DNR: Invasive box tree moth found in Lenawee County

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LANSING, Michigan, (CBS DETROIT) – If your landscaping includes decorative boxwood, the Department of Natural Resources would like you to take a close look at one particular hungry caterpillar.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the detection of box tree moth (BTM) (Cydalima perspectalis) at two Clinton residences located in the county of Lenawee. Although not a threat to Michigan’s natural resources, heavy boxwood moth feeding can cause significant defoliation and death of ornamental boxwood.

Adult box tree moths usually have a white body with a brown head and abdomen. Their wings are white and slightly iridescent, with an irregular thick brown border, spanning 1.6 to 1.8 inches, at Forest Pest Methods Laboratory, Buzzards Bay, MA. USDA photo by Hannah Nadel

USDA photo by Hannah Nadel (courtesy Michigan DNR)


Boxwood moth caterpillars are green and yellow with white, yellow and black stripes and black spots. The caterpillars only feed on boxwood, which makes them easy to spot. The adult box tree moth has two colored forms. The most common morph has white wings edged with dark brown, while the dark morph has plain brown wings with a white streak or spot on each forewing. Both forms have a distinctive white dot or mark in the middle of each forewing.

The box tree moth may not be easily recognized at the start of an infestation because young larvae hide among twigs and leaves. Signs of infestation include chewed, cut, or missing leaves, yellowed or brown leaves, white webbing, and green-black droppings on or around the plant. The larvae skeletonize the leaves and feed on the back, causing defoliation and drought, ultimately leading to plant death.

“MDARD is developing an investigation plan to further determine the extent of the infestation,” Philip added. “But Michiganders can be a huge help by being on the lookout for and reporting the box tree moth.”

What you can do:

• Check your boxwood plants for signs of box tree moth.
• If you see signs of box tree moth, please take a photo and report the suspects online.
• Let state and federal agriculture officials inspect your boxwood for the box tree moth.
• If a new population is confirmed, you may be asked to remove infested branches or, for heavy infestations, cut the boxwood from its base (it should sprout from its roots). Dispose of all boxwood debris by putting it in a double plastic bag and putting it in your household trash.

For more information on PPPM, visit Michigan.gov/MDARD/Plant-Pest. You can also contact Michigan State University Extension for additional box tree moth resources at CANR.MSU.edu/Tag/Box-Tree-Moth.

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