US (PA): Another boxwood threat

Nature seems to be conspiring against that widely used landscape evergreen, the boxwood. Long plagued by several bugs and most recently by a deadly new boxwood blight disease, U.S. boxwoods now face the threat of another new bug that’s attacked boxwoods in Europe for years.

The box tree moth is an East Asian native whose caterpillar stage zeroes in on boxwoods. The caterpillars first feed on boxwood leaves, and when they eat all of those, they chew the bark, which can lead to stem girdling and death.

The bug made its way to the Toronto area of Canada in 2018, and last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that a nursery there shipped infested boxwoods to six U.S. states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and South Carolina) and to a distribution center in Tennessee. USDA confirmed box tree moths in three states: Michigan, Connecticut, and South Carolina.

Since then, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has alerted U.S. states to be on the lookout for this new pest and is working to contain and/or eradicate the early arrivals. “The Pa. Department of Agriculture and Penn State Extension are on the lookout for it, so hopefully we catch it quickly if/when it does arrive,” says Dr. Michael Skvarla, head of Penn State’s Insect Identification Laboratory.

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