Gardening with Charlie Wilkins — Box plant caterpillar
Life & Style

Gardening with Charlie Wilkins — Box plant caterpillar

Beware if you have box hedging and live in the south east of England.

There is a new pest that is taking over from the devastating box blight, a form of fungal disease.

The new threat is thought to have originated in China. It is the larval or caterpillar stage of the Diaphania perspectalis moth otherwise known as the box plant caterpillar from the Far East and India.

The Royal Horticultural Society are receiving three to four reports of infestations of the caterpillar a day.

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This rise in the reports of Diaphania perspectalis moth attacks on box hedging compares to just three reports for the whole of 2011.

The moth was first reported in Britain in 2008 and was believed to have crossed the English Channel in containers of plants.

The caterpillars have a voracious appetite and can strip a plant in just a few days. They are difficult to spot until there is evidence of damage to the plant.

The moth’s eggs are also difficult to see as they are pale yellow and are laid on the underside of the leaves.

When the larvae hatch they spin webs around the leaves and twigs of the host plant to protect themselves. The caterpillars can grow up to 4cm long.

Some gardeners are resorting to installing pheromone traps to kill the adult moths.

The larvae can be picked off the plants and killed or use a pesticide spray.

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