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The boxwood is a popular and very popular plant in domestic gardens, which demands the creativity of every gardener. However, she is threatened by a very voracious enemy, the dreaded box tree moth. Green caterpillars in boxwood, the larvae of this pest, indicate an infestation. If recognized too late, they can destroy entire stocks of boxwood. It is all the more important to recognize it early and to start fighting it immediately.

detect infestation

The box tree moth is a moth that lays its eggs on the leaves of plants. From this hatch the caterpillars, which first attack the leaves and later the bark and branches. All parts of the plant above the feeding sites die off. The pest becomes active as soon as the temperatures are constantly above seven degrees, around March/April.

  • Up to five borer populations per year
  • Black and white moths, lenticular, pale yellow eggs
  • Up to 5 cm large, green, black-spotted caterpillars
  • Early recognition difficult due to densely branched growth
  • Signs of infestation are eaten leaves, webs with dark crumbs of droppings
  • Attack first in the lower area
  • Then continues inside the plant
  • Pest can eat undetected for a long time
  • Infestation is often only visible when the caterpillars have reached the outer parts of the plant

tip: If an infestation is suspected, yellow boards can be hung up in the immediate vicinity of the plants. They can be used for infestation control and decimation of pests.

home remedies to combat it

Home remedies can only be used successfully against this pest as long as the infestation is still low or at most moderately severe. They are a gentle yet effective alternative to chemical sprays. If an infestation is detected, immediate action must be taken. If you wait too long, the boxwood can die off completely. There are various home remedies and methods to combat it.


This method is particularly useful for one weak infestation and small stocks. With multiple plants such as a hedge planting, collecting is tantamount to battling windmills. The problem is that you should try not to miss any caterpillars, which is hardly possible with several plants. In addition, these caterpillars are difficult to spot in the densely leafed and branched interior of the plants, protected by their webs.

The best way to remove them is with tweezers or something similar. Of course, you can also read them with your hands, preferably with gloves, but this is often found to be very uncomfortable. This method is very laborious and time-consuming, but certainly promising.

tip: If collecting by hand is too time-consuming, you can also suck the caterpillars off the plants with a standard vacuum cleaner. Only vacuum cleaners with filter bags are suitable, in which the caterpillars can then also be disposed of.

high pressure cleaner

An effective alternative to collecting could be the pressure washer. This is suitable for both a weak and a large-scale infestation.

  • Plants should be large and strong enough
  • Spread foil or fleece under the plants
  • Don't work with too much pressure
  • Work evenly from top to bottom
  • Don't forget the underside of the leaves
  • If possible, work with a horizontal beam
  • Caterpillars could otherwise be washed away
  • Remove caterpillars from foil
  • Repeat the measure after three days, several times if necessary
  • In this way, remaining eggs and newly hatched caterpillars are to be recorded

vinegar and oil

In the case of a moderate infestation, conventional home remedies such as vinegar and oil can also be helpful, from which a suitable one can be found solution made for spraying. While vinegar is said to make the box inedible for these pests, the oil can stick to the outer layer of the skin and lodge in its respiratory organs. They usually die within a few hours.

A foil or plastic sleeve is put under the plant again. Then you make a solution of one third each water, vinegar and oil. This mixture is then filled into a commercially available pressure spray bottle and the plants are then sprayed thoroughly with it until they are dripping wet. About 20-30 minutes after spraying, the plants must be thoroughly rinsed with clear water and a hard jet of water. Caterpillars on the film are removed. This procedure should also be repeated every three days until no more caterpillars can be found on the foil.

baking powder

Baking soda is another home remedy that is useful for combating the box tree moth. The baking soda in the baking powder reacts to heat or sunlight and moisture, which doesn't do the borer so well.

  • Make a spray solution from baking soda and water
  • Dissolve two sachets of baking soda in one liter of water
  • Pour solution into spray bottle
  • Spray on a sunny day when the temperature is at least 28°C
  • Repeat at intervals of three days, if necessary several times

tip: If the control was successful, then fertilizing with a special boxwood fertilizer is a good idea. It serves to regenerate damaged plants, promotes growth and thus contributes to the formation or restoration of a strong, dense foliage.

Cover with black foil

A cover with dark, opaque foil or a dark foil bag is particularly suitable for smaller plants in a single position. However, the effectiveness of this method is temporary, as it relies on sunlight and heat. It makes sense in that the box tree moth doesn't tolerate heat very well, which in turn doesn't cause problems for the plants themselves, provided the soil is sufficiently moist.

Already in the early morning you put the foil over the plant in question. In the course of the day, the temperature under the film increases rapidly due to the solar radiation. Depending on the heat development, the larvae of the box tree moth are usually killed within a few hours. In contrast to the larvae, the eggs of this pest are much more heat-tolerant. It is therefore important to repeat the measures after about two weeks.

algae lime

Algae lime (Lithothamnium calcareum) is often mentioned when it comes to combating the box tree moth. On the one hand, it promotes plant health in a natural way and has already proven itself several times both as a control and as a preventive measure. Although algae lime cannot completely prevent an infestation, it can greatly limit damage to the plants.

It is usually sold commercially in the form of a fine powder. This is used to pollinate healthy plants as a preventive measure and to control infected ones. After some time, fewer caterpillars should be seen on these plants. In addition, it was observed that no new caterpillars hatched from the eggs on plants treated with algae lime.

tip: Algae lime can not only fight or prevent the box tree moth. It can also be used very well against the dreaded dieback of boxwood.


In comparison to the control methods mentioned, pruning is particularly advisable when plants have already been severely affected or largely destroyed by the borer. Then a radical cut is usually the last resort to save the book at all. Often all that remains is the complete destruction of infested plants to prevent further spread. Even if they are infested again after new growth, they can usually no longer be saved.

  • Radical pruning is no problem with evergreen boxwood
  • Hardly any other plant is as tolerant of pruning as boxwood
  • If the infestation is severe, cut back the entire plant
  • After cutting, dispose of all clippings
  • Compost heap completely unsuitable for disposal
  • Pest could quickly spread again
  • Remove all trimmings from the floor
  • Then pack in airtight plastic bags and dispose of with household waste

Natural enemies

In contrast to many other pests in the garden, the number of predators on the box tree moth is very limited. It is believed that this is due to toxins and bitter substances that the borer absorbs from the boxwood and accumulates in its body. So far he has been able to successfully keep most bird species at bay. In the meantime, however, some native bird species such as chaffinches, great tits, redstarts and above all sparrows have discovered the larvae of the box tree moth as a protein-rich food source and are hard-working allies in the fight against this pest.
But the almost flightless Asian or Indian Muscovy ducks also love the caterpillars of the borer in addition to snails. However, the plants should not be too big. Or you can wash the caterpillars off the plants with the high-pressure cleaner, so that the ducks have an easy time. Some of these ducks can be rented for a short time. However, you should never use them together with poisons against this pest.


If you want to counteract a complex fight against the box tree moth, you can do a number of things to prevent an infestation. Already when buying the corresponding plants, they should be meticulously checked for possible pest infestation. Fine webs with small droppings are particularly telltale. You should stay away from such plants.

Another preventive measure is to cover the plants with close-meshed nets. However, this should happen before the eggs are laid or as soon as the temperatures rise permanently above seven degrees. These nets are intended to prevent the moths from laying their eggs. However, the nets can only be removed in autumn, when the temperatures fall below the seven-degree mark again. The disadvantage of this measure is that the Buchs disappears under these nets for most of the year, which is not true, primarily for optical reasons.

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