Invasive box tree moth found in Michigan greenhouses, nurseries

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has identified box tree moths in Michigan nurseries and greenhouses.

This is the first time the moth has been detected in the United States.

“Box tree moth is not considered a forest pest because boxwood is not native to Michigan forests. However, if left unchecked, it could cause significant defoliation and death of boxwood in the landscape,” the USDA said in a press release.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is advising anyone who purchased boxwood plants within the last two months to inspect their plants for the moth.

Signs of infestation include silky webbing and possibly caterpillars located deep inside of the plants.

Box tree moth caterpillars are green and yellow with white, yellow, and black stripes and black spots.

 The caterpillars eat only boxwoods, making them easy to spot, the USDA said.

Adult box tree moths have two color forms. The most common of which has white wings with dark brown borders, while a darker form has solid brown wings with a white streak or spot on each forewing.

Both forms of the moth have a white dot in the middle of each forewing.

“Boxwoods are commonly planted in North America as ornamentals with the largest plantings occurring in urban areas. In 2014, boxwood made up 15 percent of broadleaf evergreen sales in the United States with an estimated value of $126 million,” said Robin Rosenbaum, Plant Health Section Manager of MDARD’s Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division. “Ensuring this pest is quickly contained is crucial to protecting the state’s boxwood.”

To stop the spread of box tree moth, the USDA issued a Federal Order on May 26 prohibiting importation of all boxwood, euonymus and holly plants for planting from Canada.

“f you see signs of box tree moth on your boxwood plants, please contact MDARD’s nursery program at MDARD-NurseryCE@michigan.gov with your contact information, photos, and when and where you purchased the plant. You may also contact Michigan State University Diagnostic Services at pestid@msu.edu,”

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