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November 24, 2023

Scent Detectives: How Dogs are Aiding Highways' Battle Against Invasive Plants

Scent Detectives: How Dogs are Aiding Highways' Battle Against Invasive Plants


In a unique collaboration between man's best friend and infrastructure development, National Highways has enlisted the help of specially trained dogs, Fenix, Nica, and Nettle, to assist in Balfour Beatty's £250m M25 junction 10 upgrade at Wisley. This blog delves into the innovative use of these canines in detecting the invasive Japanese knotweed, showcasing their remarkable ability to aid in environmental conservation within construction projects.

Meet the Canine Detectives

Fenix, the Dutch Shepherd, alongside springer spaniel Nica and cocker spaniel Nettle, have become invaluable assets in the battle against Japanese knotweed. Trained to detect the rhizomes of this invasive plant, these four-legged experts play a crucial role in identifying and tackling the spread of this problematic species.

Tapping into Canine Expertise

The use of dogs in identifying Japanese knotweed rhizomes offers a novel and highly effective approach. Their incredible sense of smell allows them to pinpoint the exact locations where the invasive plant's underground stems are present. This precise detection method helps construction teams target eradication efforts more accurately, preventing further growth and ensuring a more sustainable construction site.

Enhancing Environmental Conservation Efforts

Japanese knotweed is notorious for its ability to cause structural damage and pose environmental threats. By leveraging the dogs' detection abilities, National Highways and Balfour Beatty are taking proactive steps to prevent the spread of this invasive species. This proactive approach not only protects the construction site but also contributes to preserving the surrounding ecosystem.

Efficiency and Precision in Eradication

The involvement of these specially trained dogs streamlines the detection process, enabling construction teams to swiftly and accurately locate Japanese knotweed. Identifying the rhizomes early allows for targeted eradication measures, reducing the need for extensive herbicide use and minimising the plant's impact on the construction project and the environment.

Setting a New Standard: Innovative Solutions in Construction

National Highways' initiative to incorporate canine detection in construction projects represents a shift towards innovative and environmentally conscious solutions. The success of utilising dogs like Fenix, Nica, and Nettle showcases the potential for unconventional yet highly effective methods in addressing ecological challenges within construction sites.


The integration of canine expertise in detecting invasive Japanese knotweed marks a fascinating chapter in construction site management. By partnering with these specially trained dogs, National Highways and Balfour Beatty are not just combating an invasive species; they're paving the way for innovative, eco-friendly approaches to environmental conservation within construction. Fenix, Nica, and Nettle exemplify how a unique partnership between humans and animals can contribute significantly to preserving ecosystems while advancing infrastructure development.

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