Box Tree Moth Quarantine Issued in Massachusetts

Posted in: News

Press Release by UMass Extension
June 6, 2024

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) has announced that the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) has established a quarantine for the invasive pest known as box tree moth for the entire state of Massachusetts, and has set conditions for the export of boxwood shrubs from the Commonwealth.

Box tree moth: Left to right adult moth, caterpillars feeding on boxwood leaves, and a severely defoliated shrub. (Photo credits, left to right: Hannah Nadel, USDA; C. McKiernan; Ferenc Lakatos, University of Sopron)

Effective immediately, to prevent the spread of box tree moth to uninfested areas, boxwood plants may only be moved outside of Massachusetts by a business operating under a compliance agreement issued by MDAR. The compliance agreement requires boxwoods to be inspected and treated regularly by trained nursery staff, and notification must be made to MDAR if box tree moth is found. Additionally, all exports must be accompanied by an authorized agricultural certificate.

This quarantine covers all boxwood plants (Buxus species), plant parts, pieces, cuttings, clippings, debris, or any other portion of the plant, alive or dead, except for boxwood roping, wreaths, and other decorative items. The quarantine does not impact existing plantings of boxwoods, or boxwoods that are purchased to be planted in Massachusetts.

Anyone wishing to register for a Compliance Agreement with MDAR must go to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources box tree moth pageand click on the EXPORTS link, and fill out the form. An MDAR staff person will follow up within one week. Please note that the quarantine does NOT restrict in-state sales, movement within the state, or import of boxwoods into Massachusetts. If you have any further questions, please contact either MDAR ( or USDA (203-741-5641).

For more details, read the full news release from MDAR.

Eggs are typically laid in gelatinous masses on the underside of boxwood leaves, but may also be laid singly. Caterpillars can grow up to 1.5 inches long, and are yellowish green with a black head, and long black stripes and spots that reach from the head to the end of the body. The caterpillars create pockets of webbing within the boxwood shrubs to wall themselves off from predators. When they are ready to morph into adult moths, they form small green pupae. Adults typically have white wings with a dark brown border but can sometimes be all brown with just a small white streak on each wing.

For additional resources on this pest, please visit:


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