Last spring the box tree moth was found in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New
York, Ohio, Tennessee, and South Carolina. It was determined that the moths came in on plants shipped from a nursery located in Ontario. Specifically, on boxwood plants. Given the proximity to NY and CT, I wanted to let NJ residents to know they should keep an eye out for this invasive moth.
The box tree moth feeds on boxwoods. Many NJ residents have boxwoods as they are a great design element for landscapes. They provide green color year-round and are deer resistant.
Where is the box moth from?
Like many invasive species, the box tree moth is native to East Asia – Japan, China India. Another NJ invasive, the Spotted Lanternfly, is also native to China.
Box Tree Moth Life Cycle
The box tree moth lays pale yellow eggs in the spring which develop into caterpillars. The young caterpillars feed on the underside of the boxwood leaves and older ones will eat the entire leaf (except the midrib). If left untreated, the plant can be destroyed.
If you spot box tree moth eggs, caterpillars, pupae, or moths, destroy them and, notify the NJ extension. You can shoot the eggs or caterpillars off leaves with a strong stream of water. Once dislodged, the caterpillars will not be able to climb back up the boxwood before starving. Below is a healthy boxwood and an infected boxwood.
How to Control Invasive Pests
As with any invasive species, knowledge is power. As with the Spotted Lanternfly, the public can help to prevent these destructive pests from spreading. Knowing how to identify and control invasive species is critical to preventing widespread damage to plants.
To help prevent the box tree moth from spreading allow state or federal agricultural officials to inspect your boxwoods. They will Place an insect track if they visit your property. Make sure to inspect your boxwoods for any signs of box tree moth and report any findings to your local USDA office or state agricultural department. You can also contact your local Cooperative extension service to find some pest management tools.
Here is a good resource with images from the USDA: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/plant_health/fs-box-tree-moth-check-boxwoods.508.pdf
If you have any questions, we’re here to help. Call Tom at Go Green Pest Solutions: (973) 764-5332, located in Vernon, NJ.