Skip to main content

Box Tree Moth

Box Tree Moth

(Cydalima perspectalis)
*Detected in Michigan*
 
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
  • On boxwood and box tree species (Buxus spp.) - green and yellow caterpillars with white, yellow, and black stripes and black spots.
  • Loose webbing in the area of caterpillar activity.
  • Evidence of feeding on edges of boxwood or box tree leaves or skeletonization of leaves.
  • White moths with a brown border and distinctive white comma-shaped mark on each forewing.
  • Less frequently - moths that are entirely brown except for the white mark on each forewing.
  • Clusters of 5-20 pale yellow eggs on the leaves of boxwood or box trees.
An olive-green caterpillar with black head, white stripe down its back with paired black spots on each side of the stripe crawls vertically on boxwood leaves. The tip of a finger is seen beneath it.
Box tree moth caterpillars are green and yellow with white, yellow and black stripes and black spots. Photo courtesy of Ferenc Lakatos, Soporon University, Bugwood.org.

A pinned specimen of the more common form of box tree moth, which is white with a brown border and a white “comma” on each forewing.

Box tree moths are generally white with a brown border and a white “comma” on each forewing. Photo courtesy of Szabolcs Sáfián, University of West Hungary, Bugwood.org.

A pinned specimen of a box tree moth that is entirely brown except for one small, white spot on each forewing.

Some box tree moths are entirely brown except for the white forewing spot. Photo courtesy of Szabolcs Sáfián, University of West Hungary, Bugwood.org.

Side by side photos of a healthy boxwood bush (left) and a boxwood infested with box tree moth (right). The infested bush is brown and leaves have been skeletonized. 

Box trees or boxwoods (Buxus spp.) are small, leaved evergreen trees or shrubs generally used in landscaping. The photo on the left shows a healthy boxwood, and the photo on the right shows a boxwood heavily damaged by box tree moth caterpillars. Photos courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

REPORT BOX TREE MOTH
If you see signs of box tree moth or its caterpillars on your boxwood plants, please take photos and submit a report through Michigan's Eyes in the Field online reporting system.  

ABOUT THIS SPECIES

Habitat: Box tree moth and its caterpillars feed on nearly all boxwood or box species, regardless of soil, shade or moisture conditions. 

Native Range: Box tree moth is native to East Asia and has become a serious invasive pest in Europe, where it continues to spread. In 2018, it was found in the Toronto area of Canada.

U.S. Distribution: Box tree moth has established populations in New York state. (Note: Box tree moth is established in Canada near the United States close to its border with Niagara County, NY, and Detroit, MI.)

Michigan Distribution: USDA-APHIS and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development are working to track the distribution of potentially affected plants in Michigan.

Michigan Status: Box tree moth is considered an invasive species in Michigan.

Local Concern: The caterpillars feed mostly on boxwood, and heavy infestations can defoliate host plants. Once the leaves are gone, larvae consume the bark, leading to girdling and plant death. Because there are no natural predators in Michigan, box tree moth can reach large population densities, limited only by available food sources.

Means of Introduction or Spread: On its own, box tree moth can move approximately 5 miles per year. The primary means of introduction in all areas outside its native range is through importation and sale of infested boxwood and box tree nursery stock.

MORE INFORMATION

Identification Guide to Boxwood and its Lookalikes

Michigan State University Extension box tree moth webpage

Box tree moth infographic