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Plantwise Technical Factsheet

box tree moth (Cydalima perspectalis)

Host plants / species affected
Buxus (box)
Buxus balearica
Buxus bodinieri
Buxus harlandii
Buxus megistophylla
Buxus microphylla (little-leaf box)
Buxus rugulosa
Buxus sempervirens (common boxwood)
Buxus sinica (chinese box)
Euonymus alatus (winged spindle)
Euonymus japonicus (japanese spindle)
Ilex purpurea
List of symptoms/signs
Fruit  -  frass visible
Fruit  -  webbing
Growing point  -  external feeding
Growing point  -  frass visible
Growing point  -  lesions
Growing point  -  odour
Inflorescence  -  frass visible
Inflorescence  -  webbing
Leaves  -  external feeding
Leaves  -  frass visible
Leaves  -  odour
Leaves  -  webbing
Stems  -  external feeding
Stems  -  visible frass
Stems  -  webbing
Whole plant  -  external feeding
Whole plant  -  frass visible
Whole plant  -  plant dead; dieback
Whole plant  -  unusual odour

The larvae of C. perspectalis feed on the leaves of box trees but can attack the bark of the trees, causing them to dry out and die (Leuthardt and Baur, 2013). Typical symptoms include feeding damage on the leaf edges, with sometimes only leaf skeletons remaining. Attendant symptoms are webbing of the branches with frass and residues of moulting such as, black head capsules of different sizes. Heavy damage or repeated attacks lead to total defoliation of the trees, the subsequent attack of the bark causing the death of the tree.

Prevention and control

Public Awareness

In order to slow down the dispersal of C. perspectalis, public awareness should be raised by communicating the risk of displacing eggs, larvae and pupae when moving infested box trees. The trade of infested box-trees may still be the most important dissemination pathway. Surveys of garden centres have shown that infested box trees are available for sale without the knowledge of the seller, most probably due to the difficult detection of early larval sages or eggs (Leuthardt et al., 2010).


Due to the high mobility of adults and the wide distribution of its host plant, the eradication of C. perspectalis is a difficult task once it has established itself in an area.


C. perspectalis was featured on the alert list of the European Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO) between 2007 and 2011. The pest has been removed from the list because of its wider distribution and rapid expansion that could not be controlled (EPPO, 2013).

Physical/Mechanical Control

In small trees, manual removal of larvae can be an effective control measure if it is repeated every 2-3 days. 

Biological Control

The only detected parasitoids feeding on C. perspectalis in Europe are polyphagous species (Wan et al., 2014) and predation by birds is low, probably due to the high levels of toxic alkaloids sequestered by the larva (Leuthardt and Baur, 2013). Therefore, neither would be useful biological control agents. Trichogramma, pathogens and entomopathogenic nematodes are effective in the laboratory, but not yet in the field (Göttig and Herz, 2014; Wan et al., 2014). The introduction of specific parasitoids from the area of origin should be envisaged because it represents the only long-term control option in natural habitat. Unfortunately, little is known on the natural enemies of the moth in Asia.

Chemical Control

Chemical control with contact or systemic insecticides are very effective but may harm natural enemies and other species using the box trees for shelters, such as arachnids and other insects. Insecticides working by ingestions are also very effective, although the lag until death of all larvae is usually longer. Biopesticides based on Bacillus thuringiensis are usually the preferred option on ornamental box trees because of their limited impact on the environment.

Monitoring and Surveillance

Monitoring of C. perspectalis populations and their life-cycle can be achieved by using UV-light traps or pheromone traps which are now commercially available (Göttig and Herz, 2014).

Ecosystem Restoration

Even severely defoliated box trees are able to recover if they have not been severely debarked and if they do not suffer from renewed attacks. However, severely damaged box trees in an area where C. perspectalis has established itself are less likely to survive. This also applies to naturally occurring box trees in the understories of forests in the invaded range of C. perspectalis.

Related treatment support
External factsheets
FERA Plant Pest and Disease Factsheets, The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), 2009, English language
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