Skip to main content
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA FAQ's and resources about coronavirus (COVID-19).  LEARN MORE

Box Tree Moth

In July 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of box tree moth in Niagara County, New York. The moths flew or were blown into the area from Canada, where the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed its presence in the environment.

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 and place an insect trap if they visit your property. If you have boxwoods, please inspect them 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 https://nifa.usda.gov/grants/land-grant-university-website-directory

Response to Box Tree Moth Detection in the Environment in New York 

Since the initial July 2021 detection of box tree moth in Niagara County, New York, APHIS has worked with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYS AGM) to restrict host plant movement, find the infestation’s boundaries, engage stakeholders, and conduct outreach. APHIS, NYS AGM, industry, and research partners are working closely to develop useful pest control tools.   

On March 23, APHIS issued a Federal Order establishing a quarantine for the box tree moth in Erie, Niagara, and Orleans counties in the State of New York. This action is in response to the detection of a box tree moth population in Niagara County, New York. 

This Federal Order prohibits the movement of regulated articles of boxwood (Buxus species) from Niagara, Erie, and Orleans counties to prevent the spread of box tree moth to other parts of the United States. These measures parallel the intrastate quarantine that NYS AGM established on December 10, 2021. Regulated articles include the whole plant, all plant parts, pieces, cuttings, clippings, debris, and any portion of the plant, alive or dead. 

Response to Imported Boxwood Shipments from Canada 

On April 30, 2021, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency informed APHIS that a nursery in St. Catharines, Ontario, detected the box tree moth. Between August 2020 and April 2021, the nursery had shipped boxwood and boxwood-related species to 25 retail facilities in 6 States: 1 in Connecticut, 3 in Massachusetts, 6 in Michigan, 12 in New York, 2 in Ohio, and 1 in South Carolina. 

Separately, APHIS was made aware of an additional shipment containing boxwood plants exported from the infested St. Catharines, Ontario, nursery to a distribution center in Tennessee. Those plants were comingled with additional boxwoods from Canada, all of which arrived at the distribution center. 

APHIS detected life stages of the moth in the receiving nurseries in four States: one detection each in Connecticut, Ohio, and South Carolina, and three detections in Michigan. 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 response to the detections, APHIS deployed several National Incident Management Teams to coordinate our efforts with the affected States to:

  • Destroy all of the Canadian boxwoods that remained in the original 25 retail facilities and the distribution center;
  • Trace sold imported plants to determine additional locations of potentially infested boxwood;
  • Safeguard and destroy all plants we were able to trace;
  • Provide box tree moth traps and lures for surveys in the receiving facilities and other locations that received potentially infected plants; and,
  • Prepare outreach materials for State departments of agriculture, industry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists stationed along the Canadian border, Extension, Master Gardeners, Integrated Pest Management Centers, and the public. 

APHIS and our State cooperators destroyed all the Canadian boxwoods that remained in the original 25 retail facilities and the distribution center. While APHIS staff and State plant health regulators have been looking for the box tree moth in high-risk States, they have not detected any life stages in the environment that are associated with the imported plants. 

This is what you should look for:

Damage

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

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):


(Courtesy of Alison Morris, Bugwood.org.)


Dark form of the moth. 

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


Pupa

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

Egg mass on leaves

(USDA photo by Hannah Nadel)

Contact

Allen Proxmire
National Policy Manager
Telephone: 301-851-2307
Email: allen.proxmire@usda.gov

Complementary Content
${loading}