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Southwest Ohio under quarantine to control box tree moth infestation

A photo of an adult box tree moth with a white body, brown head and abdomen tip. Their wings are white and slightly iridescent, with an irregular thick brown border, spanning 1.6 to 1.8 inches.
Hannah Nadel
Adult box tree moths generally have white bodies with a brown head and abdomen tip. Their wings are white and slightly iridescent, with an irregular thick brown border, spanning 1.6 to 1.8 inches.

Southwest Ohio has been placed under a special quarantine by the Ohio Department of Agriculture due to the spread of a box tree moth infestation.

The quarantine includes six counties: Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, Greene, Montgomery and Warren.

The moths were initially detected in Ohio in June 2023 but found their way to the U.S. and Canada from East Asia a few years ago.

They start out life as a lime-green caterpillar with black stripes, white spots, and a shiny black head. When the insect matures into adulthood, it will typically have white wings with a brown border.

Harboring a ravenous appetite, box tree moths pose a real threat to boxwood plants across the state.

Bbox tree moths are known to cause heavy defoliation of boxwood plants, damaging the leaves and leaving behind white webbing and green-black excrement.

After they have devoured the leaves, the caterpillars will consume the plant's bark and eventually kill the plant.

The quarantine calls for stopping contaminated shipments of goods and monitoring infestations from the moth’s early stages of metamorphosis. It will remain in effect until the population is back under control.

The quarantine was put in place in Ohio to contain the insect, slow its spread, and protect boxwood shrubs and nurseries, said Dan Kenny, with the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

“But also protecting our industry in Ohio that has a lot of boxwood inventory," he said. "That's very valuable and we want to be able to continue to sell that. And we want to preserve boxwoods.”

The Ohio Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture plan to conduct inspections and place traps to monitor populations in Ohio.

Kenny said residents can help by monitoring any boxwood shrubs on their property and reporting any irregularities to the state.

“We've also set up a reporting tool online that you can upload pictures. And we can have our entomologists look at it and forward it on to others to get a better opinion on what's going on and follow up through communication with the homeowner as well,” Kenny said.

a map shows a red outline of the box tree moth quarantine, which includes southwest Ohio

Shay Frank was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. Before working at WYSO, Shay worked as the Arts Writer for the Blade Newspaper in Toledo, Ohio. In addition to working at the paper, she worked as a freelancer for WYSO for three years and served as the vice president of the Toledo News Guild. Now located back in the Dayton area, Shay is thrilled to be working with the team at WYSO and reporting for her hometown community.