After being detected in Monroe, Wayne and Cayuga counties, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is asking residents in Cayuga, Oswego and Jefferson counties to be on the lookout for an invasive pest.
The Box Tree Moth is native to subtropical parts of Asia but has spread throughout Europe and recently, North America. Chris Logue, director of the division of plant industry at NYS Department of Agriculture or Markets, said the insect can be a quick traveler.
“Box Tree Moth is a pretty mobile insect, and it’s a good flier,” Logue said.
The Box Tree Moths are a big threat to boxwood plants that are very commonly seen in residential and commercial landscaping. The moths feed on the plant’s leaves and bark, eventually leading to the plant dying. Logue said in order to save plants and stop the spread of the moths it’s important to check for signs of them as soon as you can.
“The important thing is to detect it early, and it is not easy to detect early,” Logue said.
Just because damage is not visible does not mean that the insect is not present, the larvae often hide in the leaves and twigs of the plants. They can be identified by a yellow or green striped coloring. The adult insects generally have white bodies and wings with a brown head. Logue said the more people are able to search and identify the insects in their landscaping, the better chance there is to help control them.
“When the general public is helping us, that really makes our work so much easier and we can really locate where these things are more quickly,” Logue said.
Logue said the nursery and landscape industry, which generates $120 million annually across the nation, could be threatened. Quarantines prohibiting the sale and movement of boxwood plants outside the quarantine area are now in place in Niagara, Erie, and Orleans counties. Survey work including the reports of Box Tree Moths in surrounding counties will help the department of agriculture determine whether the quarantine can be lifted.
The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has information on their website regarding how to further identify Box Tree Moths and report sightings of the insects.
Local Cornell Cooperative extensions also have information regarding Box Tree Moths. The New York State Integrated Pest Management page has further fact sheets and information on how to control the insect.