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What is the Lifecycle of the Box Tree Caterpillar?

In a matter of days, a box tree caterpillar infestation can reduce a thick and vibrant hedge to a bare, brown skeleton of twigs covered in a ghostly veil of web.

By understanding the lifecycle of the box tree caterpillar, you will be better prepared to protect your hedgerows. Below you’ll find details of all four stages of the box tree caterpillar lifecycle, from eggs to adult.

However, if you suspect that an infestation has already spread, you should urgently contact a professional pest controller. To book your emergency box tree caterpillar treatment, call us now or request your call back.

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1: Box tree caterpillar eggs

Box tree caterpillar eggs are flat, pale yellow discs around 1mm in diameter, laid on the underside of box leaves. Despite their tiny size, they’re quite easy to spot as they’re laid in sheets of overlapping clusters about the size of a fingernail.

Intervening at this stage of the lifecycle will allow you to stop an infestation before it starts, so you should regularly and thoroughly inspect your box hedges and topiary during the March to October breeding season and wipe off any clusters of eggs you find.

Unfortunately, even if you are vigilant, a box tree caterpillar infestation can still occur. Eggs take around three days to develop into caterpillars, so even if you check your hedges weekly they may still have time to hatch before you can stop them.

2: Box tree caterpillars

This is the stage of the lifecycle that causes the devastating damage to box trees. Box tree caterpillars start eating box tree leaves from the moment they hatch, starting with superficial damage to the surface of the leaf when they’re young to munching through entire leaves in minutes by the time they are fully grown.

Box tree caterpillars begin life is barely visible 1-2mm larvae with translucent light yellow bodies and black heads. Over two weeks, they grow to very typical looking caterpillars with a bright green and black striped body covered in thin spines, maxing out at around 3-4cm.

Throughout their larval stage, box tree caterpillars shroud themselves in wispy white webbing, which give infested box hedges a ghostly appearance after a major infestation.

3: Box tree caterpillar pupae

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    After around two weeks of feeding at its fully grown size, the box tree caterpillar covers itself with a silk cocoon then starts its transformation.

    The pupae are 2-3cm long, begin bright green and then gradually fade to brown. At a glance, pupae are indistinguishable from box leaves, making them difficult to identify.

    If it is too cold for the box tree caterpillar to reach the necessary size to pupate, they will hide between two box tree leaves which they fuse together with silk and hibernate over winter until spring.

    4: Box tree moth

    After about a week of pupation, the adult box tree moth emerges with a 4cm wingspan. There are two colourations: either white wings with brown tips or a rarer, fully-brown variety. Adult moths have been known to fly up to 10km from where they hatched.

    Within 2-3 days, female box tree moths will start laying the eggs of the next generation. The entire lifecycle takes around a month and a half and can repeat three to four times between March and October.

    Book your box tree caterpillar and moth treatment now

    We provide a non-toxic, pet and wildlife friendly box tree caterpillar treatment in and around London. This treatment can be used to eradicate a current infestation and can also be used as a preventative measure to prevent future infestation.

    If you want to save your hedges from this devastating pest, call us now request your call back to book an appointment with our friendly team of pest experts.

    The Box Tree Caterpillar Lifecycle:

    1. Flat, pale yellow eggs laid in fingernail-sized clusters on the underside of box tree leaves.
    2. Three days later the eggs hatch into tiny, 1-2mm larvae with translucent yellow bodies and black heads.
    3. Over around two weeks they grow into 3-4cm long caterpillars with bright green spiny bodies with black stripes.
    4. Fully grown caterpillars – shrouded in webbing – feed until they are ready to pupate. On average this takes two weeks.
    5. Box tree caterpillars pupate for two weeks before emerging as moths with a 4cm wingspan, either white with brown tips or fully brown.
    6. 2-3 days later, female box tree moths lay their eggs. The entire lifecycle can be repeated three to four times a year.
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