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Whilst the destruction these caterpillars cause to Box Plants truly can’t be overstated enough, you may be wondering ‘are box tree caterpillars poisonous to humans?’ – And that’s a fair question.

They thankfully pose no threat to humans, aside from the annoyance of destroying our plants!

are box tree caterpillars poisonous to humans

Knot garden affected by box caterpillar.

The Box Tree Caterpillar, scientifically known as the Cydalima perspectalis, is the newest creepy crawly on the block, and since their first appearance on home soil back in 2007, the species has been causing utter chaos across British gardens.

They are known for devouring the nation’s favourite hedging plant, the Box Plant (also known as Buxus Sempervirens), particularly targeting places like London, all the way upto Manchester and their surrounding towns.

Despite not having been in the United Kingdom for long, the Box Tree Caterpillar problem has spread quickly, and the effects of their arrival can be seen all across the country.

What are Box Tree Caterpillars?

Box Tree Caterpillars are a type of caterpillar native to East Asia which made their way over to Europe in 2007.

They feast on Box plants and are responsible for a majority of the defoliation of thousands of Box Tree across the United Kingdom.

box tree caterpillar

Close-up of a box tree caterpillar (Cydalima perspectalis) climbing down the leaves of a box tree.

But the problem doesn’t end in the caterpillar phase of the insect’s life.

Once the Box Tree Caterpillar’s cycle as a caterpillar is up, they go into a cocoon and emerge as a Box Tree Moth.

During this cycle, the Box Tree Moths lay hundreds of eggs within the foliage of our beloved Box Plants, leading to even more Box Tree Caterpillars to destroy our hedges.

Their quick reproduction makes this an incredibly destructive infestation that needs immediate and regular treatment in order to protect the appearance and lifespan of the Box Plant.

How to Spot Box Caterpillar Damage

Identifying Box Caterpillar damage on your Box plant is straightforward.

Just look for the distinctive web that the caterpillar casts over the plant. This web resembles a spider’s web, only its thicker and almost reminiscent of yarn.

box caterpillar yarn

Another prominent indicator of Box Caterpillar damage is the gradual browning of the once vibrant and green foliage.

Leaves will turn brown and dry, eventually falling off and perishing.

How to Get Rid of Box Tree Caterpillars

If you can correctly identify that the caterpillars infesting your Box Plant are indeed Box Tree Caterpillars, then you can remove the caterpillars by hand, however this will likely do very little to prevent any further infestation of Box Tree Caterpillars.

There are other non-pesticide methods for controlling a Box Tree Caterpillar outbreak, if you wish to go down a more natural route, such as using Pheromone traps, the natural nematode sold as Fruit and Vegetable protection, or simply relying on the natural food chain to weed out the caterpillars, which are the natural prey to a number of predators including garden birds, spiders, wasps, and ants.

However, these more natural methods are typically the least effective, and harsher methods are recommended if you wish to stamp out your Box Tree Caterpillar problem for good.

The safest and most effective way to remove Box Tree Caterpillars and stop them from returning is using a pesticide treatment.

xentari box hedging

Just because pesticides are chemical forms of treatment, there are a number of organic products on the market, designed to be as natural as possible.

Box Tree Caterpillar pesticides are used by being sprayed directly onto your Box Plant, preferably in dry, mild weather.

The pesticides then kill off the Box Tree Caterpillars, without causing any damage to the Box Plant. Most of these treatments are 100% safe for humans, animals, and other insects, targeting the problem at its root without causing any further damage.

Overall, whilst Box Tree Caterpillars pose no health risk to humans, and contain no properties that humans would find poisonous, they are an extremely disruptive pest and should be eradicated before they have the chance of reproducing and causing even more damage.

There are a number of both natural and chemical methods for getting rid of a Box Tree Caterpillar problem, and it appears that with regular and consistent treatment, the Box Tree Caterpillar problem could be drastically reduced across the country.

However, there are species of poisonous caterpillars which inhabit the UK, so you must be careful when identifying your caterpillars.

The Oak Processionary Moth species is poisonous to humans and should be avoided at all costs, so if you spot caterpillars in your Box Plant, make sure you correctly identify which species it is before attempting any contact with it.

oak processionary moth

The Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillar

If in doubt, ask a specialist, or avoid physical contact with the caterpillar.

The insect world is full of mysteries. There are insects that can sting, insects that can bite, and even insects that can crawl underneath your skin and lay eggs – a horrible image that no one wants to picture.

Here in the United Kingdom, we are lucky enough to have a fairly safe spectrum of intrusive insects.

Wasps are one of the biggest threats to us Brits, and whilst their stings are far from pleasant, it’s unlikely that a wasp sting will actually cause any real harm or threat to our safety.

However, just because you are much less likely to suffer a life-threatening insect bite on home soil compared to, for example, notoriously insect-infected places like Australia, that’s not to say that we should be complacent when it comes to insects that are native to the UK.

There is an array of spiders, flies, ticks, and caterpillars that can be poisonous for humans and should be avoided at all costs and prevented from infesting gardens. The thought of it makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it?

Hopefully we have answered your question, are Box Tree Caterpillars poisonous to humans! If you have any more questions, just get in touch and let us know!

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