A new pest has found its way to Cape Cod.

The box tree moth has been spotted in Barnstable County and state officials are warning the community about a potential spread of the invasive species that was first spotted on the island last July.

Here’s what to know about the box tree moth.

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What Is a Box Tree Moth?

The box tree moth is native to temperate and subtropical regions in Asia. They generally have white bodies with a brown head and abdomen, and their wings are white and slightly iridescent, with an irregular thick brown border.

And they love boxwood shrubs. The box tree moth lays flat clusters of small eggs on the underside of boxwood leaves, and as they develop, they will feed on leaves in the lower portion of host plants and reside in the upper portion. They are known to do damage to boxwoods, the highest-selling evergreen shrub.

“BTM damage threatens heritage sites, landscaping, and boxwood nursery trade of over $140 million annually,” said Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

How to Detect Box Tree Moths

The moths are easily recognized by the webbing the caterpillars create. The caterpillars are detected by their feeding pattern, with leaves appearing peeled or only the midrib remaining. A severely infested shrub will appear brown or even scorched.

How to Handle Box Tree Moths

If you have boxwood shrubs on your property, check for all life stages of this pest, from the adults to the caterpillars to the eggs, and the pupae.

Massachusetts Department of Agriculture
Massachusetts Department of Agriculture

For managing the moths, pesticides are an option. To physically remove the shrubs, place the shrub in the trash, double bagged in plastic.

The box tree moth is now a Federally regulated species, so it is always best to report a sighting. If you have seen box tree moths in parts of Massachusetts outside of Barnstable County, please take photos and report the sighting online. If you are in Barnstable County, there is no need to report box tree moth.

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