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Invasive moth a potential problem for shrubs in the Miami Valley

By Katie ShatsbyCameron Saliga,


DAYTON, OHIO (WDTN) — A favorite shrub of homeowners, but a feast for one relatively new invasive species has been found here in the Miami Valley and is already causing damage.

Two years after the box tree moth was first confirmed in the United States in 2021, its has been confirmed in Montgomery County, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The box tree moth was first spotted in Ohio near the border of Hamilton and Clermont counties in June 2023. It has also been reportedly spotted in Warren and Butler counties.

See this pattern on leaves? It could be an invasive insect

The ODA said that the box tree moth is an invasive insect from East Asia that poses a threat to boxwood plantings and the horticulture industry. It is believed to have arrived in the United States through the horticulture trade.

The caterpillar does most of the damage to the boxwood shrub, and will only feed on that type of shrub.

“Caterpillars defoliate these shrubs to the point where it will kill them,” said Dr. Don Cipollini, professor of Biology at Wright State University. “That’s not that common in insects, actually, to de-foliage, to tree to the point of killing it. But that’s what we see with the boxwood moth.”

The first signs of an infestation is defoliation to the shrub.

“The shrubs that we were first alerted to, you know, had quite a bit of green on them still,” said Dan Kenny, Chief of the Division of Plant Health at ODA. “And just within two or three weeks, you know, they were deflated pretty, you know, in a pretty big ways.”

Spraying your plants is the easiest solution to keeping the insects under control.

Cipollini said, “Chemical pesticides, and there’s also what you call a biopesticides, something called BT that you can utilize against this caterpillar as well.”

He said to not worry about everything that eats on your plants, but the box tree moth should be addressed as soon as possible.

What’s being done to fight the box tree moth

Plant health inspectors with the ODA and USDA staff will be placing traps and surveying the area to figure out the extent of the moth’s population.

Residents are asked to take the following steps:

  • Familiarize yourself with the insect’s appearance .
  • Check any boxwood plants you have for signs of the moth. Signs include chewed, cut or missing leaves, yellowing or brown leaves, white webbing or green or black excrement on or around the plant.
  • If you find any signs of infestation, take a picture and report it .

For more information about the box tree moth, click here .

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