Do Box Tree Caterpillars Eat Other Plants

Do Box Tree Caterpillars Eat Other Plants?

Yes, Box Tree Caterpillars do eat other plants. These voracious pests primarily target boxwood plants (Buxus species), but they have been known to feed on other plants as well. In this article, we will explore the feeding habits of Box Tree Caterpillars and discuss the potential impact they can have on various plant species.

Box Tree Caterpillars: A Threat to Boxwood Plants

Box Tree Caterpillars (Cydalima perspectalis) are native to East Asia and were accidentally introduced to Europe in the early 2000s. Since then, they have become a significant threat to boxwood plants, which are commonly used for hedges, topiaries, and ornamental purposes.

These caterpillars primarily feed on the leaves of boxwood plants, defoliating them and causing severe damage. They are most active during the warmer months, typically from May to October, and can quickly strip a plant of its foliage if left unchecked.

Feeding Habits of Box Tree Caterpillars

Box Tree Caterpillars have a strong preference for boxwood plants, but they have been observed feeding on other plant species as well. While their primary host is boxwood, they may also consume plants from related families such as hollies (Ilex species) and sweet box (Sarcococca species).

It is important to note that not all plants are equally attractive to these caterpillars. They seem to prefer certain boxwood varieties, such as Buxus sempervirens, over others. However, when their preferred food source is scarce, they may resort to feeding on alternative plants.

Impact on Other Plant Species

Although Box Tree Caterpillars primarily target boxwood plants, their ability to feed on other species raises concerns for gardeners and plant enthusiasts. Here are some key points to consider:

Plant SpeciesPotential Impact
Boxwood (Buxus species)Severe defoliation, weakening of the plant, and potential death if left untreated.
Hollies (Ilex species)Partial defoliation, but usually less severe compared to boxwood.
Sweet Box (Sarcococca species)Partial defoliation, but generally less preferred by the caterpillars.
Other plant speciesMinimal impact, as Box Tree Caterpillars primarily focus on boxwood plants.

While Box Tree Caterpillars may occasionally feed on other plants, their impact on these species is generally less severe compared to boxwood. However, it is crucial to monitor and take appropriate action if infestations occur, as they can quickly spread and cause damage.

Preventing and Managing Box Tree Caterpillar Infestations

Prevention and early detection are key to managing Box Tree Caterpillar infestations. Here are some measures you can take:

  • Regular inspection: Regularly inspect your boxwood plants for signs of caterpillar presence, such as webbing, defoliation, and caterpillar sightings.
  • Physical removal: If you spot caterpillars, manually remove them from the plants and destroy them.
  • Biological control: Encourage natural predators of Box Tree Caterpillars, such as birds and parasitic wasps, by providing suitable habitats and avoiding the use of broad-spectrum insecticides.
  • Chemical control: In severe infestations, chemical insecticides labeled for caterpillar control can be used. However, always follow the instructions carefully and consider the potential impact on beneficial insects.
  • Quarantine: If you introduce new boxwood plants to your garden, quarantine them for a period to ensure they are free from caterpillars or other pests.

By implementing these preventive measures and promptly addressing any infestations, you can help protect your boxwood plants and minimize the risk of Box Tree Caterpillars spreading to other plant species in your garden.


While Box Tree Caterpillars primarily target boxwood plants, they have been observed feeding on other plant species as well. However, the impact on these alternative plants is generally less severe compared to boxwood. By understanding their feeding habits and taking appropriate preventive measures, you can effectively manage and mitigate the risks associated with Box Tree Caterpillar infestations.

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