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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
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Box Tree Moth

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of box tree moth in the continental United States, and has implemented an emergency response to find and eradicate this pest. This invasive pest can significantly damage and potentially kill boxwood (Buxus species) plants if left unchecked. The insect is native to East Asia and has become a serious invasive pest in Europe, where it continues to spread. The caterpillars feed mostly on boxwood and heavy infestations can defoliate host plants. Once the leaves are gone, larvae consume the bark, leading to girdling and plant death.

Here’s how you can help prevent the box tree moth from spreading. Please allow State or Federal agricultural officials to inspect your boxwood trees and place an insect trap if they visit your home. If you bought a boxwood plant within the last few months, please inspect it for signs of box tree moth and report any findings to your local USDA office or State agriculture department.  You may also contact your local Cooperative Extension Service for information on pest management tools. To locate an Extension specialist near you, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/Extension.

This is what you should look for:

Egg mass under the leaves

Egg mass under the leaves

(Courtesy of Walter Schön, www.schmetterling-raupe.de/art/perspectalis.htm)

Caterpillars and webbing

Caterpillars and webbing (larvae can reach 1.5 inches long)

(Courtesy of Matteo Maspero and Andrea Tantardini, Centro MiRT - Fondazione Minoprio [IT].)

Adult moths (wingspan is 1.5 to 1.75 inches):

Adult Box Tree Moth

(Courtesy of Alison Morris, Bugwood.org.)

Box Tree Damage
Dark form of the moth.

(Courtesy of Szabolcs Sáfián, University of West Hungary, Bugwood.org


Box Tree Moth Pupa

Pupa

(Courtesy of Ilya Mityushev, Department of Plant protection of the Russian State Agrarian University - Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy.)

Box Tree Moth Damage

Damage

(Courtesy of Colette Walter, http://www.lepiforum.de/webbbs/images/forum_2/pic13983.jpg).

Between August 2020 and April 2021, a nursery in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, shipped boxwood that may have been infested with box tree moth to locations in six States—25 retail facilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and South Carolina—and a distribution center in Tennessee. As of May 27, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had confirmed the presence of box tree moth in three facilities in Michigan, one in Connecticut, and one in South Carolina.

On May 26, 2021, APHIS issued a Federal Order to halt the importation of host plants from Canada, including boxwood ( Buxus species), Euonymus (Euonymus species), and holly (Ilex species). In addition, APHIS is coordinating with the affected States to:

  • Find and destroy the imported plants in the receiving facilities
  • Trace imported plants that were sold to determine additional locations of potentially infected boxwood
  • Provide box tree moth traps and lures for surveys in the receiving facilities and other locations that received potentially infected boxwood
  • Prepare outreach materials for State agriculture departments, industry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists stationed along the Canadian border, and the public.

These immediate measures are focused on protecting the economic viability of the thriving U.S. boxwood industry as well as nurseries and other establishments that sell these plants wholesale and direct to consumers.

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