and heavy equipment should be power washed and disinfected regularly.

Buying in plants

Bringing in plants for restoration or ornamental purposes is a common pathway for introducing new pests. Buy carefully: where possible buy plants that have been propagated and grown locally, and only from trusted suppliers who keep records of plant passports and who follow all plant health regulation. Don't buy plants from online sources (where the origin can't be known) or introduce plants from abroad.

Inspect all new plants carefully, removing pots and checking around the roots for below-ground pests such as golden-root mealybug. Best practice is to wash away the old growing media and repot into clean compost, to remove any resting spores or insects that might be hiding in the soil. If possible, keep new plants in pots in a secluded place for 12 weeks after purchase, to allow any latent diseases to emerge. Do not treat with fungicides during this time. Plants in propagation are commonly treated with fungicides that suppress rather than kill pathogens, and you will want to know that these pests are present before you plant them on your site, so you can either treat or destroy them as appropriate.


Keep records of plants brought in, including any relevant plant passports, so that you can track any disease outbreaks. Keeping track of sudden or unusual plant deaths in your own records and through a reporting site such as TreeAlert can be a valuable tool in recognising new outbreaks, even if a causal agent hasn't been identified.

Wood and packing material

Pallets and other wood packing material are an important mode of movement for destructive pests including pathogens. You can minimise risks:

  • Don't move firewood. Keep to local sources for wood fuel. If no local sources are available, be sure that wood meets government guidelines for heat-treating or kiln drying to reduce risk.
  • Remove pallets or other wood packing material promptly; don't leave them stacked on site.
  • Kiln-drying or heat-treating firewood or packing material lowers the risk but does not remove it. Wood may not have been treated to specifications, or it may have been re-infested by pests after treatment.