Tips on How to Protect Your Plants from Box Tree Caterpillar

Box tree caterpillars are a big problem for box trees. They can eat all of the leaves off of them, destroying topiary and native box hedges, as well as other valuable ornamental plants.

Box tree caterpillars are a relatively recent problem to the United States. They are thought to have come to Europe on the backs of plants that were brought from other countries. They were found for the first time in 2007.

After being discovered in private gardens in 2011, the first moths were discovered farther north, where they have now become a big concern in the north of the country. They’re also expanding over the rest of the United Kingdom. Caterpillars do most of their damage between the months of March and September. If nothing is done, a box ball may be completely destroyed in less than a week.

Blue tits and jackdaws have been seen eating the caterpillars, but it is not yet clear if this will have a significant impact on the caterpillar population.

Preventing plants from Box tree caterpillar symptoms

What exactly is Box Tree Caterpillar?

Box tree caterpillars are the larvae of a moth called Cydalima perspectalis, which deposits its eggs on the undersides of box leaves and later develops into a caterpillar. The resulting caterpillars spin a web-like web over their feeding area and gorge themselves on the box leaves that they have produced. A box tree caterpillar transforms into a box tree moth after about a month. The moth then mates with another caterpillar, continuing the cycle.

There may be a lot of box tree caterpillars from spring to fall, and they may lay a lot of eggs in the meantime.The caterpillars spend the winter in the box leaf, and they start eating again in the spring after they spend the winter there.

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Box tree caterpillar symptoms

Symptoms of the Box Tree Caterpillar

The symptoms of the box tree caterpillar are similar to those of box blight. When you see the tell-tale webbing, dieback, and droppings on your box plants, it is probable that you are dealing with a box tree caterpillar infestation. Because the caterpillars bury themselves deep inside the plants, it is common for them to become visible after you have pruned or shaped your plants to make them appear.

  • Webbing. Parts of the plant are wrapped in thick, white webbing, which the caterpillars use to feast on the leaves and stems.
  • Dieback. Small areas of dieback – in which the leaves become pale and papery – may also appear on your plant. This is especially visible on plants that have recently been pruned. Box blight may have symptoms that are similar to those of this disease, so be careful to search for them as well.
  • Caterpillars. Caterpillars are also possible to view, but they are usually hidden deep inside the leaves or at the base of the plant. The immature caterpillars are green or yellow in color with black heads, and they are about 1 cm long with a green or yellow body.Older caterpillars may grow to be 4 cm in length and are green or yellow in color, with black and white stripes on their bodies as well.
  • Droppings. You will also see a large number of droppings, which are known as “frass,” or light yellow flakes, on the ground.
  • Pupae. The pupae, which are hidden amid the leaves in a cocoon of white webbing, may also be seen.
  • Eggs. On the undersides of the leaves, you may be able to glimpse the caterpillars’ eggs, which are tiny, light yellow, and flat, and which overlap each other.
  • Moths. It is possible that the moths may fly away if you shake the plants – they have white wings with a brown border, or totally brown wings, and measure around 4cm wide.
  • Stripped bark. The moths are also capable of stripping the bark off the box.
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How to Control the Box Tree Caterpillar

Box tree caterpillar moth trap

Organic Methods

Hand removal is required. If the infestation is mild or if you just have a few plants, you may attempt to remove the caterpillars by hand. However, you will need to do this on a daily basis after indicators of their existence have been detected, and you will need to inspect deep inside the plant. Secateurs may also be used to trim away the webbing from the stems that are coated with webbing.

Control through biological. The use of a biological control that includes the micro-organism Bacillus thuringiensis is reported to be effective if the caterpillars have established a strong foothold. When the temperature is at least 15°C, the treatment must be repeated numerous times during the season to be effective. To make sure that the spray gets into the plants, spray it a lot, covering both sides of the leaves.

Non-Organic Methods

Insecticides may be used to manage the box tree caterpillar, but they are not considered to be as effective as biological control, and they will also kill other insects in addition to the caterpillar. It is necessary to use a number of different programs. Spraying pesticides near plants that are in bloom might cause damage to helpful pollinators, so avoid doing so.

Box tree caterpillar moth symptoms

How to Prevent your Plants from Box Tree Caterpillar

Pheromone traps are a kind of pheromone trap. This is how traps work: They make use of a synthetic scent similar to that made by female box tree moths to get their attention and keep them away from other moths. In the next step, the male moths are attracted to the pheromone and get caught in a trap. This causes the breeding cycle to be thrown off and the population to fall.

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In addition to needing to be replaced, the traps aren’t likely to catch all of the male moths in your garden.They, on the other hand, are a good sign that there are box tree moths around, so you can take action right away.

Maintain vigilance. Box tree caterpillars are difficult to detect since they blend very nicely with their surroundings. You should check your plants on a regular basis. You should look inside the plant and around its base.

Box tree caterpillar moth

Additional Tips

In the event that you have already lost plants to the box tree caterpillar (or box blight) or are hesitant to plant more because of the possible concerns, there are many more options available.

Box-leaved holly (Ilex crenata) and Lonicera nitida, for example, are similar in appearance to box and may be grown and pruned in the same manner. Yew, on the other hand, is a wonderful option for hedging and topiary.

It doesn’t matter if other plants don’t work as well as lavender because they have different colors on their leaves, like the Mexican orange blossom or podocarpus. Other plants, like Euonymus fortunei or Euonymus japonicus, also have flowers in the spring.The leaves of certain plants, such as berberis, become flaming in the fall.

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